DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a 23-year-old young lady, and I’m wondering what to do in the following situation:
A young man that I met through school or a mutual friend asks me out for coffee. He asks me via email, not face to face. He never calls it a “date,” so I’m unsure whether he’s asking me out on a date.
Even though I think he seems like an all-right guy, I’m not interested in dating him or in having a relationship with him because he’s just not what I’m looking for in a romantic partner.
Should I decline the invitation to coffee, and if so, how do I do so politely? I’m hesitant to decline on the grounds that I’m not interested in dating the young man, when I’m not even sure that the invitation is a date. And I also feel that it would be rude to preface my response to his invitation with the question, “Are you asking me out on a date?”
GENTLE READER: The invitation you describe is for a date.
Miss Manners realizes this will elicit a howl from young men and young women alike, protesting that there are a million other possible explanations. She challenges you to name them.
The good news is that coffee is a trial date, less serious than a meal. Accepting either one does not commit you to a second date -- or anything else. If you do not wish to go, explain firmly that while you appreciate the offer, you cannot accept. Do not offer an excuse, particularly not the one about his not being what you are looking for in a romantic partner.
The same response should be given to any follow-up explanations that you have misunderstood his intent. Note that while you may, possibly, have misunderstood the first offer, any subsequent ones will make clear that you did not.