Tuesday, February 17, 2009

never be cheap on a first date

I agreed to meet Bachelor #4 at a Starbuck's. I was a little early, so I ordered myself a latte and settled in by a window with a prime view of the parking lot so I could scope him out before he walked in. A few minutes later, I saw someone resembling his online dating profile picture saunter towards the door. I breathed a sigh of relief, happy that it wasn't one of those situations where you wonder why the guy set himself up for failure by posting a picture in which he was a much younger, thinner version of his current self.

We greeted each other, and he excused himself so he could go get a coffee. It was only when he came back and sat down with his grande dark roast that I noticed there was a small, round, bubbly looking thing perched on the corner of his mouth. There were two obvious explanations for this: a cold sore, or herpes. I tried not to visibly recoil in horror as I contemplated the latter option. Personally, if it were me and it was a cold sore, the first thing I'd have done, however awkward, was make sure my date knew that it was NOT the gift that keeps on giving courtesy of an unfortunate encounter with the opposite sex. If it WAS herpes, maybe I would just hope my date didn't notice it. Which is maybe what he was doing. I didn't have a clue and wasn't about to ask.

At any rate, #4 was pleasant and had a gift for gab, unlike some of the other guys I've dated, who've had the conversational skills of a sea anemone. By the time we'd finished our coffees it was dinnertime, and I was hungry, so when #4 suggested grabbing a bite to eat at the Chili's down the road, I was game. We took the first available table, which happened to be at the bar, and chowed down on some burgers. We talked about how we both like fondue, and #4 said that he wanted to take me to his favorite fondue restaurant a few towns away.

The waiter dropped off the check, and a few minutes later, #4 turned it over and placed it down in the middle of the table, in my line of sight. "Not too bad!" he exclaimed. OK, there are 2 things wrong with this picture:

1. In my opinion, it is oh-so-tacky for a guy on a first date to let the woman view the bill, and even tackier for him to comment on it.
2. Of COURSE it wasn't too bad - it was CHILI's for G_d's sake! And we had burgers! I don't think the most expensive item on the Chili's menu is more than $15! How bad did he really think it was going to be? This was a bad sign. A very bad sign.

There are conflicting viewpoints on whether a woman should offer to pay on a date. At that point in time, my belief was that it was ok for a woman to offer to pay part of the bill on a first date, particularly if she wasn't interested in ever seeing the guy again. However, my belief was also that if the man wants to ever see the woman again, that he should refuse the offer. I would almost always offer to contribute some money, and if the guy accepted it, that was a strike against him. I don't really hold the same viewpoints now, but that's a discussion for another time.

So, I offered up some money, and what do you know, #4 took it, without even an 'Are you sure?" or a "Maybe you can just leave the tip." I mean, it was only twenty five dollars. We're not talking a high end four star restaurant where an appetizer can cost as much as a pair of shoes. If he couldn't man-up and pay for our dinner at Chili's, what was he going to expect of me when we went to the fondue restaurant, which was surely more expensive?

After paying the bill, we headed out to our cars, and I prayed that he would not try to kiss me goodnight with his bubbly lip. The praying apparently worked because all he attempted was a hug.

A few days later, #4 called me to set up our date at the fondue restaurant. I made the mistake of asking him how his day was. His response was to ramble for - I kid you not - 15 minutes about mileage reimbursement. Here is an excerpt:

Him: "Well, I have to go to this work-related training class that's 60 miles away, which is 120 miles round trip. I have to go to six training sessions, so that's a lot of miles. I'm only getting reimbursed $.36 a mile, but with the price of gas nowadays, that's really not enough. I think the IRS just raised standard reimbursement rates to $.42 per mile, but I don't know if my company is going to honor this and raise their reimbursement rates too. I am really worried about this. I want to ask my boss to see if they will reimburse me at the new, higher rate, but I'm afraid that if I ask him he'll fire me."

Me: "Why would he fire you for asking about being reimbursed for a job-related expense?"

Him: "Well, they are getting very strict about things. There's a girl I work with who also goes to the training classes and she came in late the other week and the boss came down on her. I am just so scared that I will not get reimbursed at the higher rate for all the driving I'm doing. It would just be so not fair if they only pay me the $.36 per mile. I mean, this is wear and tear on my car. It's a lot of driving and maintaining a car is expensive these days. I really need to get that $.42 per mile. All this driving is killing me."

And on and on it went. I tried asking why he didn't just carpool with the girl who also went to the training classes but never got an answer that made sense. Eventually I had to interrupt him and end the conversation before I went completely insane. This conversation revealed two things to me about #4:

1. He was too tightly wound. No one had told him that he wasn't going to get reimbursed at the higher rate- he was freaking out about a 'what if' scenario. If he could work himself into such a snit about something that had not yet become an issue, it would be truly scary to see what he'd be like should a real issue arise, and I didn't want to be around to experience it.

2. He was cheap. The fact that he was freaking out about mileage reimbursement, coupled with the fact that I ended up footing part of the bill at Chili's, just screamed CHEAP to me. I understand the need to conserve money and be thrifty, particularly in today's tough economic times. But there is a difference between thrifty and cheap. Thrifty people spend wisely. Cheap, according to dictionary.com, means "stingy and miserly." Not attractive qualities.

Hence the one and only lesson to be learned from this post: "Never be cheap on a first date!" It's my opinion that failure to man-up and pay for the first date does not reflect well on any guy, no matter what the circumstances. And, if I may put my psychoanalyst hat on, it may indicate on some primitive level that the guy is not a good provider, and therefore not a good prospect for a long term relationship. My feeling is that if #4 did not want to spend the money to buy me dinner at Chili's, then he should have just called it a night after Starbuck's.

I ended up canceling my second date with #4, deciding I'd rather spend my Saturday night home alone waxing my legs than hearing parts two through twenty five of the mileage reimbursement saga and trying to avoid kisses from his potentially bubbly lips.