Friday, April 3, 2009

Love for Cheap Dates

Dinner and a movie. A movie and dinner. How did that become the standard for dating?

After finding myself single and getting out into the dating scene again, the invitation for that specific combination of “getting to know you” activities just keeps coming up. And I have a theory about it.

It’s lazy. It’s boring. It doesn’t even make sense.

The way I see it is if you’re dating someone, the idea is to get to know them better. In a movie theater you can’t talk to them. You can’t even see them! So after one and a half hours of sitting just a foot away from them, you don’t know them any better then you did when first meeting them! And if the movie wasn’t to their (or your) liking, that’s $18 badly spent.

As for dinner there is an absurdly long list of things to worry about and potential problems. Does the girl let the guy order for her? If he’s paying for dinner, he might think he’s supposed to or is entitled to. Who’s picking up the tab? Does he get it? Do they split it two ways? Order separately? If you order a large meal will you terrify your date into thinking you have an appetite (and potentially the waist line) of a full back? Will the guy be irritated if he’s paying for it and his date can’t finish it?

The dinner dates I’ve had where the entire experience transpired in an eatery often left me racked with questions. Should I forgo a desert? What does it mean if he orders an alcoholic beverage during our first meeting? What if I get something stuck between my teeth, spill food on my clothes or worse, knock my date’s drink into their lap?

When meeting something for the first time, you want to talk to this person and get to know them. That is after all the entire point of getting together. But how can you do that when you’re eating? You’re already dealing with drippy sauces, too much or not enough silverware and the persistent worry that you chew your food weird. How can you also be expected to be a charming and interesting conversationalist?

You only have one shot at a first impression. You want to be memorable. Doing the ‘same old thing’ isn’t memorable. Doing something new and different is. Trying something for the first time even if it’s something simple adds excitement to the experience. And some of the best dates I’ve gone on, didn’t cost a thing.

It is possible to be an amazing date, but not spend a ton of money. Being a good cheap date doesn't mean being stingy or selfish. It's not about finding out how you even feel about someone before deciding whether to spend money on them. Being a good cheap date is about being so creative, imaginative and playful that the kinds of dates you do are amazing without costing much or any money. Being a good cheap date requires more thoughtfulness and humor than being an expensive date. It’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about how you spend your time and energy.

Get Outside
• Take a hike/ walk at a local National Park or Botanical Gardens. Even your local Plant Nursery is nice to take a stroll through.
• Toss around a softball or Frisbee or kick around a soccer ball at a neighborhood park.
• Shoot some hoops at a high school’s outdoor court after school hours or on the weekends if your local park doesn’t have a court.
• Go for jog or bike ride together
• Play a friendly game of tennis

Get Active
• Hit the batting cages
• Walk (or run) along the beach/ lake
• Head out to a swimming pool
• Go tubing in a lake
• Ice skate, Inline skate or Roller skate (indoors or outside)
• Window shop through a shopping center
• Play miniature golf
• Join a pick-up game of volleyball at the beach or local rec center

Get Cultured
• Check out a local art gallery
• Take random photos of the city, countryside or historical site
• See what’s new at a Museum
• Check out a local music venue
• Go to an Ethnic celebration/ festival (Indian Powwow, Celtic celebration etc.)
• Go to a book signing at a bookstore
• Go to a poetry reading

Getting Hungry?
• Check out your local farmer’s market
• Get ice cream or fresh fruit at a grocery store to eat while walking around town or at a park.
• Pack a picnic and take it with you on an excursion
• Get meal-on-the-go bars or snacks at a local health food store

Staying Indoors

• Head to Arcades
• Check out a local high school or college musical or theater performances
• Go to a local high school or college sport event
• Try out Karaoke
• Go to a drive in movie theater
• Meet at a large store where you share an interest: music, sports, books, electronics, etc.
• Go nighttime bowling
• Shoot pool
• Pick out wacky clothing or shoes at a mall for each other to try on
• Build an elaborate maze for a pet mouse or hamster
• Go to a comedy club

Do Something Productive
• Volunteer together for a local clean up or local event
• Do a charity run or walk
• Volunteer at a animal shelter or check out a pet store
• Get certified together for First Aid and CPR training
• Help someone paint- a room, a fence, a piece of furniture, etc.
• Go to a salvage yard and find something to fix up and find a use for it.
• Create a scavenger hunt
• Help out with a community project
• Plant flowers, trees or shrubs in your yard, for a church or nature reserve
• Buy a bunch of flowers or balloons to pass out at an old folks home or hospital
• Put together a neighborhood garage sale or one with all your friends

Anything But Ordinary
• Go to a theater audition together
• Take a tour of a factory
• Draw a mural with chalk at a park or on your sidewalk
• Go to your local courthouse and watch a trial
• Go to a costume party
• Check out a flea market or various garage sales
• Attend open houses for homes being sold (just don’t take their paperwork unless you might buy)
• Try out your local public transportation: bus, Trolly, Subway, BART, ferry
• Go to a technology or science expo
• Test drive cars together
• Go play Bingo
• Find and go through a corn or hedge maze
• Attend a benefit concert
• Find a good place at night to star gaze
• Find a hill and fly a kite. Better yet, make the kite together and then fly it.
• Volunteer at a animal shelter or check out a pet store
• Check out local events at Convention center- gem show, gun show, craft show,
• Take a free foreign language class together
• Take a train ride to anywhere
• Find a multiple person bike to ride
• Host a costume party, plan it together
• Take a Haunted house/ mystery house tour

If you happen to have to have a little more cash to spend or are willing to invest more time, there are other ideas that are far from ordinary.

Creative Dating Ideas
• Go Fishing
• Go to an Amusement park
• Go skiing or snowboarding
• Take a class together – art, dancing, pottery, photography, martial arts (these can be pretty inexpensive at a community center, community college or through a church)
• Rent or borrow a Canoe
• Go horse back riding
• Try out archery
• Go to a shooting range
• Try out go karts
• Rock climb at a local climbing gym
• Go to a local Fair
• Attend a sporting event you don’t typically watch (Martial arts tournament, Horse competition, dog racing, ballroom dance)
• Get dressed and go to an Opera or Broadway musical
• Sign up to be extras in a film
• Check out your local country club event
• Take a road trip
• Go to a sports or boot camp together
• Get tickets to be in the audience of a televised show
• Go to the circus, zoo, aquarium or water theme park
• Take a musical instrument class together (percussion, etc.)
• Go sky diving or bungee jumping
• Go water skiing or rent jet skis
• Go on a one day cruise
• Enroll in "circus school" together
• Go to a Murder Mystery Restaurant
• Go on a backpacking trip

My sister told me about a date she and her boyfriend came up with. They bought water flotations beds and remote control boats, headed out to a lake and floated around the lake racing their little boats. They'd taken a picnic lunch with them and made a day of it.

Everyone loves novelty.
Thanks to Google it’s easy to find out what’s happening in your area. Check out your local events or those in neighboring cities. It may surprise you what exciting things are happening that you’re completely unaware of. Combine any number of these for a truly unique experience.

Regardless of your budget or skill levels, whatever else might be said of you, no one will ever be able to call you a boring date.


schwarzefahne said...

...and then again, you could watch a monster movie, pig out at Denny's and subsequently find yourself pulling an all-nighter with your arms wrapped around someone quite beautiful. "Bread and entertainment", the staple for human existence since the dawn of our evolution isn't that bad of an idea for a first date. Everyone likes to eat and be entertained. You can learn a lot about someone in the first few moments of interaction from the lobby to the popcorn line to the seats, and after viewing the same flick, you undoubtedly have something in common from the get-go; you've seen the same movie and are free to critique. Of course this could prove to be a great topic to discus over dinner. A hopefully delightful meal that limits the human contact just enough to keep you in the same closeness for conversation, but not entangled to where you can’t breathe or can’t see each other, when you are both uncertain how they feel about you as the evening progress’.

Getting to know you? Really starting to understand who and what the other person is and wants, well that's what the second date is for. "You don't seem like an absolute Looney, so let's get together again, only next time, let's try sky diving! …now that I know you like sky diving from our conversation over dinner.”

Though it might seem cheesy to some and although I agree it can get stale after a while, I admire its simplicity, its neutrality and its beauty. Not to mention the fact that every activity can leave you wondering what the other person thinks of you. Though you might not be worrying if you have something stuck in your teeth or that you chew to loud at the dinner table or if you laugh like a hyena in the theater, you could find yourself wondering why they are staring at your crotch when your junk is crushed into a small ball by your rock-gym harness or if he notices you made the horrible choice of wearing flip-flops to play baseball on a muddy field. I believe the possibilities for failure are as limitless as the possibilities for "first dates", so with that said, I'll keep my dinner and a movie dates thank you very much :) I must say however, that although I enjoy many of the activities on your list, I don’t believe I have ever considered even half of them as “first date” potentials. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I find myself intrigued by the mind and body of a woman. One of those ideas just might give me the opportunity to touch her soul.

morgansmorgue said...

I couldn't agree with the thesis of your article more, Jaclyn. I've never taken a member of the fairer sex on a first date where it consisted of two hours sitting next to each other focusing on make-believe and not exchanging a word for two hours. Even though I am a movie buff and chances are that someone I would convince to go on a date with me would be as enthusiastic about films as I am, I would rather spend an hour or so walking around a video store talking about some of our favorite movies we've seen.

One thing I would like to add to your article, for the benefit of future readers, is that if communication is the key to any healthy relationship it should start from the very beginning. In western culture making first contact is the man’s role. Furthermore, it is the man that traditionally comes up with the venue and activity. The pressure that falls on that fella is as intense as auditions for a Broadway play or try-outs for a Major League Baseball team. And let’s face it; that's what a first date really is, isn't it? A tryout to become someone's significant other.

I’m not suggesting that anyone who reads this comment to your article start some initiative where women begin to dictate where and what the date will be. But it would certainly help both parties if a lady suggests some options that she might enjoy so that her suitor doesn’t worry so much about his choice of venue that he can’t relax enough to get to know the woman behind the pretty smile he’s looking at for the next few hours.

One of the most common gripes I hear from my pals is that they hate it when they spend hours on the phone, in conversation with someone they just met at a local watering hole, or even multiple emails with someone they found online and can’t get any response on how she might like to spend her time with him.

“So, would you like to meet up for a drink one night this evening?” he asks.
“Oh no. I hate going to bars. They’re so crowded and noisy.” she replies.
“Okay. Well I know this quiet, little coffee shop around the corner from my place.”
“Yeah, I don’t drink coffee”
“Ah, well where would you like to go?” he inquires.
“I dunno.”

So the point of my comment here is this: Once he finally amasses enough courage to ask you out, ladies, don’t hesitate to communicate to him what it is you like to do and suggest something that you feel the both of you could enjoy but most importantly get to know each other by doing. Even if the both of you find out that you have nothing in common with each other, you can at least say that you had a good time doing something you both enjoyed and can even do again when the right match comes along and asks: “So, where would you like to go tonight?”


Scott said...

There's something wrong with ordering a beer at dinner???