This week's column is going to piss some people off and cause all kinds of debate, but frankly, I don't care. This whole dating thing has gotten way out of hand, and I'm going to lead a revolution. Yep, lil ol' me, the Love Bites gal, is going to detail how all my singletons out there can handle the whole who-pays-and-where-do-we-go dining and dating deal for 2009 and onward. Listen up.
My ire was sparked when a friend shared a story with me last week about some guy in Miami who takes blind dates out to very expensive restaurants, orders all the pricey items on the menu, then pulls the old "I forgot my wallet" routine while the unsuspecting girl shells out $200, $300, or more for the bill. Then, of course, she never hears from him again.
Now, I'd like to tell you this is probably urban legend, but I've had it happen to me more times than I'd like to admit. Some of you guys will argue it's karma. "After all," you might say, "I can't count the number of times I've wined and dined some chick, only to discover she's not putting out and won't return my calls." Point taken.
So here's what I propose. For the first date, only do either lunch or coffee. Coffee can become the perfect prelude to a meal, if you are so inclined. Or it can be cut short without weirdness by both parties. After all, how many freakin' macchiatos can one person swallow? Some of my favorite spots to get caffeinated are Brew Urban Cafes in Fort Lauderdale
, Boomerang in Pompano Beach
, and Gizzi's in Delray Beach
. (You'll notice I didn't mention breakfast. There's a good reason for that -- there's no out. If you meet someone for breakfast, you may have to make excuses why you can't spend the rest of the day with him or her. Not good planning.)
Lunch can either be cut short by the old "I have to return to the office" on weekdays or "I have a busy day ahead" on weekends. Plus, few people -- even alcoholics -- can down more than a few bevs (that's where the bill adds up, right?) in the middle of the day, and both parties get to see their potential partner in broad daylight. I've had dates take me to Stir Crazy at the Town Center Mall
, the various La Bamba
locations, and pubs like the Frog and Toad in Oakland Park
for enjoyable lunchtime meals.
But if you're old-school and believe that dinner is the only way to go, don't take your date anywhere too expensive for the first meal. If you've landed a gold digger, you'll smoke him or her out of the hole immediately. If not, your date will appreciate a casual atmosphere.
And after you have been taken out three times, offer to reciprocate by cooking a meal. Chances are, your suitor hasn't had Mom's famous casserole since Thanksgiving, and I promise whatever you whip up will achieve high marks -- so long as there's no salmonella involved.
Can't cook worth a damn? Fake it till you make it. Stop in a place like Fernanda's
on Oakland Park and Federal or Carmine's in Palm Beach Gardens
and pick up a prepared meal. You can pick up something pretty damned fancy in a carton, take it home, heat it up, throw it on a plate, and garnish it with some parsley. (But 'fess up if your date asks you about the prep -- no need to start out a potentially good relationship with a lie.)
Now then, what happens if you do fall victim to the "I forgot my wallet" routine? I propose you return fire: "Geez! I only brought $10! Now what do we do?" Watch how Mr. Cool handles himself. If he's the real deal, he'll pull the restaurant manager aside to figure something out. If he's a faker, watching him tap-dance will be the highlight of your evening.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try to eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens, and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.