So L.B. was at a conference a few weeks ago and sat next to a delightful woman who he hit it off with right away. He thought she was fun and smart but tells me she was immediately written off in a romantic sense because: a) L.B.'s girlfriend was moving in that week, and b) she was too tall. Being 5 foot nothing myself, I took great delight in that last reason. "But was she cute?" I persisted. "Totally irrelevant," said L.B. "I couldn't even TELL you if she was. She was just tall." Hee. Because she totally didn't register on the dating radar, L.B. kind of, sort of neglected to mention that he had a girlfriend.
At the end of the conference L.B. and Tall Girl exchanged business cards, and L.B. suggested they do lunch sometime. Tall Girl agreed, and sure enough, the next week, she called L.B. and they made lunch plans.
Now, Lunch went fine. Tall Girl and L.B. still had lots to talk about, it was a good lunch, they split the bill, and they left. As far as Lunches go, it was a good one. I resisted from being a jealous lunch buddy at this point and asking if she Lunched better than I did.
However, L.B. was now panicking. When he got back to the office, there was a "thanks for lunch, I had a really good time" email from Tall Girl. "We SPLIT the bill," he said to me worriedly. "I didn't even pay. Do you think she wants to date me?"
Sadly, L.B. has indeed gotten himself into quite a predicament. You don't sit next to, laugh-and-joke-for-hours, then lunch with, a girl, and not mention that, oh yeah, you have a girlfriend. It may be that Tall Girl isn't interested in him all in this sense, but he hasn't been fully forthcoming, so the issue hasn't even been, uh, tabled. Now we had to decide how to bring it up at this late juncture without L.B. seeming like he thought he was the shit and of course she wanted to date him, or that the initial lunch invitation had been a date at all. He still wanted to Lunch with Tall Girl, just not date her.
"I'm just going to phone her and tell her," he said. "Noooo," I countered. "That makes you seem arrogant, and her answer, no matter what, will be 'How dare you, who said I was interested in dating you?'" And it DOES seem arrogant. She may really only be interested in Lunch. L.B. wasn't so sure. He suggested perhaps making another lunch date and gratuitously "we"-ing her with girlfriend comments until she got the picture. I also felt this was out of line, as while this sends the immediate message to Tall Girl that she is being shot down on the dating front, it could again provoke the overly defensive "fuck you, who said I wanted to date you?" reaction. She needed to be able to recover from the rejection, whether necessary or not, in private. No, I decided. It had to be the offhand mention of the girlfriend in a friendly, "we should do lunch again" email, so that Tall Girl could lick any rejection wounds in private, and have time to muster her "of course, we're just Lunch Buddies, that's totally what I was after anyway" face before the next Lunch.
But I'm feeling L.B. on the "when is lunch just lunch" front? It's so easy to know when there's an immediate disclosure of, oh, I don't know, a marriage, for example. So lesson learned: please casually (it has to be casual) reveal your status way before Lunch, but don't make too too big a deal about it, okay? Sometimes Lunch is just lunch.