There are times in life — for instance, when I am perched at the bar at Hot Tomato’s listening to other peoples’ private conversations — that I wish I could pull a Zach-Morris-style “Time Out” and freeze the moment to provide unsolicited yet essential commentary.

Like when recently over Flirtinis, I overheard one fine Yale gentleman confess:

“So I told her, ‘Yeah, your friend is pretty hot, but like, I don’t know if I really want to go on a date or anything. I don’t want a serious girlfriend right now. I don’t want an intense relationship.'”

This is why I write a column. TIME OUT. SAY WHAT?

Looks like in Mr. Hot Tomato’s opinion, asking a girl to dinner means initiating the nuclear launch sequence that can only end in the complete and total decimation of his social life, his autonomy and probably his bank account too.

That’s pretty bold for a guy who was no more than moderately attractive and hadn’t said anything interesting in the entire time I’d been eavesdropping on him. I imagined how I would have reacted if one of my girlfriends had implied that any guy she flattered with a date was more than likely to fool her into getting involved.

But I could tell by Mr. Hot Tomato’s friend’s nonchalant, unquestioning acceptance of the statement that to these two boys, the link between a single date and a relationship was nothing less than totally obvious.

Do other guys actually think this way? Could this be why, where relationships are concerned at Yale, there are so few of us who experience anything other than one-night stands and four-year stints?

Curiosity began killing this kitten so I did my best recon work to figure out where the logic train had come off the tracks for guys at Yale.

As it turns out, many, many otherwise mentally operational Yale men have fallen prey to the same oddball assumption about the fairer sex:

That girls are man-traps.

That taking a girl on one date raises expectations of commitment, exclusivity and long-term couple-hood.

That to a woman, “date” is spelled with a silent “first,” which implies “second,” which implies anniversaries, mandatory birthday presents, and where’s a young guy going to scare up enough scratch for a ring?

Let me attempt to map out what this tragically misguided Hot Tomato’s gentleman seemed to envision a date meaning to the aforementioned girl: You pay the check at Samurai and part ways. After calling her mom to ask if she can bring you home for Easter, but before the naked pillow-fight with friends, your date sits around in a group scrutinizing changes to be made to your wardrobe, designing wedding invitations and putting your children’s names on lists for top-notch preschools.

Your favorite pair of ratty New Balances will have to go. Does your family have a history of heart disease? She likes spring weddings, so let’s hope you don’t have allergies.

That’s right, because although this girl barely knows you, the tracking device implanted in her head during one of those many suspicious visits to the gynecologist instantly alerts her to husband material.

If you let her get a whiff of the scent of your trail, she will track you, she will find you and she will take you down like a 12-point buck. You will have no choice but to love and honor her, in sickness and health, as long as you both shall live.

I’ll admit that the “desperate woman” cliche is a pretty ubiquitous stereotype. The problem is, this is not the 1950s, a finishing school in Georgia or a Jane Austen novel. Unlike Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennett, we ladies do not sit around doing embroidery and organizing our dowry chests in between gentleman callers.

Most importantly though, we are not middle-aged women, we’re college chicks.

You’re looking for something casual? So are we.

No, really, I promise.

A lot of us can’t even commit to a hair color, much less to a relationship. This goes double for senior girls — yeah, we may be getting older, but we’d rather pack in every last ridiculous and inappropriate college experience than become involved in some sappy affair that will only end with us leaving you behind to finish your last year (or three…) at Yale.

Dinner or a movie is nice because sometimes, a girl just wants to have a meaningless hookup that does not involve scraping Toad’s slime off her shoes before she steps on your carpet.

Or sometimes she wants to know a little bit about you before you park your boots by her bed.

Wanting a date does not mean wanting a relationship, it means wanting a date.

So what’s with the misconception?

A charitable answer would be that boys are just being brought up too well these days. Having been called a “little heartbreaker” since birth by every doting female within a three-mile radius (and unfortunately for the women of Yale), any even remotely stand-up guy is conditioned to believe that he’s playing hardball with some girl’s fragile psyche every time he makes a date.

A more cynical view would suggest that this whole offense/defense view of female/male interactions is just a sick cycle perpetuated from father to son and brother to brother; it’s Mr. Hot Tomato’s way of feeling dominant in a world where the girls, whether he likes it or not, are actually sort of like boys with cuter accessories.

Our mothers taught us to be liberated from a life of potential husband hunting by encouraging us to cultivate our own interests, careers and social circles; Hot Tomato’s dad filled his head with stories about “sowing his wild oats.”

I remember being at a cocktail party with my parents and overhearing one of the 30-something men there joke about having been “corralled” by his wife into marriage a few years earlier, as if obviously it was always a woman’s place to force some young stallion into a life at pasture.

Mamas’ boys? Be a little less respectable, dammit, and recognize that we are just as capable of playing with your emotions as you are with ours. If we want “more,” we’ll let you know it. Promise.

And for the true commitment-phobes out there, understand that — to we girls at least — there is such a thing as casual dating. There is such a thing as a noncommittal, nonexclusive relationship, and there are times when even the most serious-minded of women is just looking for a good romp.

Liz Gunnison is an independent woman who enjoys pillow fights with friends.