The Sciences

Is this a date?

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollFeb 7, 2006 4:56 PM


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Question of the day: Highly-credentialed academics vs. nervous high-school students -- is there a difference? The forums at the Chronicle of Higher Education erupt with excited controversy over whether coffee with a colleague is an innocent intellectual meeting, or rife with illicit romantic subtext. (I think it's available to non-subscribers; let me know if not.)

Is this a date? Author: Coffee drinker Date: 01-18-06 11:32 I have been having great discussions with a man that is interested in the same research of which I am involved. After a flurry of emails, I (innocently, really!) suggested that we get together for coffee, which we are doing tomorrow. Today, I received an email from him telling me to "have a great day." Nothing else in the email, just that sentiment. Is it possible that this man thinks that "coffee" is a euphemism for ______? Full disclosure: We are both married. Confession: He's attractive. I'm feeling a little panicky right now.

Men! They are so inscrutable sometimes. Who knows what this cryptic email is supposed to mean? The Chronicle's readers bravely wade in.

Re: Is this a date? Author: Prytania Date: 01-18-06 11:38 It's possibly innocent and possibly not--depending on how coffee goes. You know the answer to this.

Re: Is this a date? Author: single gal Date: 01-18-06 12:11 Yup--everything you described to me sounds EXACTLY like a date--the "have a nice day" e-mail is just the kind of thing men send when they are interested in you. It's textbook. I was happy for you up till the final part of the e-mail! Get out now.

just coffee Author: missing Europe Date: 01-18-06 12:52 Why can't you people just go for coffee with someone who is pleasant company? What's the problem?

What a wet blanket is this "missing Europe" person. Sure, it could just be coffee, but what fun is that?

Is it possible? Author: brewhaha Date: 01-18-06 12:54 I've been thinking of starting a new topic on a closely related question -- IS IT POSSIBLE for people who share peculiar scholarly interests to work together closely without feeling turned on by each other's company? By "turn on" I don't mean necessarily that sexual involvement is inevitable. Hardly. But I've noticed of late that a lot of people seem to have intellectual crushes on each other. I'm no exception. I'm wondering if it's just human nature, then, that spending such time together with a member of the preferred sex makes romantic attraction (of whatever degree) inevitable. I'm in Coffee Drinker's shoes constantly -- where the male colleague starts showing signs of extra-scholastic interest. For the most part, I keep my husband up to date on these developments and he has so far found them to be exceedingly amusing (maybe it makes him feel more macho that his wife is considered attractive by other men). I've also discussed this with a close friend/male colleague who has a similar problem -- he says it's because we both look people in the eye more than others (Americans) do, and so normal humans perceive it as flirting behavior, even though it's not intended as such. Coffee Drinker, tread carefully. A few months ago, I had a very bad experience with a senior colleague who apparently thought something was going on between us because of the awesome intellectual rapport of our conversations. (That I shared with my husband a blow-by-blow of each and every conversation didn't make a difference). I suppose the question we should try to answer is: WHAT CAN WE SAY OR DO, IN A NON-THREATENING COLLEGIAL WAY, TO NIP THIS IN THE BUD -- that is, without coming across as mental (or vainglorious).

Whoa! "brewhaha" ups the ante, suggesting that it's impossible for colleagues who share intellectual interests to work together without getting turned on. (For the record: brewhaha is not right. It's perfectly possible to work with members of various genders without getting all distracted. But let's run with it a bit.)

Re: Is this a date? Author: ExPat in UK Date: 01-18-06 13:46 Coffee drinker wrote: > Today, I > received an email from him telling me to "have a great day." > Nothing else in the email, just that sentiment. Is it possible > that this man thinks that "coffee" is a euphemism for ______? I'm totally confused... just where and when has 'have a great day' turned into 'I want to suck your toes'

Finally, someone had the courage to put all of our thoughts into concrete imagery. Thanks for that, ExPat.

Re: Is this a date? Author: single guy Date: 01-18-06 14:16 "Yup--everything you described to me sounds EXACTLY like a date--the "have a nice day" e-mail is just the kind of thing men send when they are interested in you. It's textbook." "single gal" knows men! she's right--men don't email women wishing them a good day if they have no interest. plus, you invited him for coffee--to a man (and we're notoriously bad at reading signals) this says "ding, ding, ding, she likes me (in some way.)"

I so don't believe that "single guy" is a single guy. Regardless, there is some truth there. It's not so much that men are bad at reading signals -- they just read them whether they are there or not.

Re: What? Author: Varying degrees Date: 01-18-06 14:47 It's kinda fun to have these innocent meetings and conversations with the sexual tension bubbling beneath the surface. It's a bit naughty while being completely innocent. The forbidden fruit is tempting. It's nice to look at it, hold it, smell it, squeeze it, but oh no, I don't dare taste it...oh but it would be so delicious. Alas, I cannot....

Well, we should stop here, as this is a family-friendly blog. There's much more. Suffice it to say that "Coffee drinker," while perhaps confused, hasn't lost all perspective.

Re: What? Author: Coffee drinker Date: 01-18-06 14:49 Prytania wrote: > > She's totally titillated by this experience but has no one to > share it with for the obvious reasons. > > You know you are, OP. No judgements here. Yeah, well, maybe. But not enough to shave my legs before I meet him.

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