Last weekend was crazy—a four day trip to California, ending with a red-eye flight followed by a full day of work. This weekend, I promised myself a rest. With many friends unavailable or out of town, I was free to relax, to be free, and to become a hermit. I couldn’t think of anything more appealing. I slept in. I lounged. I read. I lazed. I ate. I lounged some more, read some more, lazed some more, and ate tons more. I felt nothing but bliss for a while, but began to feel restless as the day wore on. Nothing on the internet looked fun anymore. My books lost their appeal. I didn’t feel like eating any of my food, so I wandered the kitchen aimlessly opening cabinets.
“It’s nearly five ‘o-clock!” my body screamed, “and you haven’t even set a foot outside!”
This didn’t used to bother me, but after the viciously snowy winter, I figure I needed to take advantage of every single light, warm, and breezy summer evening. Plus, I love getting more than my money’s worth for my monthly subway pass (it makes me feel like I’m getting back at those bastards for their winter “inconveniences”). So, naturally, I found myself in the predicament of needing to plan a date for myself.
Now, my salary’s not what I’d always dreamed it would be (except in my nightmares), so I knew I’d have to be a cheap date for myself. I thought that others might find themselves in this same situation, so after having a lovely night out, I decided to give some pointers for those of you attempting the same feat.
Tips on planning a date for yourself and with yourself—on a budget
- You’d better find yourself a good event or venue. You will not hold back your annoyance from yourself if you are dissatisfied with the evening’s activities, so make sure to plan everything perfectly.
I chose Shakespeare in the Park, which I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of so quickly. A free event, it was outside, and I always knew I had a soft spot for Shakespeare. However, I thought of it about an hour before it actually started, so I had to rush the getting ready and food part. I was pretty nervous about making it on time, so I think I lost some date-cred. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil the magic of me being with me.
- Try a new kind of food! Only, make it at one of those places that is ambiguously restaurant-y, like Chipotle* (except, let’s be real, you’ve already tried Chipotle once or twice or a hundred times).
I chose a small Vietnamese place where I got myself a nice traditional Banh-mi tofu burrito, then I headed out on my adventure. It was cheap, it was mostly fast (see my complaints in the next point), and I felt adventurous because they put grapes on my burrito. I feel like it’s always a good sign to have a date who’s up for taking a risk.
- As on any other date, be polite to the waitstaff, even if you’re in a hurry.
My “server” was a short Asian who had just passed the brink of adolescence, yet managed to retain his baby fat. As he took my order, he was awkwardly flirting with his co-worker, who blatantly ignored me. I guess he wasn’t used to working in the semi-fast food industry, because this guy had no concept of fast, or even of time itself. When he actually got around to making my order, this guy was dainty as hell. He carefully spooned out a portion of rice onto a wrap, then proceeded to shape said rice into a motherfucking circle. He squirted some hot sauce perfectly uniformly over this circle**, then he lovingly placed a bed of pickled carrots to cover the rice completely. Next, one at a time, he placed six grape halves perfectly in the middle of his circle (thank GOD the grapes were pre-cut).
Now despite my time crunch, I might have come to appreciate the precision in his performance (after all, who doesn’t appreciate quality)…..until the motherfucker goes and drops two of my tofu pieces on the floor (please no jokes about how that’s where tofu belongs. I swear it tastes good sometimes). Isn’t the point of being slow to make sure you don’t drop your customer’s food on the floor?? But I followed my own advice, remained calm, and nothing betrayed my exasperation…except maybe a little gasp of horror as he began to close the burrito without replacing my dropped protein.
He nearly redeemed himself with a beautifully rolled burrito, but then we came to the part where the cashier asked what I’d ordered. Mr. Dainty-fingers replied for me, saying that it was a tofu burrito. Fortunately he corrected himself a second later and said that no, it was a spicy tofu burrito. Glad we cleared that up because I wouldn’t want to be paying for the wrong thing. I said thanks to the cashier and didn’t make eye contact with Delicate Man.
- Make sure to find plenty to laugh about.
It’s always good to laugh early in the date to loosen things up. Luckily, that opportunity came almost immediately for me. While walking to the restaurant, I passed a couple of guys on their way back from the liquor store. The one carrying the beer looked to be about 15, had a scrawny build, greasy hair, and frameless glasses. He was dressed in all black, and slouched as if the beer was dragging him down. Nevertheless, he chatted animatedly to his taller and less hygienically challenged companion. As I passed them, the beer-carrier forcefully proclaimed: “I like to support my local weed dealer.”
Ahh, our generation is so refreshingly environmentally conscious.
- Plan ahead: you want the night to be good.
I didn’t, and there was barely any room left on the grass in a place even remotely close to the stage. I got stuck craning my neck behind a group of lawnchairs, and hoped that the characters would be easily recognized by their vibrant costumes, since I had no hope of distinguishing their faces. My position at the edge of the walkway put me perilously close to the donation hunters, clamoring for money to “Keep Free Shakespeare free!” I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure if you pay every time you go to see Free Shakespeare, it’s no longer Free.
I began to read the program in an attempt to avoid eye contact with the toll collectors. I read a brief synopsis of King Lear, since it had been a while since I’d seen it last. It must have been longer than I thought because in previous viewings, I didn’t remember anybody taking over a “thrown.”
Luckily, the sound system had been set up well, so I could hear everything that was being said. However, I was in the equivalent of the back row of the theater, so the speech of the actors competed with the side conversations of my neighbors and random park-goers who happened to be passing through.
- End the night on a romantic note—this is not the time to be cheap
I left the play before intermission because I forgot that my body is on a ridiculously early sleep schedule. Plus, I couldn’t really see anything, and I had to refer to the synopsis multiple times to keep up. On top of that, I had drank massive quantities of water with my burrito, and the Port-a-Potties were looking more and more menacing in the approaching darkness.
On the way home, I remembered a cute ice cream place that was located right next to my train stop, so I headed straight towards it. Sensing danger, the cheapskate lobe of my brain lit up. It called out to me frantically: “One small cup of ice cream is TWICE the price of a gallon of ice cream at the store!”
I paused with my hand resting on the door handle. A gathering of old people, each clutching a waffle cone in one hand and a colorful cane in the other, watched me curiously. I sighed audibly, did an about face, and headed for the convenience store instead.
I forgot that the “convenience” part does not refer to price.
I bit my lip, picked my nails, and thought about my bank account a lot as I debated whether to shell out three bucks for a dinky ice cream sandwich.
My tastebuds’ longing finally got the best of my frugality, and I once again made a 180 and headed back to the ice cream shop. I don’t think the old people recognized me, but they began to get up as I passed them again. It was pretty exciting to see all those colorful canes in action.
After completing my order, my sullen teenage server asked me if I’d like a lid and bag to go with my purchase. It was as if she had never seen a person on a date with herself. Slightly miffed, I decided to leave the shop, where I could enjoy my company in peace.
I walked back to my house while consuming my treat, wondering how on earth my serving could be called “one scoop.” I’m pretty sure I slurped down enough calories to feed all of Africa for a day or two. Then I remembered that people shouldn’t talk about this kind of stuff on a date.
I settled myself on the little pond next to my building. It was too dark for me to actually see the water, but I knew it was there, so that was nice. I sat on the cold bench, lost in thought, until I heard some human noises coming from a few yards away. My solitude ruined, I stood up to leave, and the weight of my ice cream nearly pulled me right back down. I wondered how many full oreos my mint oreo ice cream contained. Probably twenty.
I appreciated my thoughtfulness in dessert and scenic location choices. Overall, I’d rank this date 7/10. At the end of the night, I even let myself into bed.
*What do we call these types places, anyway? They’re not conventional “fast-food,” but boy do they get you food fast.
**While ordering, I had a dilemma when picking sauces. Homeade miso or spicy mayo? I asked the guy his opinion. He recommended the spicy, so I accepted his opinion. I should’ve seen the red flags pointing to his incompetence earlier, because he then added: “Wait, you’re okay with spicy, right?”