The Best Date I’ve Ever Had Cost $36

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A year or so ago I was on a date with someone. It was our third date or so, and it was a warm, sunny early fall day. (Already sounding like a Nicholas Sparks novel, right?)

She was the type of gal who would get a kick out of going to a fancy restaurant. At the time I didn’t have a lot of cash. Actually, that’s a massive understatement. Waiting on a freelance check that had yet to materialize in the mail, I had about $150 in my account that day and $40 in my wallet. We had planned to do something that involved $60 tickets that day, some outdoor concert, but when I went online to buy them that morning they were sold out. I silently thanked the ticket gods.

“Come over anyway,” I said, and sure enough, she did about an hour or two later. “What are we doing?” she asked, and I had no real idea. “We’re going to go to Prospect Park,” I said, thinking that I’d surely think of something along the way. It was about a thirty minute walk. Surely I could think of something.

Turns out, I didn’t. I couldn’t think of anything.

Instead, though, we talked for twenty minutes, just riffing. Unlike the first two dates, where the pressure was on and you had to think of something both vaguely witty and impressive to say, this time we just talked about Whatever. It was like verbal jazz, a quick jam session as opposed to the Carnegie Hall of conversation that comes with Dinner At A Fancy Restaurant.

We stopped and got bagels with cream cheese and capers and lox along the way. We ended up just walking to the park.

I’ve found that the more money you spend on a date, the more pressure there is to make a great impression.

I’d completely forgotten about trying to think of somewhere to go on an actual date-date. We found a spot in the park and sat there and made fun of people walking by: “Who the hell does that guy think he is?” “Is that couple gonna get a room or what?” “That toddler is an asshole.” We ate the bagels and drank a couple of Diet Cokes we’d bought from a hot-dog vendor as we were walking. Total cost so far? $7 each for the bagels, and $2 for the Diet Cokes. We’re looking at $16.

She said she was still hungry, and I realized then that we’d moved from sitting apart to pretty much laying on each other, nearly the same as one of the couples we’d made fun of some fifty yards away.

We walked to a ramen place on 5th Avenue. We sat by the open window and talked about her weird roommate, if I remember correctly, and I think about how much I wanted a bulldog and where I could adopt one. We ordered, and we ate, and we were finally full, and she was still laughing at my dumb jokes, and I at hers. The weather was amazing. The sun was just about going down by the time we left, and it was magic hour, turning the neighborhood into a late-summer early-fall neon pink and dark blue wonderland. It was, without a doubt, like something out of a movie. The bill at the ramen place came to an even $20 with tip.

I used to be of the school of thought that you had to show off a little on a date, make yourself look important, do the whole courtship dance as if it were something in an animal documentary. But I’ve found that the more money you spend on a date, the more pressure there is to make a great impression. The date where I spent $36 for both of us over the course of 5 hours remains, by far, one of the best dates I’ve ever been on; the entire day I only used the $40 I had in my wallet. It showed, I think, that you can make something great out of what you have already have.

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Ned Hepburn is a writer and editor currently living in New York City. He makes a staggering amount of money and everybody likes him and he did not write his own bio. You can find him at,, and @nedhepburn.

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