I was sitting at brunch last weekend eating greasy eggs with one of my guy friends. “So, how’s the love life?” I asked.
“Eh,” Tom replied shrugging his shoulders.
“What? You’re not hunting and fishing?” I asked, doing my best Patti Stanger impression.
“Nah, it’s not that,” he said. “It’s just that dating is so … so expensive.” Expensive? That’s a new one. And sadly I’ve been hearing a lot of guys say it lately. What’s up with that? It shouldn’t be too expensive to date.On the list of reasons why dating is a complicated endeavor — fear, past hurts, insecurities, incompatibility, awkwardness — I think “checking account balance” should be at the bottom of the list. As I questioned my guy friends further, I discovered underneath this “it’s too expensive to date” attitude is an issue of confidence and the pressure that guys put on themselves to be able to provide. As one of my guy friends Mike put it: “Confidence is important. Confidence before it crosses over into cockiness. Confidence can help overcome a lot. It’s positive energy. It’s attractive. I suppose if Brad Pitt were a wallflower at a party, he’d still get dates … but if you’re not Brad Pitt and you’ve got some deeper insecurities about how you’re going to make ends meet this month, or what you’re doing with your life at this stage, or any number of things you don’t feel adequate about, it’s going to affect your confidence when you’re stepping out there and presenting yourself.”
I’ve had never really thought about it. I think it’s different for women. I’ve gone through some very financially humbling times, but it never affected my desire to date. Other things certainly have, but not that. I’ve never once thought about if I can afford a fancy dinner for two when I go out with a guy. But now that I know that men are stressing about this, I’d like to set the record straight.
Guys, I don’t want you to break the bank dating me. And this is totally coming from the queen foodie over here. I’ve had the great fortune of having a few very generous men in my life who have taken me out to great restaurants. I loved all the gourmet meals and fine bottles of wine presented by sommeliers, but those things didn’t make the relationship work. What I really want is good company.
Do I want to let you pay for our date? Sure, if you can afford it. I get that it’s important to your male sensibilities to pay sometimes. At the end of the night, I’ll offer to chip in for my half and when you refuse, I won’t fight you on it. I’ll say, “Thank you,” and truly mean it. But do I expect you to pay for a Michelin rated restaurant if you just got laid off? Hell no. I’m aware of the recession too. Give me a break. It’s just foolish to put that kind of pressure on yourself. I am looking for a partner. I want to be supportive of you if you’re going through a rough time, financial or otherwise. I would be happy to lift you up, build you up, and hope that you will re-pay the favor sometime in the future. If you treat me right, I will respect you. And if you do something you love and do it well, I’ll probably think of you as the most successful man on earth no matter what kind of restaurant you can afford to take me to.
If you are the kind of guy who insists on paying because your hubris won’t let it be otherwise, pick a restaurant that you can afford. Or let’s go for happy hour drinks or for a cup of coffee. Buy a bottle of wine and invite me over to drink it before dinner. Or if you really want to make me swoon … cook for me. Major points. Or don’t pay at all. We can split it. I have a job. I have my own money. I can afford to pay for my own dinner and even yours sometimes. I don’t expect you to float me. I only want to know that you are financially responsible. That you are gainfully employed or seek gainful employment. That you can take care of yourself. That you honor financial obligations. That you contribute to the world. That you are rich in spirit and in character. That we can sit across from each other for an hour and just enjoy each other’s company. I don’t really care about the truffle-encrusted scallops (although they are delicious); I care about getting to know you.
Some of the best dates I’ve ever been on have barely cost a dime. I’m thinking in particular about a boyfriend who cooked breakfast for me and then took me on a long walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Chinatown on an unseasonably warm winter day. We had a chance to connect. To talk and hold hands. After hours of walking, my feet started to hurt. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and we sat on a bench. It was a perfect date and more memorable than the countless fancy dinner dates I’ve been on.
I sincerely hope that all the amazing single guys out there will ditch this insane notion that I need to be wined and dined in order to win my heart. Show up with a flower and I’ll probably forget about dinner altogether. It’s simple. Impress me with your words. Impress me by listening and sharing. Impress me with the person that you are. Be confident that you have a lot to offer another person. That costs nothing.