Thursday, October 09, 2008

Effects of the Economy on the Dating Scene

Everyone is talking about the state of the economy. How will it affect our future? What does it mean for investments we've already made? But a tipsy state of mind and a night out led me to a far more vital inquiry: how is the failing economy affecting my social life?

A few weeks ago I headed to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida to catch the Fergie concert. No, really. Afterward, me and a girlfriend, M., decided to dally in the outdoor clubs and bars--"Seminole Paradise"--to have a good time. Heck, the concert ended at about 10:30pm, it wasn't exactly bedtime yet. As we worked on our second round of drinks, we debated the ever-important question of Have A Third Round Here vs. Move Into The Casino And Gamble While We Drink, which relies on circumstantial variables such as How Many Hot Guys Are Nearby. Which is related to What Are Our Chances Of Getting Free Drinks. (Coincidentally, the first Obama-McCain debate was in full throttle on the TVs behind our heads, featuring rhetoric of similar importance.) This is when I realized that we'd gotten through nursing two drinks apiece and hadn't yet been approached by any guys, or offered any drinks. Now, not to sound vain, but based solely on experience I thought it odd that no one had come over and intervened on our purposefully belabored drink orders. We'd covered the bar girl basics: hem and haw, suck at your ice, chat with the bartender and flip through drink menus as your eyes scan the room to make sure your availability is apparent...just in case some chivalrous male wants to step in and take care of that next drink for you.

Pause me sounding like a completely egocentric drink-slut and let me say that as far as buying drinks go, I am equal opportunity. I often buy a cute guy a drink; in fact, it's my go-to pick-up line because it works. Naturally, being a poor girl, I reserve this tactic for when a guy is just so cute I need an extra oomph to approach him. But it's an opening line that promotes more conversation, ingratiates the receiver to you and displays your interest. Plus, all he can do is say no, and that rejection stings a lot less when you've just saved a few bucks. One more drink for you! This is especially a great approach for a woman, because every time I've done it, the guy gets all wide-eyed and says he has never been bought a drink by a girl before. Every time. It feels good. "Have you ever bought a girl a drink before?" I reply, as I'm paying. And there you go, me and the hot guy are chatting. And if it goes well, he'll probably buy one of my later drinks for me anyway. It's a win-win.

Buying someone a drink is not a bribe to make them sleep with you. I mean, it doesn't hurt, per se, but let's be serious. No self-respecting guy or girl that wouldn't have liked you before is going to suddenly swoon over your $9 generosity. However, and this is why I think guys do it: it's a good investment. It's a numbers game. If he buys enough drinks, if he's putting forth the effort, then every $100 or so he's gonna hit a girl who's worth all the wasted bills. Not that this is a surefire entry to someone's pants, but it's company and conversation (and possibly entry to someone's pants). It's a way in; an audition. Ladies are more tricky, I think. Girls will let you buy them a drink and talk with you awhile and then ditch you, having planned to ditch you all along. Men are less likely to do that; they are more likely to disallow you to pay for their drink and still be flattered by the proposal and stay to chat--or they'll ditch you outright, without being coy. This is not an epic commentary on our sexes; just my observations. And, okay, practices. Like I said, I'm a poor girl.

So while I'm at this bar wondering if I look fat in this dress, or have something in my teeth, or should have worn fuck-me heels instead of these silly flats (comfort suggests having a boyfriend!), it dawned on me: it's the damn economy. Even single men out on the town are watching their wallets right now. Far less free drinks are being traded; $9 is not just $9 anymore. It could be your retirement fund.

In what other ways could the economy be affecting my dating life? Well, let's see. I'd assume there's less shuffle of menfolk; that is, no one wants to drive out of their way just to go out, so if you're hitting your local scene only, you're probably running into the same circuit of available men. And if we're considering gas prices (when aren't we), then you might not want to go somewhere like Hard Rock, which isn't anyone's local scene--it's kind of standing alone in the middle of nowhere. You've got people showing up for events, like the Fergie concert, and there with other agendas, like the casino. Its main appeal is not as a singles scene and therefore it might not be worth it for a searching single to drive there. I like Las Olas, a centrally located strip of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs where you park for the night and wander to several venues in one evening. So even if you're heading to the same place every weekend, you're assured a lot of variety. But of course, Las Olas can get expensive. Or does that mean there are just more expensive mates there? Ack! This economical slant makes me completely reconsider all of the normal ways of looking at going out on a Friday night.

Of course, I turned 21 and began going out when I lived in Boston. This was where I formed my expectations about being bought drinks. But the city is a different scene. First of all, you've got public transportation, so that cuts back the gas factor. But the cost of living is higher to begin with, so does that mean the men are getting even more frugal? (And, if so, does it mean that they're less likely to approach, since displaying any interest at all may indebt them to eventually paying for your drink? And, my goodness, chatting up a girl may be far more expensive investment than a cocktail or two; what if it goes well and you have to take her to dinner?) I wonder if I would still be getting free drinks as readily as I used to, there. Maybe it was always a matter of the tone of the locale, the wealth and class Boston purports, the mere noblesse oblige South Florida lacks. Maybe Beantown is just maxed out with college students, and to make an impact, a competitive young man has to go the extra mile and venture the next cold one (even at the risk of this week's laundry fund). Or maybe regardless of the value of the dollar or state of the stock market, Boston's just going to be Boston and Florida's just going to be Florida.

M. and I decided to gamble a little and grab a drink inside. We left the uneventful Murphy's Law, (where I daresay the same "pub" in a smaller town would have comp'd my drinks based solely on my obvious Irish heritage, which was noted and then shamefully ignored by my clearly non-Irish bartender), and as we were standing inside at one of the Hard Rock's bars, trying to catch the attention of one of the busy tenders, a guy swaggered over and said, "It seems like you girls have been waiting an awfully long time for a drink. Maybe I can help..?" And thus initiated several free drinks on behalf of he and his friends (none of whom we had any interest in sleeping with; sorry). Thank you, random supposedly-ex-model guy. You didn't know it, but you did more than save me cash and maintain my buzz. You allayed my worries about these dire economic times, and more importantly, restored my faith in my flats.

No comments: