Let’s not do lunch. (But it was nice chatting with you!)

Published on November 1, 2012 by      Print
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By Liz Mosco

Let me pose two scenarios. The first one:

Last week on a run I kept pace with an older gentleman for a mile or two. I don’t see him often. A smile or nod is usually the extent of our communication. On this particular day, we talked more than we ever had about things like life, loss and love. At the end of this short, meaningful conversation we waved to each other and said: “See you around!”

Perfect. I smiled all the way home.

The second scenario:

Two weeks ago in the grocery store I ran into an old colleague. We caught up briefly about our jobs. I asked about her kids and her husband. She asked about my hiking adventures. It was nice to bump into her. At the end of this short, energizing conversation she said: “We should do lunch.”

No! I felt tense all the way home, with her unwanted phone number in my contact list.

Do we really have to take a quick, stimulating conversation and then drag it out through an entire lunch together? Is this the polite thing to do?

The gentleman in the first scenario is someone I genuinely look forward to seeing again. I won’t run the other way when I see him coming. We’ll chat when the time is right.  The woman in the second scenario is now on my “hide from” list. I’ll dive behind a potato chip display when I see her. I’ll feel guilty because I have not followed up on her lunch invite. I’ll lie that that I have been “meaning to get in touch, but have been SO busy.” Why, oh why, did she have to invite me to effing lunch?

Admittedly, I’m also guilty. I, too, have been the giver of a “Let’s get coffee sometime” declaration. Yet before the words are out of my mouth I have seen the clouds drift into my companion’s eyes and my name added to her “to-do” list. I have made myself a chore. She will now pretend to be on the phone when she sees me coming.

But this isn’t really about lunch or coffee, is it? It is about moments.

We don’t watch a beautiful sunset and then try to make a date with it for next Tuesday at noon. We trust the universe will give us another beautiful sunset.

We don’t try to hold on to the sunset, because we can’t. So why do we try to hold on to beautiful conversations? Why, when it comes to each other, do we continually demand more?

In our modern era, more of everything seems to be better, including more connections (what a loathsome word) and more lunch and coffee dates. Hell, even when we truly desire to hang out with someone, our schedules are so packed we have to book out a month or more.  Are we really enriched by all these lunch dates? Or could some of these folks be people we love to see periodically, but arbitrarily? Could we say “Great to see you. Look forward to seeing you again!” and really mean it, without making a date? For most people I encounter, I sincerely look forward to seeing them again; however, not over lunch or coffee on the second Wednesday of next month at 11AM. I look forward to a five-minute conversation in six months as we pump our gas, pick up a prescription, or wait for our name to be called at the optometrist’s office.

Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to schedule a lunch date if it stems from love and friendship instead of misguided social courtesy. Your gut knows the difference. Cliché as it always sounds, our lives are a series of moments. When we keep planning, plotting, scheduling and demanding these moments, we lose something. We lose the time to talk to a pleasant stranger, fellow yogi, bartender, neighbor or mailman. We lose enjoying a moment for what it is, without living ten steps ahead by adding more fuss to our congested lives.

When a moment is over, it is over. Whether a natural phenomenon or a nice chat, the moments end.

This is simply a reminder that you don’t have to commit to more in order to appreciate another human being’s presence for a moment in time. You can bask in the glow of all these lovely moments and not plan another in the future. Just enjoy them and be awake for more.

The next time you run into someone from whom you’ve been dodging invites, there is no need to hide. Step proudly forward and announce how much you love bumping into him. Because you do!

I’ll bet you a nickel that he’ll be relieved you didn’t mention lunch.

Elizabeth MoscoAbout Liz Mosco, Ph.D. 

Liz Mosco, Ph.D. is a psychologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is adept at hiding in plain sight.  

Filed under: Or How About This? and Tagged:


  1. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Okay, whatever happened to the old adage, “Strangers are friends who haven’t yet met” ?

    What if your life were a little less than full?

    I think social networking took a problem (the hypocrisy of saying “let’s meet for lunch sometime”) and made it much, much worse …

    Because maybe it’s too easy to “friend” someone in a social network …

    THIS is why there exists perfectly normal people who may live close enough by where you do, but their only contact with you is through the social network and it doesn’t go any further.

    Either way, I prefer the non-technological scenario better.
    And I’m off Facebook for, among others, just that reason.

    • Liz Mosco says:

      I’m a little fuzzy on how social networking fits with this post, but I want to reply anyway because I agree! I quit Facebook after a colossal tragedy had me re-evaluate the role it played in my life: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/discovering-some-good-in-the-god-awful-liz-mosco/. That said, I admire those that can responsibly handle social networking AND still have rewarding face-to-face relationships. I’m not one of them. Your post got me wondering if we are treating conversations more like Facebook comments these days? It is easy to throw out insincere invites when you are not face-to-face. Let’s mean it when we say it to a live human being.

  2. Matthew says:

    I prefer to spend as little time as possible with other people. Gives me more time to think about myself. Kidding.
    I do think that, like Vision_Quest2 (!!) points out, if you already have a loaded social life, it might be a bit more daunting to make social arrangements with people.
    So sad and lonely people like myself, having a chance meeting with people and offering to follow-up with lunch or something is like a lifeline in a sea of child-related, non-negotiable, appointments, meetings and generally unpleasant interactions with medical professionals.
    I get your point, and agree with you, but getting lunch or coffee is pretty innocuous in most cases, and your presence may be the highlight in someone’s otherwise dreary week.

  3. the yog says:

    I agree visionquest2, some of the social network conversations I’ve seen make me want to use me spew bucket I keep nearby.

  4. leet says:

    I have the good fortune of running into Dr. Mosco on the trail fairly frequently. I am not the older gentleman in her post although it won’t be many years before I am an older gentleman. We’ve had this very conversation. I too have done the ‘let’s get lunch/together/coffee’ thing in the past but really am trying to just not say it anymore…unless it really seems like the thing to do.

    I enjoy the organic nature of conversation when the situation is entirely unforced and in the moment. I find that sometimes the appointment for lunch or coffee seems forced. I grew up moving around often (5 elementary schools, 4 high schools in 3 countries) and got a chance to learn how to meet people. I like talking with people and I find nothing trivial in chance and brief interactions on trails or inline at the coffee shop. I have learned much about life and the world by paying attention to what people have to say.

    So Doc, wanna get some lunch?

    • Liz Mosco says:

      And I have the good fortune of running into you, leet, on the trails also. I will decline lunch, but only because it would be a demotion from dinners!

  5. Jill says:

    Wow. I thought I was the only one that cringed at the insincere “We should get together!!!” Ugh. I think people worry too much that the other person will be offended or think we dont’ like them if neither of us suggests continuing the conversation.

    But really, if you really wanted to see me for lunch or coffee or whatever….why haven’t you contacted me in all this time? For the same reason why I haven’ t reached out to you – we just don’t like each other or feel close enough to make the effort.

    And I’m OK with that! Why aren’t you??

    • Liz Mosco says:

      Thanks, Jill! I’m so glad you resonate. Let’s not get lunch, but let’s still feel great about being kindred spirits on this topic!

  6. C init says:

    This is an interesting read, timely. I see both sides of the coin, so I’m just trying to take this as the author meant it.
    And maybe I don’t even understand what she meant? An insincere let’s do lunch is much different than someone wanting to take it to the next level…and honestly, I would like the insincere let’s do lunch right now. And it feels so arrogant to say that..to imply that I am so busy that I don’t have time to make another friend. But, that is the truth. I don’t. Because I am a good friend. I am a loyal friend. It’s not that I have a high powered job and am so very important. Sometimes the let’s do lunch is a new thing…it’s not borne out of insincerity and not borne out of obligation, but a true desire for two people where it seems like it’s the next logical progression…..and maybe it would be if both people were in the same place.
    There were times “lets do lunch” would have been music to my ears. Right now is not one of those times.
    And, instead of beating myself up, for the times I’ve been lonely or the times I’ve been too busy, I’m going to try and let these words sink in. How can I be in the moment?

    • Liz Mosco says:

      Very true. Timing plays a huge role. At different times in my life and under different circumstances, I might be more likely to accept and give invitations to people I am not close with nor desire a closer relationship. Yet for a lot of us, time is such a precious commodity. I will not crawl into the valuable time I have to spend with my close friends and the people I love because I was too busy lunching out of politeness. My guess is the more introverted of us struggle with this dilemma more. Yet the brief, lovely moments we have with others still can still brighten a day without any future plans being made.

  7. Dandy Sandy says:

    In my experience when someone says “let’s do lunch” after a chance conversation its merely a polite way of saying they enjoyed the exchange. And unless there was some dangling aspect of the conversation, like a tip on a job lead or some kind of networking thing, then that is usually the end of it. It’s like the infamous “Let’s keep in touch” line. There is usually no expectation of reciprocation. Could be different for others.

    However, I don’t think that structuring some part of my time to meet up with someone, (assuming the feeling is mutual), would of necessity exclude the possibility of serendipitous joy. Spontaneous encounters are great (its how I met my spouse after all) but life proceeds and familial responsibility has a way of interfering with that. I would love to get up and abandon structure hoping for the universe to put something or someone cool in my path. But then the people who rely upon me ,(kids, aging parents for starters) would be getting the shaft.

    So yea, maybe I sound “old”, “unenlightened”, or have “sold out” but making appointments is necessary. My breakthrough moments usually come right after that spray of icy water at 4:30 a.m. Sounds sad but I’ve solved many a sticky problem waiting for the water to turn warm. And yea – yoga helps too !

  8. Jenifer says:

    I probably didn’t “get” this article until reading the comments.

    First, I love “trail magic” experiences. Those are those moments when you connect with someone and may never again. You know it when you do long distance hikes. You meet people doing part of the trail, or finishing up where you are starting. And you have a great walk together, talk about life a bit, and that’s it — forever. But the whole thing is really nice.

    Second, I actually do not mind insincere “lets do lunch” things. This is because I do not feel guilty about them in any way, shape, or form. I don’t usually offer because I”m an introvert and I’m ok with those little passive meet-ups in life. And, when other people offer, it’s on them to set up the lunch date with me, and for me to accept or decline either way. Most of them — if insincere — are not going to make those arrangements, so it’s nothing to worry about. For those who do want to make those arrangements, I can decide then what I want to do. And usually, I like them enough to do lunch, so we end up with a nice little relationship.

    Third, I am on FB. Living on the other side of the planet from family and friends, FB is a nice way to catch up without having to set up skype dates. I do have skype dates with my family and with my closer friends who live in other countries. But, we also chat via FB pretty regularly — once or twice a week often — which is very nice and pleasant.

    I also have local friends that I have on my FB — I use it to go “hey, are we meeting at the bowles club at 3 today?” and they confirm. Then we meet at the bowles club. So, it’s mostly a fast messaging system.

    I find it useful.

    Perhaps I’m just ok with it all, and ok with myself too. Ok with saying “no” and ok with saying “yes” and honoring each thign for what it is and nothing more than that, really. I just try to stick to what is useful and pleasant. :)

    • jtw says:

      Jenifer, I’ll make this short.

      1. It seems to me you still don’t “get it.”
      2. I find your remarks off putting.
      3. I do mind insincere “lets do lunch” and I don’t feel guilt in any way, shape or form.
      4. I’m ok with myself

      • Jenifer says:

        I get what you are writing. That’s why I wrote about “trail moments.” I know what that is. I value it (as apparently you do too). And, I also reflected on the comments, which seem to be about something else entirely. At least, from my POV.

        Here is where I had the disconnect: “The woman in the second scenario is now on my “hide from” list. I’ll dive behind a potato chip display when I see her. I’ll feel guilty because I have not followed up on her lunch invite. I’ll lie that that I have been “meaning to get in touch, but have been SO busy.” Why, oh why, did she have to invite me to effing lunch?”

        I do not “get” this. I do not experience this. I haven’t experienced this. I do not know why this is the case. I gave how I experience these situations. I shared my own self reflection.

        You can take that personally or find it off-putting or not.

        I also assume that writers are interested in people considering their work, reflecting on that. Perhaps you don’t.

        At least, that’s the sense I get from your response to me.

        • Jenifer says:

          Ah, sorry Lisa!

          I got you and jtw confused. It’s likely because it’s late here and I wasn’t paying attention.

          I did point out the point of confusion for me — but again, the same is true. Self reflection isn’t necessarily judgement of other, and since you didn’t respond to me, I can only assume that you are cool with dialogue on the topic or just letting the old comment be (which is also cool). I tend to ruminate on what others are writing. It’s just my thing.


          I have no clue who you are, and since your words are so succinct, there’s really nothing to engage. My comment has really nothing to do with you, but is a self reflection of how I work. So, I don’t really care if you find the statement off-putting, if you think I don’t ‘get it.’ I am glad that you are ok with yourself, though.

          • JTW says:

            A shout out to Lisa, who ever she is.
            And, another shout out to Liz Mosco, Ph.D. for crafting a thought provoking article about, among other things, useless and dishonest social convention.
            Jennifer, once again I’ll make this short.

            I find it hard to believe that you haven’t hidden behind a potato chip display to avoid someone. I’d also like to applaud you for your admission that you weren’t paying attention to whom you were responding to and, I’m assuming, not paying attention to what you were writing. Lastly, I didn’t find any particular statement off putting, rather I found your entire response off putting. Self reflections about something you don’t seem to understand rings hollow.

  9. marcy says:

    Our society is chock full of banal conventions, phrases, and meaningless exchange but can this really be news to anyone ? What’s next ? Pointing out that a person asking you how you are doing isn’t really interested in a real answer ? And each person is guilty of this – we all bore someone else, (or certainly have the capacity to), so why act like its always the “other” person who is being shallow or insincere ? Take a check up from the neck up. We ALL do it….

    • Tiffany Mark says:

      Okay, so you disagree. So why does this post, if it is only about banal social convention, generate such a strong reaction from you? Perhaps you are dismissive of others with boring, trite, or meaningless conversation? This post is not just about banal social convention; it is about being unwilling to just let a relationship be what it is when we have no real intention/desire to take it further. And, the author is not acting “like it always the ‘other’ person.” Rather she writes, “Admittedly, I’m also guilty. I, too, have been the giver of a let’s get coffee sometime declaration.” How did you miss this? How come the strong reaction? Marcy, maybe its you who need to take a checkup from the neck up.

  10. Portifoy says:

    Fascinating. During my sabbatical from the Inter Uterine Institute and before concluding my fire quest with the KomonIwannaLaya tribe in Pago Pago, I had the privilege of studying with Dr. John Leg-Thigh a luminary in the field of Dianetical Linguistics. I’m sure the readers of this blof probably don’t know who he is as he availed himself solely to gifted students. However, he later achieved popular academic success with his essays on Semantic Flatulence at which point I found his views to be too mainstream and gauche. Where was I ?

    Oh. Dr. Leg-Thigh posited the radical notion that informal communications can sometimes involve words, phrases, and social conventions that are employed insincerely. Lastly, (and I know this is revolutionary), people sometimes say things they don’t really mean and often times just to fill the space in a hurried conversation. Collectively, Its a radical notion whose genius remains largely unrecognized most likely because of its fundamental conflict with the Chomsky–Schützenberger theorem. Anyway, this blog reminds me somewhat of Dr. Leg-Thigh’s genius in recognizing such things.

    • Liz Mosco says:

      This is awesome. Thank you for bringing the seriousness of this post down to
      a far more fitting, and in my opinion, appropriate level. I think this is a perfect ending.

  11. Let’s not do lunch. (But it was nice chatting with you!) « The Custom House says:

    [...] really nice little piece on accepting things as they are. Share this:SharePinterestFacebookTumblrEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe [...]

  12. خرید کریو says:

    thank you

  13. Tara Riddle Lombardi says:

    I think about you a lot. Let’s not do “lunch” but maybe Super Bowl snacks?

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