The Money Rule

Once upon a time, I went on a date with someone we’ll lovingly refer to as Mr. Jekyll. I met him while indoor rock climbing and somehow, I was mystified by his charm. After a few Facebook messages and some inappropriate sexting (though we never took it to the Weiner level), we met up for our first date.

It was casual and cool with semi-decent conversation and though I didn’t feel the “click” – I felt the need to see him again, if for anything but companionship. He however was so intrigued (or wanted to turn sexting into real-time, in-person sex) that he planned an elaborate dinner over candlelight at a semi-expensive Italian restaurant. He picked me up in his Jeep Cherokee circa-early 1990s, and even held my hand to help me step out in my tall heels.

After we shared an appetizer, an entrée a piece, and a bottle of wine, the server left the bill on the table. Going by the rule I have in the beginning of dating that “whoever asks who on the date should pay” – I left the check unattended and continued our conversation. After twenty minutes passed and he glanced at the bill and me a few times, I finally said, “Well, we should go if we’re going to catch that movie!” He groaned something inaudible under his breath and stammered, “I guess I’m paying,” and brought out a credit card. I thanked him and excused myself to the ladies room.

While pretending to relieve myself, I texted about six of my friends, asking if I was in the wrong by not offering to pay. They all excused me of financial responsibility for the date and I returned to the table to find Mr. Jekyll already in his coat, standing up, waiting to go. Mind you – he was doing this impatiently in a nice restaurant. Embarrassed, I hurried and he started walking before I had a chance to put my coat on.

On the way back to my apartment, he needed to stop for some beer but told me to stay in the car; he’d just be a second. When he returned (after not leaving the heat on for me in 20-degree weather), he literally threw a six pack (not bagged) in my lap and said, “Will you hold this?” Shocked he would so rudely throw something in my general direction, I gave him a hissing look and stared out the window, speechless. “Sure you want to go back to your apartment? We could have some free fun,” he coldly offered. I declined and he took me home.

Before I could step out, he asked, “Do you like rocks?” Confused, I asked him to clarify. He wouldn’t, just insisted I answer him. I replied with something along the lines of “Well, I like fossils and gemstones, but my favorite kind of rock is the one you can wear.”

I giggled. He wrinkled his forehead in disapproval and wishes me good night. I never heard from him again.

I hadn’t really thought of this dating story – maybe it was so awful I blocked it from my memory. Or because I never kissed the guy, he became quite unimportant on my roster of dates. It wasn’t until this weekend, as Mr. Possibility and I were walking around the Brooklyn Food Fair that the memory of that cold night returned to me.

Though Mr. Possibility brings in quite a bit more dough than I do, I always make an effort to offer to pay for things we do. When he joined me in North Carolina, I paid for our kayaking trip and for each visit to Dairy Queen that he insisted on. I’ll pay for lunch and he’ll pay for dinner if we go out. I usually take the inexpensive route, while he’ll cover the fancy things we do, and while it’s completely half and half, I think it’s important. He agrees – he claims he’s never (and would never) date a girl who didn’t at least go for her wallet.

So was I wrong with Mr. Jekyll? Should I have offered to pay, since he paid for our first date? Which, for the record, was at a little café and we split a pastry and two cups of coffee. Several years and boyfriends later, I still think I was in the right. My dollar rule is still true: if you intend to pay, you get to pick; if you don’t, you let them pick.

The reason I didn’t reach and the reason I didn’t pay with Mr. Jekyll was because not only did it catch me off guard, but he wanted a romantic meal, he wanted a bottle of wine, he wanted an appetizer – none of those items were my suggestions. I didn’t even pick the place! When I know I’ll be paying for two people instead of one or when it’s my event or my hometown, I’m in control of my finances. I’m in control of the bill and have the time to prepare and/or save for the occasion.

It’s not really a matter of who should pay or what’s acceptable or what’s supporting feminism – it’s about respect. Maybe with a little wisdom, I would have paid for half –but at that point in my life, that would have even been out of my budget. Mr. Jekyll may have been so annoyed at me that he never wanted to take me out again – or maybe he was doing what the majority of women do when they’re submerged in the dating circles: trying to get a free meal and a free ride.

Too bad his intentions were never met – at the table or in the bedroom. Let’s hope he’s found some rocks, wherever he is. In the meantime, I’m sporting a little one around my neck from Mr. Possibility and a littler one on my finger that I bought myself – now, that’s going dutch.

Daily gratitude: Today I’m thankful for the full-time job I have that allows me to have a fancy meal here and there, without running up a credit card.

Invite the Sun

Last week was one of those weeks where anything that could go wrong, went wrong. Work was very stressful, Mr. Possibility and I got into a tiff, I had an event or something with a deadline every single evening, and my suitcase from vacation is still unpacked, spewing clothes across my bedroom floor.

By the time after-5 rolled around yesterday, I couldn’t have been more excited to relax with some of my favorites. As much as I advise against it and regardless of how much credit I get as a dating blogger or recovering addict, the balance between work, life and love is always an act. Sometimes some parts give to others and sometimes you have to give others parts of you in an effort to maintain and mature relationships.

But I tell ya, as much as I care about him – when Mr. Possibility took flight for a weekend away with some old friends, I felt a sigh of relief. A little space and room to miss your partner is highly underrated in an age over over-connectivity.

Even so, as I walked on the west side, passing the highline and browsing through Chelsea Market in search for the perfect something I didn’t actually need, I couldn’t shake the weight off my shoulders. My ever-lasting to-do circulated through my mind, my cell phone seemed unusually unresponsive, and all the change I’m anticipating was bubbling in my veins. I felt unprecedented pressure and for whatever reason, worry had attached itself so closely to my stomach, it felt like even hope couldn’t remedy the ache.

With more time to kill than I wanted, I arrived at Chelsea Brewery in my dependably-early fashion. The young underage waitress who blushed when I asked her for a pale ale recommendation sat me in a booth facing the Hudson. Thumbing through my phone, and casually looking at the menu, a ray of sun demanded my attention outside.

And there it was.

Why was I snapping my fingers and pushing myself into a fit of fury and fear over what’s next or what’s wrong or what could or couldn’t be when I have this in front of me? When I’m in the place I adore, with those who adore me on their way? When all that I said I’d do, I’ve done, when I have a roof over my head, an address in Manhattan, and a byline nearly every single day? When I’ve met someone who could be something and still managed to keep myself in tact at the same time? When the beauty of my life often outweighs the ugliness I dread – if I just open my eyes.

If I invite the sun into my life, whatever darkness that lurks about somehow disappears. If I see how blessed I am instead of what I’m missing, the happiness I find is paramount. And if I just take a breath and take a sip, those footsteps of friends won’t be far away, as well as all those answers to questions I keep asking myself.

And maybe, for that Friday night and for the rest of my 20s, could that answer be in the simplicity of being? Of reveling in blessings?

Even if that blessing is just in the form of a raspberry beer and a sweet summer sunset.

The Wingman Who Wants to Want

Regardless if we claim (or admit) to be interested by the company of a predetermined Mr. Wonderful- somewhere, deep down, in even the most cynical, sarcastic, and bitter of hearts -lives a tiny inkling of desire for true love to prove it exists. That after the darkest of nights, there is always the hope for a dawn that (or who) will lighten up our hearts and free us from the rips and tears that haunted us since the last man who dwelt there. Even in our most independent, most sassy, and most vibrant pair of single shoes – it is against all tricks and trials of nature to not become somewhat intrigued when we notice a simple glance or curling lip from a new face in the distance.

Perhaps on the way to self-love, we learn that the appetite for passion, for partnership, isn’t really one that can be fulfilled by being single.

For a while, I became convinced that if I was going to fall in love with myself, I needed to stop being in love with the idea of love. That I needed to quench any thirst, any hope, any inclination of possibility, and focus entirely on myself. This meant dreams of happily ever after, notions of romance I eagerly wanted to experience, and seemingly meaningful moments with handsome strangers needed to fall to the wayside, and in return, I had to propel myself to the forefront.

But as life often does, a chance encounter, a meeting with someone who could spark something new in you, makes you think of the whole process in a different way. For me, this person wasn’t in a romantic sense or really even a career pursuit, but rather – just someone who has a similar story to mine.

Meet The Professional Wingman, or as I will call him, Mr. Hitch.

A few years ago, Mr. Hitch discovered his girlfriend was cheating on him. This revelation and break-up made him decide to take  a step back and start focusing his attention on becoming a better person – not for a woman, or for anyone else, but for himself. To hold himself accountable and to actually stick to his guns, he created a blog that chronicled his life and what he was learning. After a short amount of time, he started receiving comments and traffic, and before long, people were asking him for advice about relationships, love, and how to make their overall quality of life and self better. And so, he came up with the idea to help others by being a dating coach, or a wingman, who helps them attract the type of people they want to meet. From there, it’s been history and he recently moved to New York to expand his clientele.

I was introduced to Mr. Hitch from one of my freelance columnist positions, and after the interview, I knew I had to meet him in person. I mean, minus being a “wingwoman” (not so sure I’d be good at that) -I started this blog for the same reason: to really fall in love with myself and not base that admiration on any outside person. And so, once I proclaimed I was the female version of him, he gladly agreed to meet up for a drink. I invited one of my great gal friends, C, to come along too.

We started out the evening at a sportsbar chatting and within an hour, he deemed me someone who probably wasn’t in need of his wingman services. That really, I was a woman who knew what she was doing – so well, in fact, he casually joked about me becoming a member of his soon-to-be team. At least I think he was joking.

Nevertheless, as we discussed our backgrounds, horrendous (and amazing) dating stories, and our desire to make a difference in the lives of singles everywhere – I realized something profound in what he was doing. Just because he was determined to grow his own confidence and stop obsessing about relationships, he didn’t lose sight of the beauty of love. In fact, his job is now to encourage others to be more secure in the dating scene so they ultimately will encounter someone who is not just what they want, but what they deserve. Like me, he has an absolutely “no settling” policy, and I dig it.

Not being obsessed with love doesn’t mean I have to not have any desires for a partner. The thirst for love is natural, is human, is healthy.  It is only when it becomes the number one priority of our lives and when we condemn ourselves because we don’t have that tall drink of water, that it becomes an issue.

Really, it is a difference between wanting and needing, as Mr. Hitch taught me.

Being the true romantic I am at heart, I had to ask him if his winging ended up winning him a lady. And as the happy ending goes, of course it did. She, like him, aids others in the never-ending search for love – but instead of joining dudes and chicks at bars, she helps them weave through the online dating jungle. Both experts at the game, they somehow found their match (pun intended) and when he spoke of her, his face lit up with an admiration that no one could ever deny. As a follow-up question towards the end of the evening on the way to the train, I asked him, “What’s something that you love about her, that’s out of the ordinary?” With a quick grin and his cool, classy swagger, he replied, “She doesn’t really need me, but she wants me. If I were to leave or something was to happen, she’d be fine. But she chooses to stay with me and depend on me, just a little.” Another guy who values independence – let’s just say the North is miles ahead of the South on priding women for more than their ovaries and their signature meatloaf.

Maybe being single, even vibrantly satisfied flying solo, will never rid of the anticipation of a love to come, but having that confidence will attract the right kind of partner. The one who is worth giving up some part of our freedom that we so enjoy. When instead of thinking we must have a man to call our own, save the dates in the mail, and someone to tuck our cold toes under at night, we realize that those are things we want, but not necessairly need, is where we find our peace.

And though at times, I may feel like I shouldn’t still want those things or want to be held or want to walk hand-in-hand in the park or sit side-by-side at Dunkin’ Donuts on a blistering Saturday morning – I know that it’s okay to have those desires. It doesn’t make me weak or dependent on someone else, but rather, admitting I do still have romantic dreams gives me strength to own how they affect me. To realize that though I don’t have to insist, to myself, to him, or to others that I must be in a relationship to be happy, I can say proudly, that one day, there will be a man who brings me tremendous joy. I won’t need him to need me, but I’ll want him to want me, and love him to love me.

And he, like Mr. Hitch, will know that I don’t really need him, but I do want him in my life. That I do choose him to be lucky enough to stand by my side. What’s more…he’ll want me to feel that way, and he’ll love it.

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