According to a recent research study, three of the hardest things on the planet are diamonds, iron, and dating after divorce. After your divorce, you pretty much have to go back to school. You need to relearn how to love and trust, which is increasingly more difficult in our disposable-relationship society. Women know that if any man cannot provide what they want, the next man who can provide it could be just one JDate click away.

After my divorce, I asked myself how I could trust that my romantic partner truly loves me, rather than the material things I could offer the partnership. 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 genuine dating success require that a man spend a small fortune on his date? Do women expect it? Is not a man more than a wallet and some testosterone? Do I ask too many questions? I know, I’m working on that.

So what with the expense of living in L.A., and the state of the current economy, and the state of my current bank account, I decided to try a dating expense experiment which would help me relearn whom and how to trust. It would be an experiment never before attempted (or at least admitted) in the course of human dating history: I decided I was going to have a wonderful first date, and spend less than $20 doing so. That’s right, less than $20 on a date in Los Angeles. OK, I know, I can hear women throughout the city exclaiming, “Cheapskate! Loser! No way!” 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 will admire my thriftiness, my resourcefulness, my imagination and creativity. I’ll discover a continent of inexpensive fun. And if the woman “plays along” and is fine with it because she’s enjoying being with me, I’ll trust that she’s the one who wants me, whether we’re having gourmet French cuisine or nachos at Taco Bell®. I will trust her, and once again be able to love.

And so, armed with 20 big ones in cold, hard cash, I strode confidently and determinedly into the one place where I knew I’d get great value for my money: the 99¢ Only Store® at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Sixth Street in Los Angeles. The store with not one, but two mottoes: “Shop Us First! The Smart Shoppers Do!” and “Nothing Over 99 Cents Ever!” I looked for the “Cheap Daters Welcome Here!” sign, but apparently it was being repaired. I proceeded to shop for my under $20-package of dating fun.

I arrive at my date Sarah’s place wearing my playful Looney Tunes tie (a $9.99 value!), with a gift for her in hand. It was 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 28th anniversary collector’s item. Nor did I forget her cat, Marvin, who I surprised with a four-pack of Chicken and Seafood flavored cat food. Before we get in the car, I take out a big canister of 21 pieces of jumbo colored chalk, and right there on the sidewalk I create a multicolored heart with Sarah + Mark inside. I bet her wealthy boyfriends never did that! So far, so good!

We drive to the beach (free scenery!), where the heat is no problem because I’m thoughtful enough to bring along bottled drinking water, one for 99 cents, with a sports cap. We sit there munching on Granny Goose’s® 13 oz. size of tortilla chips and Sun-Maid’s® six-pack of raisins. I even immortalize our fun with my new 35mm “Famous Name” 99 cent camera containing 99 cent color print film.

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 mentions my tie, the chalk, the cat food and goes in my bag and pulled out the remaining purchases, including Sesame Street Chocolate Chip Cookies, Krazy® Glue, a solar-powered calculator, Famous Publishers Books and Matchbox® “Around the World” Cars.

“Are you losing it, Mark? What is all this?” I told her of my experiment and my plans later on for the Krazy Glue and the cars. And it’s not that she told me that this was to be our first and last date, but I inferred it from the lack of response to my subsequent 12 phone calls over the next three days.

I’m sure Sarah told all her friends. And they told their friends, and so on. Because whenever I’m out in public, I get the strangest looks from women. As though they’re thinking, “So, you’re the loser who took Sarah on the 99¢ Only Store date.” I’ve even had some cats give me a look; I’m pretty sure Marvin ratted me out to them.

Hey, I consider the experiment a success. Not because I found the love of my life, but because I didn’t. Rejection is God’s protection. He’s saving me for a woman who will truly “get” me and appreciate the soul of the man beyond the Granny Goose tortilla chips. So I’m far from disillusioned. I still believe that true happiness comes from within. But I realize now that until I meet “The One,” I need to keep one thing in mind: On the journey of romance, thrift and creativity will take you only so far. For the rest of the trip, you’ll need Visa® and MasterCard®.

Mark Miller is a marketing specialist, current JDate member, Facebook fanatic and comedy writer who has performed stand-up comedy in nightclubs and on TV, written on numerous sit-com staffs, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and is a current humor columnist for The Huffington Post. But he says he’d trade all his success away in a minute for immortality, inner peace and limitless wealth.
  1. Sounds like a fun date to me!! But i’m curious about the calculator, krazy glue and cars…

  2. Really? Did mark think, even for a second, that date ‘method’ would impress the girl? However, there is a way to make a $20 date work; pick her up in a Ferrari! But, only if she wears a mini skirt; that says she’s the ‘sporty’ type. If she’s in a Business Suit, leave the Ferrari home and pick her up in the Rolls. For 100% success, have a Limo pick her up- take her to the airport, and meet her with the Lear. Sure fire results.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *