These ‘cheap’ dates clipped coupons to pay for meals: Dating Diaries

Certain themes emerge over and over in the Dating Diaries, the Toronto Star’s long-running relationships column, where daters describe the good, the bad, the ugly … and the cheap.

Who pays for the costs of a date (and how they pay for it) can be a kind of axis for the many dynamics and expectations involved in dating. When it goes well it’s barely noticeable, but when it goes badly it’s all over. (Do you have stories to tell? We want to hear them — details on how you, too, can become a dating diarist at the bottom of the piece.)

At “Mark’s” place before heading to a party, he asked our dater “Ava” what she wanted to drink. She wrote, “I looked at his wine rack and said I’d have a glass of red. He told me that he didn’t want to open wine because it would go to waste, and said I could have a rum and Coke.” Ava asked for a corkscrew for the wine she’d brought along for a host gift, but Mark “told me I should wait to open it until we arrived at the party.” Mark also wanted to take a $50 cab to the party so he could drink, but “only expected me to pay half, on the way back. At that point I was certain I would be making my own way home.”

“Marley’s” date with “Keegan” was going so well she got “a little over-confident.” At one point, though, Keegan “actually seemed incredulous that I was getting another drink. It was bizarre.” Marley wrote, “The waiter asked if I’d like my food wrapped up. I was about to say no, but Keegan said yes for both of us.” When the wrapped food and bill arrived, “Keegan started to reach across the table for my box of food, and then stopped and asked if he could take my leftovers. I said ‘You want to take my food home?’ He said yes. I could not believe this guy.” Marley suggested they split the bill, and “Keegan casually told me he had no money and said that I should pay since I had two drinks. I stared at him in disbelief. My fists were clenched. I didn’t say another word.” As Keegan put his jacket on, Marley “grabbed both leftover boxes of food, spun around on my heel and marched through the restaurant and out the front door.”

“Ricky” understood when “Pam” didn’t pay when the bill came on their date. He wrote, “I do always give women an opportunity to contribute to the cost of the date. Most times I will graciously decline the offer, but I appreciate it just the same.” After dinner, they went elsewhere for dessert and “there was not one indication that she wanted to contribute.” They went to a third location, for drinks, and “when Pam failed to offer to pay, I checked out.” He added, “I get that there’s still a wage gap, and I don’t expect to have a woman pay for half of everything” but, when his date is able to, “at some point I would expect you to offer.”

When “Bridget” was set up with “Oliver,” and he wouldn’t tell her where they were going, she “was hoping that the surprise dinner would be something like the Keg. I had dressed up and was ready for something special.” Oliver — who, it turned out, still lived with his ex — “pulled into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant.” Oliver even ordered for her, without asking what she wanted. She wrote, “I don’t mind a burger and fries, but on a first date?”

When “Margot” picked up “Jay” for their brunch date, she was picturing “regular brunch-date food at a bistro or something,” but Jay “specifically wanted to eat at a fast-food place.” Margot “might have been able to overlook his need for fast food if his personality was as awesome as it had seemed” when they met. Instead, Jay “said a few rude, insulting things, one after another.” In the drive-through line, Jay took out some coupons. “He was told that he couldn’t use those particular coupons for some reason, so he started rummaging around for different ones. I started losing my cool. I would have been willing to pay for the date, no problem, but he really made me feel like he thought I wasn’t worth a $10 meal.”

“Sonja” had a different take on her date “Tobin’s” use of coupons. “He handed me a small stack of papers and said, ‘Your choice’ and I realized he had given me a stack of coupons. I was surprised at his choice of using a coupon on a date, but I’m nothing if not game.” She noticed that the coupons were expired, but Tobin assured her that they “never check.” Sonja wrote, “I am not a rule-breaking kind of girl, and the prospect of being challenged was making me anxious. I would much rather have paid full price for our meals myself.” They talked about their early lives and their careers. She wrote, “I was extremely impressed with his work ethic and how he had made a great life for himself. He had started with nothing. I suppose that plays into his use of coupons, even on a first date.” Tobin was right about the coupons and “paid for the balance.”

“Elizabeth” wrote of her date with “William” that “After two hours and not being asked a single question, I said, ‘Maybe we should just get the bill.’ When it came, he said ‘You owe $15.’ I said ‘Sorry, what?’ I pointed out that he had invited me to dinner, but he said ‘Come on, pay up.’” Elizabeth “could feel the anger rising up in my body.” William paid, but “chose that moment to make a joke about me going home with him. And with that, I decided to take a break from dating.”


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