My hands feel buttery. My stomach turns over. There are sweat beads on my forehead.
I look across the littered table and stare at you. I've spent the better part of the past 90 minutes probing you with weird questions like "What's your favorite caterpillar?”
You're from California. You went to Harvard. You studied economics. You work in consulting, and you just tried boxing with ClassPass. You begin to tell me about a book I absolutely need to read.
But I can't keep my focus on the words wafting out of your mouth. Adrenaline has heightened my senses. To cope, I run through the potential scenarios regarding how the next 120 seconds could play out.
No, I'm not making an optimistic estimation of my sexual prowess. Over your shoulder, the waiter is approaching with the check.
I wouldn't call myself frugal. The word "cheap" is probably more apt.
I'm a product of my socioeconomic background. I come from a staunchly middle-middle class family. My class is super-stratified into tiers, in order to figure out exactly how poor I am.
I like to think I understand the value of a dollar. As such, I try to spend pragmatically. I try to balance my weekly debits with weekends of financial mistakes.
This mentality creates a weird gray space when it comes to dating. A date, regardless of its perceived success, does not guarantee a follow-up date.
Is this worth the risk? Can I let this date hit the profit and loss ratio? Will I ever see you again?
Maybe the skills I've learned at my job — I move numbers around in little boxes — could come into use now. We could brainstorm the cost drivers that inspired you to get that third $15 cocktail.
I hate the idea of a date being a transactional experience. Some boil down a night out into an event where “the consumer” spends money to procure a few kisses. This isn't my view.
But I'm still plagued by these questions. Should I pretend this isn't a gamble, but rather, a ticket to the show? Is spending time with you a sunk cost? Does it exist as a fiscal transaction that ends when the receipt catches my signature?
I don't want to place worth on something that really shouldn't be commodified. I don't want to access a Bloomberg dating terminal. (The market is fairly volatile this month.)
I don't want to trivialize you. I just want to see something new with you, learn something new from you or maybe just forget my insecurities, hurt from the past and fear of the future for a little while.
My head spins while I muster up the courage to do the unthinkable. I want to split the check.
The waiter comes back to the table with a cheeky smile on his face. He can smell my familiar internal struggle. With a hint of glee, he says, "Here you are, sir." He doesn't even acknowledge there is another person at this table who is perfectly capable of contributing to the tab.
You're probably more equipped to pay for the entire bill than I am.
The air thickens. I become very aware of the principles of gravity. Invisible forces goad me on to relent.
I slide under the table and grab my wallet. It feels lighter than ever and is ill-equipped for the task at hand.
I peer up to find myself staring directly at an outstretched, manicured hand. It's brandishing a thick Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
"Let's split it down the middle," you say. "I could use the points."