Friday, November 21, 2008

Interesting Story... 99 Cent Dating Experiment

A 99-Cent Dating Experiment
By Mark Miller
One man decides to try a daring dating experiment — a fun, exciting second date for under $20…
According to a recent research study, three of the hardest things on the planet are diamonds, iron, and … dating after divorce. Because after your divorce, you pretty much have to go back to romance school. You have to learn not just how to write an online dating profile, but how to love and trust again. After my divorce, I asked myself how I could trust that a woman genuinely loved me and not the material things I could offer. After all, don't all the great gurus tell us that true happiness and fulfillment comes from within, not from within one's wallet? Does dating success require that a man spend a small fortune on his date? Do women expect it? Is not a man more than a bank account and some testosterone? Do I ask too many questions? (I know, I'm working on that.) Last month, I decided to try what I viewed as a dating expense experiment. It would be an experiment never before attempted (or at least admitted to) in the course of human dating history: I was going to have a wonderful second date—you know, that all-important date following the initial coffee date, and spend less than twenty dollars doing so. That's right, less than 20 dollars on a date in Los Angeles. The art of the 99-cent dateOK, I get it. I can hear women across the land (especially those in my city) exclaiming, "Cheapskate! Loser! Creep!" But I thought it was a brilliant idea. Hey, they poked fun at Columbus, but he showed them. He found a way of impressing women without having to spend a fortune—simply by discovering a continent. Surely my date would admire my thriftiness, my resourcefulness, my imagination and creativity. I'd discover a continent of inexpensive fun. And if the woman "played along" and was fine with it, I'd trust that she wanted to be with me, whether we were having gourmet French cuisine or nachos at Taco Bell. I would once again be able to love. And so, armed with 20 big ones in cold, hard cash, I strode into the one place where I knew I'd get great value for my money — the 99-Cent-Only Store. The store with the motto: "Nothing Over 99 Cents Ever!" I looked for the "Cheap Daters Welcome Here!" sign, but apparently it was being repaired. I arrived at Sarah's place wearing my playful Looney Tunes tie (a $9.99 value!), with a gift for her—an official Olympics Souvenir Program. A collector's item! It originally sold for $12.95, but I got it for, yes, 99 cents. Oh, sure, it was for the 1984 Olympics, but that makes it a 20th anniversary collector's item. Nor did I forget her cat, Marvin, whom I surprised with a Whiskas four-pack of Chicken and Seafood.
Before we got in the car, I took out a 21-piece canister of jumbo colored chalk, and right there on the sidewalk I created a multicolored heart with Sarah + Mark inside. I bet her wealthy boyfriends never did that! She seemed amused. Either that or she was so stunned that she couldn't get that strange smile off her face. In any case, I was pretty sure she'd never encountered a date like this. She couldn't accuse me of not being unique. So far, so good. We drove to the beach (free scenery!) where the heat was no problem because I was thoughtful enough to bring along Pinnacle Drinking Water, six for 99 cents, with sports cap. We sat there munching on Granny Goose's 13-ounce-size of tortilla chips and a Sun Maid six-pack of raisins. I even immortalized our fun with my new 35mm "Famous Name" 99-cent camera, containing 99-cent color print film. Maybe our senses of humor weren't so in sync … By my count, we had only gone through $9 of my $20 of purchases, when Sarah said, "OK, what's going on?" I said, "What do you mean?" all innocent-like. She mentioned my tie, the chalk, and the cat food before reaching for my bag and pulling out the remaining purchases, including Sesame Street Chocolate Chip Cookies (our gourmet dessert), Krazy Glue (to bond my hand to hers), a solar-powered calculator (to determine how many happy days we'd have in the future), Famous Publishers Books (so I could read to her later; women love that) and Matchbox "Around the World" Cars (something for our future kids!). "Are you losing it, Mark? What is all this?" I told her of my experiment and my plans for the Krazy Glue (honest, I wasn't going to really bond our flesh together, but I thought the idea was pretty funny) and the cars. It's not that she told me that this was to be our last date, but I inferred it from the lack of response to my phone calls over the next three days. I'm sure Sarah told all her friends. And they told their friends, and so on. I'm sure all over L.A. there are people talking about that crazy loser of a guy who took that poor woman on the 99-Cent-Only Store date. The lesson I learnedBut even so, I consider the experiment a success. Not because I found the love of my life, but because I didn't. In my view, rejection is God's protection. He's saving me for a woman who will truly "get" me, offbeat sense of humor and all. So I still believe that true happiness comes from within. And that somewhere out there is a woman who will absolutely appreciate the notion of two people bonding their hands together with Krazy Glue before they've even kissed. That's the kind of woman I could trust and love. Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, done stand-up comedy, and been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He can be reached at

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