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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Is Coffee a Date?

Uploaded: May 21, 2015

"I don't feel going out to coffee is a date, do you? I don't like to date guys at my gym, but got cornered into saying yes to coffee to a guy. Gyms are my place to get away, not look to meet guys. My friend says this is a date. I say it isn't. Isn't COFFEE just going out to talk?"

And so begins Kathryn Soler's* post on Facebook. The responses are fascinating:

"Depends on where you are having your coffee."

"Coffee is an interview."

"Anything is a date that's marked in your calendar, and you put on your makeup, and brush your long blond hair before going out."

"If it is a guy you already's friends. Someone you don't know? it's a date. Guys use coffee as a date because there is no commitment of time or money. Some guys have been so cheap they haven't even bought the coffee. Haha, sometimes not even their own."

"If you change your underwear, it's probably a date."

"I like to think it is a date if they pick you up and pay for you, otherwise it is just friends hanging out."

"Going out for coffee is NOT a date. Enjoy!"

Then the talk focuses in on to who pays. From the 53 responses, it seems like women still expect men to pay on a first date, and men expect to pay.


Coincidentally, I went on a first date, or a walk, or a who-knows-what, that same afternoon. I shared the thread with Jason and just kind of tossed in, "Isn't it funny, like what do you think this is - a date, or a walk, or?" He said it was refreshing to talk about it. He drove to the Dish wondering "what the nature of getting together was."

If I go walking with a new woman friend, I wouldn't automatically think it's a date. We walk to get to know each other. Just person to person. So why do men and women automatically think that because we get together ? especially for something as simple as coffee - that it's a date? How can I be on a date with someone I don't even know?

Can I not go out to coffee with a man unless I think it's a date?

Personally, this all-too-common male/female interaction misses a lot of life's finest, because we limit our engagements to precontrived notions of what we are supposed to be doing together. I want to meet you because we might write a book, or solve a community problem, or change the world, or just share some caffeine and laugh.

What if coffee was more than just a date? Maybe we should sip together for bigger reasons neither of us understand.

At least not yet.

* Kathryn is part of the Sunday Blues Jam at the Pioneer in Woodside, 4PM ? 8PM. Still rocking it out with the area's best musicians, cheap drinks, terrific dancing and fun people. Always free (but don't forget to tip the bar and band).

Oh ? and there's plenty of possible coffee opportunities.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Colleen, a resident of another community,
on May 21, 2015 at 7:23 am

It's a date - what you are drinking does not constitute whether it's a date or not. If he asked you to get a beer, would it be a date? Yes. A glass of wine? Yes. A cup of water? Yes. The guy asked you to get together - it's a date. He asked you - he should pay. It's a date. P.S. I don't drink coffee :)

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on May 21, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Alan is a registered user.

It's about intentions ... and it's the intentions of the person who asked, and whether the asked person could reasonably discern these intentions.

If a guy asks you out for coffee, you don't have plans to talk about something specific (say, cooking food), and both of you are "available", and no one else is around - it's best to assume they see it as a date, and may want to take it further. A date with an easy exit, but a date nonetheless.

I think everyone has an experience where intentions were misread. About 20 years ago, I invited someone to baseball game with friends, and another guy spent the whole game forcing himself between us and throwing every cheesy line in the book at her, while I sat back shyly. Now that I'm married, I find it hilarious, but it was not fun that day.

Posted by food nerd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 21, 2015 at 11:26 pm

Is coffee a date?

No silly, coffee is the seed of a berry...


Posted by food nerd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I would like to suggest a new rule for all friendships and dates.

The "over 40" rule:

Anything $40 and under, take turns.

Anything over $40, go Dutch.

Whoever asked first, pays first.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 22, 2015 at 7:52 am

Yes food nerd, me and my 89 year old mother agree with you - if you ask - you pay. Actually, I think if both go for the check and one person insists, let them pick it up. I cant' stand that "are you sure, are you sure?" back and forth. Just get it next time if it wasn't you this time.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 22, 2015 at 7:56 am

But my question still is, if someone asks me for coffee, I don't want my answer to depend only on whether I am attracted physically to them. What a waste! I think there are a lot of people, especially as we get older, that sit at home at night because they don't have "a date." Why not go out as men and women, but not with that requirement that "things might go further." With most people - it's not going to, but why not just have fun? For men, is it the old, "once a man is attracted, he's always attracted, and if he's not he could care less (because...well...women are only good for three things?) Who remembers that?

Posted by Jason, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on May 22, 2015 at 8:54 am

Coffee is a date. Walking the dish is a date too. What makes a date a successful date or not is the intent of the parties; before, during and after the meeting.

Whomever calls the date pays or the guy should always anyway IMHO
It's a cheap investment to find out if the two of you might really connect
(or change the world as it may be) anyway!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 22, 2015 at 9:09 am

Exactly. Anything can be "a date" but only assume what you are on is NOT - unless you know the other person thinks it IS a date. Wait - Jason? You're not the one in the article are you?

Posted by Dawn Wan, a resident of Castro City,
on May 22, 2015 at 10:10 am

It can also be a "post event" after an epic breakfast

Posted by Raymond, a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto),
on May 22, 2015 at 10:30 am

Stay alone and spare us the conundrum. ridiculous.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on May 22, 2015 at 11:30 am

oooo, I think Raymond throws a jab. Do tell, what is ridiculous oh wise one?

Posted by food nerd, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Laura, did you see that episode of Modern Family that poked fun of Cam for trying to prove he could get a phone number for a straight woman at a bar? The un-PC real point of the episode was that a lot of straight women really, really want a close relationship with a gay male friend. (Makes me think back on some of my closeted gay male friends in high school who could have been spared a lot of discomfort if they had just known everyone else knew, and the girls wanting to be close wasn't a mistaken crush!)

Well, anyway, that would be an answer to the "things might go further" problem .... (Let's face it, how many more women were jealous of Julia Robert's character in My Best Friend's wedding for having a gay male best friend than when she had a straight one with all the complications?...) So maybe guys should say, Want to get coffee? (I'm gay.) ;-)

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 23, 2015 at 7:58 am

I have not seen that episode food nerd, but it makes reminds me what people appear to really want is more friendships, period. The statement, "Men and women can't be friends" is false. People who say it may not be able to, but I can be just friends with men, and am the better for that connection. Maybe we should go have coffee and discuss this further?

Posted by Espresso, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

Coffee is a date. Kathryn must tell guys she's not interested in,"NO" in no uncertain terms. Its unfortunate that these guys interrupt her workout. If you get cornered, one must ask staff to have this guy leave you alone. One gets the feeling she just might stand up this persistent annoying guy. While I do enjoy looking at an attractive or vivacious woman, I find its a distraction at the gym. Sorry if I stare.

Posted by pogo, a resident of Woodside: other,
on May 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm

pogo is a registered user.

It really doesn't matter what you call it as long as you enjoy it.

Meeting someone new at a Starbucks or Peets is a low risk, low anxiety, no expectations way to meet up. And a coffee is so inexpensive (relatively speaking) that it really doesn't matter who pays.

So enjoy it. If it leads to something - fantastic. If not - you can escape quickly and easily.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 23, 2015 at 8:29 pm

USA is a registered user.

Time and location matters too Web Link

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on May 24, 2015 at 7:28 am

Espresso - you are cute. Thanks for the chuckle.

Posted by Random Internet Nomad, a resident of another community,
on May 24, 2015 at 7:57 am

I think this fundamentally encapsulates basic human nature: individuals interpret things in different ways, whether it be words, situations, actions, people, etc.

Heck, even a person's own interpretations change over time, where a word develops a specific fine-tuned meaning, or the interpretation of a given situation changes. The same joke you might have found funny as a college kid might be less humorous three decades later.

Is coffee a date? Is a 10am coffee meeting different than an 8pm coffee meeting? Saturday night versus Tuesday night? At age 22 or age 52?

Heck, there are English words which have very different definitions and connotations between Yanks and Brits.

Anyhow, it really comes down to how you interpret the world around you. After all, one's life really is about that, isn't it?


Posted by Agree with Raymond, a resident of another community,
on May 24, 2015 at 11:58 pm

The question you pose is ridiculous. You appear to be mesmerized by the word date.

Coffee is a low (emotional) cost way of figuring out if either of you wants to get together again, to see if you have anything in common, whatever.
Why do you have to give it a name and then see if the event fits the name you pasted on it?

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 25, 2015 at 10:29 am

@Agree with Raymond:

Writers often fixate on words and their meanings. Some do not appear to understand that words have different meanings to others.

Laura's a writer. She wants to obsess over the word "date." That's fine. She's probably trying to elicit some sort of conversation and/or get people to think about what that word means or how they define the concept.

Blogs are typically "here's what I saw and how I think" and use comment systems to let others contribute their own thoughts. In the Nineties, websites rarely had commenting features and were more like online books or magazines with no way for readers to contribute their thoughts.

If you don't care about the conversation or opinions of others, you should avoid this type of online content or simply ignore the comment forum.

Of course, you are free to post the type of comment you did, but you should realize those sort of comments often don't nurture pleasant conversations.

I, for one, believe Laura is the best blogger on the Embarcadero Media sites by a long shot.

Anyhow, Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on May 25, 2015 at 11:10 am

@Agree with Raymond - it's funny - when I first read your comment - I thought you were agreeing with me. This exemplifies how people interpret writings in their own way, and not always how the writer intended.

Your comment, "Why do you have to give it a name and then see if the event fits the name you pasted on it?" I couldn't agree more with. Why call a get together an automatic date? Why not think of it as a get together - for many reasons besides possible attraction and what that could lead to?

The week's comments got me thinking. Are most of us "emotionally unavailable" to most of us? If that is so, maybe we automatically associate coffee as a date because we open ourselves up, and that feels intimate. What if we were emotionally available more often, not just because of family or romance? Maybe we would all have a few more friends? (In the US, I think the standard is a miserable 1.3 good friends per person).

@Reader - well said about the purpose of blogs. And thank you for the kind words. There's a job for you as my new PR agent. Do you work for food?

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm

A PR job? No, I'd rather not. I spend too much time working already.

But some food sounds great!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on May 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Reader, than let's just call it play.

Posted by pho cuss, a resident of Gemello,
on May 26, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Are eating street tacos a date?

Posted by Cassanova, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on May 27, 2015 at 4:32 am

Me and this lady went to CVS together, now that's what I call date- I bought peanut butter cups in the checkout line (she ate one), didn't know dating was so easy!!!!!!!

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