Like, all great writers I had an epiphany when I went to Africa. My trip, while absolutely amazing, gave me insight into a problem plaguing men at HBS. Sometimes we’re hard to read.
Yes, men – HBS men – HBS men in their EC year – are hard to read.
Beneath the JCrew button down and sweater, seven jeans, Cole Hann shoes, and Vineyard Vines boxers, we men are confused souls who are afraid of the future.
The fear is simple – we’re close to leaving this little oasis filled with beautiful, smart people located in the middle of the draining, lonely financial world. We’re unclear if we want to have a senior scramble or find a long term relationship, and that is ripping us apart.
Now, my favorite professor Tom DeLong said at least 2,453 times in LEAD class that all ambiguity is interpreted negatively – and he’s right. In the context of dating though, negativity equals rejection, and well, we all see why this is bad.
Take for instance an email I sent to an unnamed RC, asking her for what I thought was a platonic dinner last week. Her response, succinct, and to the point, “Are you asking me on a date?” A few lines later in the response, she pulled out the dagger, “If not, then sure!”
Ouch. On the bright side, the experience was a first – the first time I had ever been rejected for a date I did not solicit. This email response made it clear I could do a service for the HBS community and list the top five ways you know if an EC man is hitting you.
1) He invites you to drinks, not dinner, at a place not named Tommy Doyles.
Let’s be clear. We’re all at HBS. We’re all concerned about staying healthy and caloric/carbohydrate intake (yes, especially us men). We’re not wasting our precious bodies on anyone. Truth. If he wants to get super unhealthy drinks and not using it as a pregame, he’s willing to invest a lot to get to know you.
And moreover, going to Tommy Doyles’ third floor is where you go to meet people, not impress them.
And why doesn’t dinner count? The truth is that dinner is a wild card. I’d be lying to you if I said dinners weren’t used as dates, but they’re also used as networking events (the OTHER reason why we came to business school), so it’s tough to discern what the guy’s intentions are.
2) Any reference to you going to OWA
OWA is the place where miracles happen. Just think about the last after party you went to in OWA – exactly. It’s hard for me to fathom how dating occurred before OWA was built, but much like life without internet, I guess folks at HBS got by.
It’s important to note that even if the guy doesn’t live in OWA, if he is trying to get you to go there, he wants to date you.
Exchanges like this mean one thing:
EC Guy: “Hey, do you want to go to OWA after the bar?” EC Girl: “Um, sure. But do you even live there?” EC Guy: “Nope.”
3) He wants you to go on an HBS travel event he is attending
I write this in caps to underscore its point: ALL HBS TRIPS ARE SOLELY FOR MATCHMAKING. Seriously, traveling with HBS students is like watching an overeducated group of people participating on the Love Boat reality series. I don’t know what it is about the trips that make them such a spot for people to come together, but it happens. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re paying a lot of money… and HBS students are determined to get their money’s worth out of everything. Maybe it’s because when we leave the campus, we realize how great of a catch we are.
4) He wants to study with you
At the risk of getting in a lot of trouble with my awesome second semester professors, let’s be clear – if an EC second semester male is asking for help with building a model, he’d rather be building a relationship with you.
5) He invites you anywhere in Boston.
He wants to be alone AND he’s willing to pay for a cab. Wow.
Bonus: He appears dedicated to your success.
Truthfully, this point is mostly for RC women and that’s why I made it a bonus. I am not arguing that EC men are only interested in you becoming a Baker Scholar or getting that amazing consulting gig because they want to date you, but think about from this perspective. First, by mentoring you, they get to show off their feathers; EC males get to tell you how THEY got their internships and how THEY got 1s in classes. Clearly, this posturing is a way to appear like a quality guy. Second, he gets to spend time with you. These coaching sessions can take place over drinks, or better yet, in OWA.