Once upon a drunken freshman evening, I made out with a boy at a party. It was only for a second or two — and probably resulted in my being that sketchy girl who makes out in the corner of parties (or center, but why get specific?) — so one can understand my surprise when the next day after class he invited me to “grab some dinner” in the dining hall.

Of course, the next day when I found out that alcohol’s memory-fogging effects might have taken its toll, the entire notion of my Dining Hall Date fell through. It was no longer a “Hey, we made out last night, let’s get dinner and talk” kind of dinner, but now ranged anywhere from a solely hunger-driven meal (which would have been such a shame) to yet another friendly feed affair. Ohh, the trials and tribulations of freshman year — the concept of a Dining Hall Date was so fresh and so new, new!

Everyone knows that Yalies rarely date. Perhaps it’s the fact that every college student (no matter his or her financial status) immediately becomes a poor, struggling scholastic upon entry to a university. Suddenly, every can of Diet Coke counts when you don’t have Mom to drive to Costco to pick up a 130-pack. Simply going out for dinner is just an unfathomable notion.

Or, more likely, it’s the simple fact that Yale men seem to be lacking game — completely unaware that hooking up with a girl, although steadily, every Saturday evening at Toad’s is not the equivalent of dating.

Hence, it seems to be a rather common trend for potential couples to feel their way into a relationship via the comfort of one’s own dining hall. There, where the lights are dim, the food free (well, pre-paid at least), and the ambiguous connotations a plenty, Yale students can find solace as they explore the world of Dining Hall Dates. Of course, just because one’s not in a restaurant does not exclude an individual from exercising proper etiquette. Hence, what follows are the guidelines for DHDs.

Foremost, it is important to define a Dining Hall Date. It is not a date if you and the other individual are clearly just friends, in the same residential college, and the only people actually awake to make Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. In fact, in most cases, Dining Hall Dates cannot be made via “passing by” verbalization. E-mail is the preferred mode for scheduling DHDs. Plus, there’s something kind of romantic about an e-mail. Hmm–or not.

Once you’ve set up a DHD, it is important to choose an apt location. If you’re not feeling particularly hot, avoid Pierson. Sure its dining hall is white, bright and new, but all that natural light can be rough on our delicate faces. Hence, despite the fact that the JE dining hall may not be the preferred favorite among Yale students, it must be given due props for its incredible lack of lighting, which does wonders for one’s appearance — mascara and blush merely become superfluous accessories when the room’s too dark to see anything.

Of course, if food is a larger concern (or if you want to get laid) pursue a Berkeley DHD. But be forewarned: If you are not a blessed Berkeleyite you may have to do some serious flirting with Annette to secure a spot in that fantastically exclusive and snobbish eatery we all love so much. In which case, your date may get jealous, proclaim at the top of her lungs your propensity to scream out the names of “Golden Girls” characters during orgasm, and then walk out — leaving you alone like a dog, but hey, sometimes organic is as good as orgasmic. Plus, Annette is single and the sex appeal of a woman in power is undeniable.

Of course, if you get invited on a DHD and feel bad refusing (that or your pursuer called you out on your section time lie) do not bring along your entire suite. A DHD is a one-on-one affair. Even if you try to convince your date that you had “no idea” your friends would be eating in Branford, too, the truth of the matter is you ought to be able to suck it up for 35 minutes without your friends making lewd gestures from the adjacent table each time your date goes to refill her cup of frozen yogurt (seven times and counting).

Finally, do not leave your date alone at the table for longer than necessary. There are only so many times he can read the YCC flyers or pretend to check his cell’s missed calls before he is forced to stare straight ahead uncomfortably, hoping that everyone knows that, at one point, he or she too had a dinner companion.

Some final DHD etiquette rules:

1) It is only a Dining Hall Date if it is dinner. No one looks hot at breakfast, and lunches are too on-the-run to expand beyond the realm of a quick chat n’ chew.

2) Every man for himself when it comes to bussing trays. Although one may assume it’d be a kind, gentlemanly gesture to bus the tray of one’s date, in this case one man’s trash is just that — one man’s trash — and at that, his trash to clean up.

3) A friend of mine went on a DHD to Berkeley, only to be confronted with the disappointment that tonight wasn’t going to be a BK night. The young lad she was with at that point then proceeded to use his Flex dollars to pay his date’s way into Berkeley. And then he got laid. What a very, very smart man.

4) While DHDs are key for the financial savings they afford students, Dining Hall Desserts are not. Step it up a notch and go out for a post-DHD dessert. Whether you go the “guiltless” pleasures route a la Tasti D-lite or the really good route via Claire’s cake (blissful silent pause — yum), it sure beats the generic dining hall concoctions.

Dana Schuster tastes better than warm peach cobbler with a scoop of ice cream.