In the real world, asking someone to dinner is very clearly a date. In college, asking someone to grab a meal is just about the most confusing situation there is. I’m not talking about taking someone out to eat either; I’m talking about getting food on campus. When you take money out of the equation and you aren’t dong anything out of the ordinary, does it count as a date just because you’re doing it together? Welcome to the Foco Date.
Foco is Dartmouth’s only dining hall, formally known as the Class of ’53 Commons, and formerly referred to as Food Court. My generation hates long words though, so this has been abbreviated as 'Foco.'
There are other places to eat on campus, but Foco is by far the biggest. In other words, it’s a very normal place to go eat. Asking someone to get a meal with you at Foco is like asking someone to do laundry with you – you were both going to do it anyway, the only thing special about it is that you’re doing it together.
It is important to note here that ‘Foco Date’ operates as a third party term.
Say person A invites an individual of romantic interest, person B, to Foco. Perso A will almost certainly avoid tossing the word ‘date’ anywhere near the invitation. In fact, they’ll probably extend the offer via text, and it will most likely be a very limited variation of the phrase “Hey, we should grab a meal sometime,’ give or take some punctuation and general conventions of grammar. People witnessing the meal shared between persons A and B will refer to the event as a Foco Date, but neither A nor B will admit it.
This leaves person B in a really inconvenient position.
If person B is mutually attracted to person A, person B will want to believe that person A invited them to get a meal under the assumption that it constituted a very loose form of date. But because of the unspoken nature of this assumption, person B is left flailing between trying to appeal to person A and trying not to care too much.
Given the wildly casual setting of Foco, person B can’t dress too nicely. Because that would be weird. But at the same time, person B wants to look good. Does this rule out leggings? What if person A wears sweats? Will person B look like a total idiot? At first person B might think it’s a safe bet to wear tight jeans and something normal as long as they do their makeup. That’s fine person B, but you best not wear any lipstick because it will end up all over your face and that is NOT cute. And what does person B get to eat? Everyone judges people for eating salad on a first date – from my experience in person B’s shoes, it has nothing to do with wanting person A to think I’m healthy and everything to do with the fact that I would probably spill or drop anything else all over myself.
On top of trying to get everything in their mouth successfully, stressing out about whether or not any of it is stuck in their teeth, and having overthought their outfit to the point of delirium, person B still has to make interesting conversation and remember to chew with their mouth shut.
And person A gets to completely chill out. Sure, they’re probably nervous too, and yes they are the one who worked up the courage to ask person B to get food with them in the first place. But person B said yes, so really person A just needs to keep doing their thing. And in the event that they change their mind about their romantic endeavors, person A is completely covered by the ambiguous nature of the Foco Date, and the fact that the word ‘date’ never even came out of their mouth. Thanks a lot person A, no pressure at all.
So how does one figure out whether their person A considers their meal a date? You could ask. But that makes way too much sense to be a feasible option. Alternatively, person A might slip up and mention the encounter as a date. This, however, is infuriatingly unlikely.
The only low-risk solution to this ambiguity is to wait. The way person A interacts with you post Foco will eventually make their intentions very clear; If it was meant as a date, you’ll know. If it wasn’t meant as a date, you’ll definitely know that too.