I met Donny* for a drink at 6 p.m. on a Sunday. When I walked into the deserted restaurant, soaked from the downpour outside, I didn’t know he was destined to become the pettiest, stingiest and most pitiable man I’ve ever gone out with.
I re-joined OKCupid after several weeks of TV and tear-soaked tissues. I was—okay, still am—mourning the loss of an amazing relationship. Being in love with your ex is more conducive to eating delivered Thai food and watching movies in your pajamas, but I resolved to try dating again anyway. Not to find a new boyfriend, but to show myself I was strong, that I wasn’t waiting for a reunion that might never come, that I actually still had the capacity to find other men attractive.
Donny and I smiled at each other when I sat down across from him at a table by the window. I continued to smile through the date. I talked; he talked more. We laughed, we asked questions and we powered through awkward silences. I was doing it! I played the part of someone looking for a new love, instead of someone just trying to distract herself from the old one. I genuinely enjoyed his company.
We each had a glass of wine, a cup of tea and we split an appetizer. The bill came to around $38.
“Do you mind splitting it?” Donny asked.
He was a musician depending on his art for survival, while I have a full-time job. I plunked down my card next to his without hesitation, but the waiter refused to split the bill, saying that we didn’t meet the $20 credit card minimum that way.
Donny gave me back my card and said, “I’ll send you a bill if I never see you again.” Assuming he was joking, I laughed and thanked him. We hugged goodbye, making vague statements about going out again.
And I was considering it, too. I figured I’d have fun, but then again, what was the point of going on a second date if my heart wasn’t free to give? So when he texted me to suggest another date, I told him that I had a good time, but I didn’t want to lead him on. I wasn’t ready to date because I was still in love with someone else. “Good luck!” I added, thinking there was nothing more to be said.
He was okay with my refusal. “I understand. No hard feelings,” he wrote. “But what would really make my day is if you could mail me the $20 from your half of the bill. I’m broke and would rather spend the money on someone open to a relationship,” he said.
I knew the dating world couldn’t have changed so drastically in the time I was out of it.
No. This guy was just a cheapskate.
My instinct was telling me to keep my money. Somehow, the $20 seemed more precious to me than it did when I was ready to pay it at the restaurant. I realized, though, that he might bug me until I snail-mailed the cash. So I sent the money along with a letter. He shouldn’t have picked a restaurant at which he couldn’t foot the bill, I wrote. He shouldn’t be on OKC if he can’t afford a date.
People agree to go on dates with the implicit knowledge that the money for drinks and food is often spent in vain. Unless Donny needed $20 to pay a phone bill or something, his classless act is inconceivable to me. Ironically, my emotional unavailability helped me dodge a bullet. I could never date someone whose chivalry depended on whether a girl liked him enough or not.
* Name has been changed.