Should I make it a date?

Long-time reader, first time submitting a question.
For starters, Ill provide a bit of background. Im a mid-20s male working full-time and attending evening classes to finish my Masters degree. In one course, a female acquaintance and I rely upon each other for notes & assignments from classes one of us may have missed. I met this acquaintance years ago in a professional organization we both belong to (whose meetings we have both stopped attending). She is mid-to-late 20s, also working, attractive and smart. In emails and conversation we make small-talk without it being awkward, but nothing that you would call flirting. She has recently emailed me her number and asked for mine, but this is almost certainly just trading contact info with a study-buddy.
As we will both be graduating soon, I would like to take the opportunity this semester to ask her out to dinner to get to know her better. However, in planning the conversation in which I invite her to dinner, I foresee her asking whether or not this is a date (that is, an outing with romantic intent). I am at a loss as to how I should answer, because while my current interest is just a chance for good conversation, the chance to date an intelligent and attractive woman is always tempting. If I reach for the stars and say it is a date, she may decline where she might have gone along with a platonic invitation. If I say it isnt a date (and shes hoping it is), I risk closing off an option that Id like to explore. Im a coward when it comes to women and romance, so my natural inclination is to tell her it will be a date if thats what she wants. So, my questions are as follows:
1. Any clever responses that allow me to have my cake and eat it, too? Any responses that communicate that I am just as happy hanging out with her as I would be dating her?
2. Would you suggest an occasion more casual than dinner for my purposes?
3. Any other general advice?

6 thoughts on “Should I make it a date?

  1. Dennis Hong says:

    [If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would probably have said to go for a platonic hanging out for the time being, then see how everything goes from there.

    But, that was 10 years ago.

    This is my opinion today: Bluntly, it’s obvious to me that you’re interested in her. Yes, you say that your “current interest” is for good conversation, but… come on. I don’t buy it for a second. I think you’re just saying that to protect yourself. Why do I think this? Because that’s what 10-year-ago Dennis used to say. 🙂

    So, I think you need to sack up and go for it.

    Yes, you could potentially lose out on a friendship with this girl. But honestly, my years and years of experience with this has only told me that friendships where one person is romantically interested in the other, while the other does not return the feelings, only end up being strained and awkward. As cool as you think she may be to hang out with on a platonic level, I just don’t think it’s going to be worth it. Besides, it’s not as though you’re already friends and you’re running the risk of ruining a friendship.

    Either way, girls like guys who take initiative. Don’t be a pansy about it. If you’re interested in her, ask her out. The worst thing she can do is say no.

    Well, maybe the worst she can say is point at you and break into hysterical laughter. But… I don’t think she’d do that.

    Good luck.

  2. Solstice says:

    [I agree with David – if I didn’t want it to be a date, I wouldn’t even mention the possibility of it being a date! So if she asks, I think you should say yes, it is a date. If you want it to be more casual than dinner, you can ask her to lunch, drinks, or coffee instead, which all have a more casual vibe.

  3. DavidIsGreat says:

    [In my experience if someone is asking if it’s a date they want it to be a date. Otherwise they wouldn’t bring up something so awkward.

    That or the date itself was so terrible they really weren’t sure, but that’s a different story.

  4. faraday says:

    [I think Dennis is spot on. You are interested in her. Ask her out 🙂 It’s better to know than not know, right?

  5. Jacs77 says:

    [Ask her to lunch or for something casual. Maybe going to see something that pertains to the class you took together? A speaker or something you’ve spoken about in passing?

    I would certainly say yes to a date if I enjoyed the time spent together, albeit studying.

    Nothing wrong with that 🙂

  6. resullins says:

    [Why is it necessary to put a label on it? Just ask her out for dinner. When the check comes, tell her it was your treat. If she lets you pay, then it was a date, and you may now ask her out on another one.

    Also, offer to pick her up. If she insists on meeting you there, well, then, there’s your answer. There are a lot of little things you can do that will shed a little light on her feelings without you getting blasted from the get-go.

    Just go for it man!

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