Dating at work
August 6, 2004 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Advice for the socially awkward, part three million and two. I've been asked to have lunch next week by a guy I recently met one time through work. I have accepted. I'd like to let him know I'm already in a committed relationship without coming off as cutting. He seems nice, with friend potential. Have I already blundered? Is it a date? Help!
posted by ungratefulninja to Human Relations (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lunch on a workday is not a date.

Coffee/Happy Hour after work or Lunch/Brunch on a weekend probably is a date.
posted by ChasFile at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2004

In his mind it may or may not be a date. Just refer to your boy/girlfriend once or twice and he'll get the hint without embarassing him. For example, if he asks how your weekend was, you could say "My boyfriend and I had friends over for dinner on Saturday." Don't worry about it.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:48 AM on August 6, 2004

The traditional way to convey your exclusivity to someone who might otherwise not know about it is to make mention during conversation of something you did as a couple, using the word "we" and phrases like "my boyfriend" or "girlfriend" a few times. Keep it light, don't hammer the point home, just casually mention something from the context of your existing attachment.
posted by majick at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2004

If it's lunch on a workday, you're cool. Even if he is scouting out the opportunities (which he probably is), he's done it in a way that gives you the very graceful out others have suggested.
posted by LairBob at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2004

Yep, lunch on a weekday may not usually be a "date," but in my experience it certainly has been a way of getting together with someone to evaluate the potential of dating. A quasi-date, if you will.

I would feel the situation out before saying anything right off the bat -- hey, he may mention the words "my girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancee" himself (though probably not all of those at the same time) and it will be crystal clear that this really is just two people eating lunch. I also second the suggestions to very casually mention your boyfriend once or twice. Chances are, that's all it will take.

Speaking from personal experience, though, that doesn't always work -- I've still gotten asked out a couple of times, even after having metioned the existence of a boyfriend. So if you feel it's still going in a more "he may ask me out for a date-date" kind of direction (or even if it's clear he gets the picture, but you do want to underscore the idea of being friends), you can say something along the lines of what you've just said here -- e.g., "hey, just so there's no confusion on either side, I am in a relationship, but I think it would be fun to hang out as friends -- maybe we could have coffee sometime next week?"
posted by scody at 12:01 PM on August 6, 2004

Sorry, but by accepting his lunch offer, you have sent a clear, unambiguous message that you are not only available for dating, but that you will accept any proposals for marriage that may come up during the lunch.

Best inform your boyfriend that he's history (unless, of course, *he* wants to invite you to lunch after your lunchdate/marriage proposal encounter, in which case you can bounce back to him).

Seriously, though, I second Juicylicious and magick's advice. This is all about getting to know each other. If he doesn't get the hint and presses for something further, you probably don't want him as a friend anyway.
posted by jasper411 at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2004

Ungrateful - pleased to meet you, let's do lunch ;-)

I'm with the others - a sly mention of an SO would probably go a long way. Although I probably wouldn't suggest getting together again lest it be taken the wrong way.
posted by grateful at 12:15 PM on August 6, 2004

There may be romantic intentions buried somewhere in this guy's head. Or you may simply be paranoid and/or arrogant in thinking he must want to jump your bones. No way to tell without going to this lunch. There isn't anything definitively suggestive about going to a workday lunch - not on your part, and not on his. Maybe he wants to ask you work-related questions somewhere discreet. Maybe he just liked you and would like to spend more time with you - but without a hankering to share a pillow with you. Maybe he's gay and looking for someone in the office to come out to. You don't know.

Let him know you're in a relationship if it comes up naturally, or if it becomes necessary. Why would you rush to do it before? Almost every time I've sensed a woman going out of her way to drop "my boyfriend this" or "my boyfriend that" within 10 seconds of my meeting her, my reaction has been: 'jesus, don't flatter yourself.'
posted by scarabic at 12:16 PM on August 6, 2004

ungratefulninja -- I disagree with everybody else. This lunch is trouble. Invite a third party. Or make sure that he knows you are "taken" BEFORE you go out. There is no casual way to make the "my boyfriend and I" comment during lunch. I guarantee that when you mention your boyfriend, his face will fall, if only for a split second. And all will be awkward after that.
posted by Faze at 12:18 PM on August 6, 2004

the check comes + you split it = not a date.

(I believe this is supported by some advanced studies in evolutionary biology, but I can't seem to find any citations)
posted by milovoo at 12:24 PM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. I have generally avoided dating (in the "going on dates with strangers" sense), so I guess I got kind of flustered when he asked me out. I'm sure it will be fine and I will attempt to make mention of my boyfriend with subtlety. Maybe he'll be interesting enough to spend more time with.

Thanks for confirming my paranoia, jasper411. I'm doomed!!!ARG!!!

On preview, scarabic, good point - I don't know this guy at all, so who can say what he's thinking. I don't think mentioning the boyfriend if it seems natural would be weird. But I'd hate to be that girl who's all "so the other day with my BOYFRIEND... Did I mention I had a BOYFRIEND??!"

My totally subjective impression that he was scouting is based on the fact that we don't work together at all, our initial meeting and interaction was very brief, and he seems like a bit of a geek. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by ungratefulninja at 12:26 PM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: the check comes + you split it = not a date

Not a good metric for me, since I am one of those people that hates to have someone else pay unless it's someone I know and there's the understanding that I'll treat next time.
posted by ungratefulninja at 12:31 PM on August 6, 2004

wow, Faze. men are human too, you know. yes, his face might fall for a moment, but he's going to want the rest of the lunch to be pleasant anyway. what are you expecting? that he jumps up, screams "but you came to lunch!", and throws his food at you? of course not.

on the other hand, if you turn up with someone else, and he was hoping to discuss something private and work related, what happens then? and if he did have romantic inclinations he's going to be plain confused, unless you still mention the so (in which case it will be just as embarassing).

we're adults. a little disappointment happens sometimes. it doesn't mean you have to start getting paranoid. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you just have lunch.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2004

Very simple. "What did you do this weekend?" will be reciprocally asked. Then just answer "Me and my boyfriend went so and so." It's only lunch. How much of a disaster can it be? You said he seemed nice with friend potential. Treat it as that.
posted by xammerboy at 12:37 PM on August 6, 2004

i once ended up on a date i didn't know was a date. when i realized it was a date, i actually said "you thought this was a date? i just thought it was lunch." the awkward pause was not nearly as awkward as you might think. we finished up the meal pleasantly, then never really had another conversation (he moved to oregon shortly thereafter). it's not already a date if you don't think it's a date; no matter what he intended when he asked.

i agree with everyone else (except faze). it could be a "scoping for dating potential"; it could be a "scoping for networking potential" (you did meet him through work, right?); it could be just a friendly lunch. no way to know, without asking, but not the end of the world however it turns out.

bring enough cash to pay for your own lunch. if it's appropriate to the conversation, mention a "we" activity (as already suggested). if he makes a date-like suggestion at the end of lunch ("may i take you to dinner this weekend?"), then apologize for misunderstanding his invitation to lunch ("oh, i'm sorry. i thought this was just a friendly lunch; i have a boyfriend.").
posted by crush-onastick at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2004

more generally, even if this is a "date", this is exactly what dates are for. you don't consent to sex when you accept a date. you agree to a negotiation. and one possible outcome of that negotiation is either side politely declining to take things further. the whole thing is consensual and progressive. you have control. you are not jumping on a one way conveyer belt to a bed.

maybe i'm just a stupid old fool - i've been in a steady relationship for 10 years - but my recollection of this kind of thing was that it was fun. you got to have a good time, with nice food and good company. if things went further - great - if they didn't, it was pleasant anyway. more than that, the implicit discussion - the wondering what things meant, what to do next - was fun. even if you were turned down, or declined yourself - the game was a great game to play.

has the world changed so much? hell, if some woman asked me for lunch and i accepted before realising there might be a misunderstanding, i'd be flattered. i'd try hard to decline as gently and inobtrusively as i could, and make sure she has as good a (platonic) time as possible. you (ungratefulninja) should do the same - if it is a date, he's paying you a huge compliment.

the whole idea that this is something to be afraid of, or worried about, seems so wrong.

go to lunch, do the "my boyfriend" thing, and enjoy yourself - he'll appreciate it.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:01 PM on August 6, 2004

i once ended up on a date i didn't know was a date.
Um could you fill me in here. Did he think you were going home with him afterwards - or he thought being one on one with a woman was a date? A date to me is just a set time.

You may not want to blurt out for no reason you have a SO because it may look funny on you. As it could be just a lunch. Act like it’s a lunch with a past co-worker so you may find out his true intensions. Better to know than guess since you obviously didn’t think to say no at first.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:07 PM on August 6, 2004

What cooke said. What's the fear that he could be thinking of it as a date? What's so bad about that? It doesn't sound like you're planning to sleep with him, so could someone please explain to me what the bad part is if he's scouting?
posted by SpecialK at 1:27 PM on August 6, 2004

Him, greeting her: "Hi, glad you could make it. Let's sit over near the window."
Her: "Hey! My boyfriend likes to sit near the window!"
Him (thinks): I want to leave NOW!

This is unavoidable, though. Being a man, my only advice is that you not be TOO eager to mention the BF. More than once is obnoxious. Skip the first few obvious chances, work it in once near the end of the lunch, and do not mention him again. Message delivered, message received, minimal bruising.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:29 PM on August 6, 2004

Good luck with it, ninja.

Of course, to take the extreme, paranoid, male-fearing angle for a moment: mention of your SO might simply present his horny intentions with a time-relative setback. In other words, he'll still want to jump your bones, but he'll file you under "wait for breakup" or "determine infidelity potential" for later attention. Men and women both cultivate attractive potential partners while they are squarely in the "friend" realm, on the possible chance that at a later time, they might become more.

In this regard, the fact that you're not attracted to this guy means more than the fact that you currently have a boyfriend. If you're not attracted to him, period, then it doesn't matter even that you're single. Everything you do, your body language, what you wear on the lunch day, the things you say, will communicate to him whether you're attracted to him or not. I'd put more thought into nailing that properly. If you send the message that you are attracted, you'll only encourage him, despite any SO references, and you might wind up with one of those annoying guy-vulture friends who treat you nice and blow smoke up your ass while waiting for your SO to get hit by a bus.

Anyway, this is what I sometimes suspect about the way men operate, having been one all my life (more often than not being in the position of the boyfriend several other guys would like to see get hit by a bus). That's one of the reasons why breakups are so difficult: you get to watch the vultures who'd been circling for years go into attack posture and make their dive.
posted by scarabic at 1:34 PM on August 6, 2004

SpecialK, I don't think that there's a "bad part," per se -- I think it's the desire for there to be no confusion or to minimize awkwardness, especially as ungratfulninja senses a potential for a platonic friendship. (That's largely why I suggested the "let's have coffee next week" thing in conjunction with clarifying that it's "just friends" -- too often, I think the "just friends" line is used as [or interpreted as] code for "buzz off." But there are times when a woman saying "I'd like to be friends" means exactly that.)
posted by scody at 1:49 PM on August 6, 2004

DUDE he's a CO-WORKER and this is LUNCH during the WORKDAY. We have really not come a long way, baby, if a simple lunch between colleagues is so fraught with possible intrigue.

Yeah, you'd better not even go, if all the office snoops here are going to be talking... LUNCH! You must be schtupping him, you couldn't possibly have something to talk about as colleagues or people... pick a little talk a little cheep cheep cheep...
posted by mimi at 1:55 PM on August 6, 2004

Him (thinks): I want to leave NOW!

i can't speak for you, but this has happened to me (i can't remember her name, but she was really cute, and i think i knew she might have a boyfriend before i asked - i remember putting 2 and 2 together and realising he was cute too, so i guess she was probably out of my league). anyway, we went to an italian up on the road out from cambridge where the cheap student housing is. she was really nice about it; i thought "oh well, what's on the menu?"; we had a great time. good food. promised to keep in touch, never saw each other again...
posted by andrew cooke at 2:02 PM on August 6, 2004

If it does come up (i.e. he clearly has intentions other than lunch) make sure you communicate your unavailability clearly. Not long ago, I asked a girl out and was told:

"I would say yes, but I'm seeing someone right now . . . still, you never know."

Which ended up leaving the door open to such a degree that I asked her out again (though less formally). This time she was more than willing to hang out. The "date" was rather strained, and both of us felt rather awkward about it for some time afterward.

There aren't any hard feelings, of course, but we'd have both much better off had she been a bit more clear cut the first time around. The potential for friendship would have still been there, but given the way it turned out, we do little more than utter a brief "hello" in passing.
posted by aladfar at 2:14 PM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the extra hysteria, mimi. I guess it's my own fault for going somewhat frantic in the question. But scody pretty much nails it. Aside from andrew cooke the gentleman dater, there's usually some awkwardness when one has to reject an advance, however coded. I do want to be clear.

My workplace is not especially congenial. I doubt most of the people I see daily know I have a boyfriend at all. And I'm unlikely to see this guy much at all in the course of work. I'm sure it will all be fine. *breathes deeply*
posted by ungratefulninja at 2:21 PM on August 6, 2004

Alternatively, you could always just email him the URL of this thread, with the subject: "FYI"

posted by scarabic at 2:28 PM on August 6, 2004

met one time through work
Oops. Sorry. Still, it's lunch; no cause for panic, use "we" and tell any uncongenial colleagues to shove it. You could end up making a nice friend. It'll be fine. Meanwhile, I'm making a note to read more closely before posting.

Thanks for the extra hysteria, mimi.

posted by mimi at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2004

My god. I'm glad I'm not the guy in question, because I'd hate to think that going out for lunch simply to escape the office is cause for such a fuss. Hell, for all you know, he's happily married with children and just doesn't like bagged lunches!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:02 PM on August 6, 2004

I remember getting tanked after work with co-workers wondering if they were dates or just outings but having fun regardless. (We don't get lunch breaks at my place of work (they provide staff with warm meals) so we didn't have your particular situation.)

I'm with scarabic and cooke and fish and Flanders, among others.

You've got enough advice to work with. You could flow chart all this advice and have a response to all of his actions :)

And I'd rather have lunch and have her tell me she has a boyfriend than to be turned down flat "because" she has a boyfriend. With lunch, someone thinks you're worth talking to.
posted by philfromhavelock at 10:45 PM on August 6, 2004

I'm kind of laughing. I know of someone who sent an email to a web acquaintance and got a pretty emphatic "we" response. How embarrassing is that? I guess that some people think that any kind of elective contact between members of the opposite sex (or the gender of your choice) is a knock at the door. So I would say don't try to "work it in"; if it comes up totally naturally, of course make the natural response with "we" or "my boyfriend", but if it doesn't fit, don't force it. If the guy makes it clear that he is interested in a dating situation, just tell him the truth, which shouldn't be too painful for either of you. If his feelings are hurt by that, then he is silly.
posted by taz at 11:46 PM on August 6, 2004

Naturally is the key word. You'd think that the most important person in your life would probably come up at some point, yes?

got a pretty emphatic "we" response. How embarrassing is that?

Hard to say without reading it. Copy & paste, ya tease!
posted by scarabic at 12:47 AM on August 7, 2004

Actually, it really wasn't me, but a friend of mine, so I don't have it, but I did read it at the time, and laughed a lot. She was just sending a friendly sort of "I like that thing you posted" kind of note, and he evidently freaked. Weird.

Which isn't to say I'm not a tease, of course; I might be. Or I might not.
posted by taz at 3:17 AM on August 7, 2004

Call/Email the guy, "I'm sorry; can we have lunch on day X instead of Y? I have to (take my boyfriend's car into the shop; pick boyfriend up from dentist, drop boyfriend off at airport etc.). And then to be kind you can make lunch your treat.
posted by Feisty at 4:35 AM on August 7, 2004

thomcatspike: i think it may be a semantic thing (like i think andrew was saying). but i thought it was just eating, with the absolute understanding that no scoping of any kind was going on, but he thought it was a "get dressed up, try really hard to be impressive so this can lead to drinks, dancing and a relationship" event. there may be no appreciable difference between the two, but i certainly think there is. for example, another guy i know invited me to a concert to which he had an extra ticket. afterwards, we went to a bar where we ran into some coworkers. one said, "are you two on a date?" we both blurted out "no!" so fast, you'd think she had accused us of having come from a klan meeting.

but like i said, it was no big deal. i wasn't horrified to be on a date, though not in the least interested, and once he got over the initial surprise that i didn't think it was a date, we both enjoyed lunch.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:39 AM on August 7, 2004

He: Let's sit over by the window.
You: Oh, please, no, that's where I was sitting last year when my boyfriend had a heart attack and died.
He: Oh, I'm so sorry.
You: Oh, never mind, my current boyfriend has helped me thruogh it.
He: Excuse me, the voices in my head are telling me to leave.
posted by lometogo at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2004

he thought it was a "get dressed up, try really hard to be impressive so this can lead to drinks, dancing and a relationship" event.
crush-onastick, Ugg, I know the type whom would ruin a friendly time.
posted by thomcatspike at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2004

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