Dating in a recession: the game has (thankfully) changed

The most expensive date I've ever been on involved a hedge fund owner and a nightclub in Manhattan's meatpacking district. To get a table, my date had to pony up cash for a three-bottle minimum. While it was a nice gesture, it was one of the most boring dates I've ever been on. We sat around a small table cluttered with booze, unable to hold a conversation over the obnoxious club music pounding the speaker two inches away. While he might have thought he was proving his manhood by peeling off a grand in cash from a thick money clip, I ended up just feeling guilty about not going on a second date.

The Washington Post recently featured a story on post-apocalyptic dating. Laid-off bankers are feeling the sting as they can no longer take their dates out for $18 martinis and tasting menus. "Inadequacy. I can't harp on that word enough. I just feel inadequate," says laid-off investment banker Niko Papademitriou.

Now that the Masters of the Universe have been brought down to size, lost their models and bottle service inside of over-hyped nightclubs, they can finally get down to the basics of dating, that stuff of sonnets: connection.

The newly-humbled are learning for the first time what the rest of us already know. Proving your manhood isn't about how much cash you can throw on the table.

Business owner Paul Almeter swapped fancy meals and drinks for hikes and visits to wineries with his dates. He told the Washington Post, "How much you spend on a girl, I think that's superficial. If you call her at the end of the day, send a text message in the middle of the day and ask her how her day's going, that's more important than spending money."

Gentlemen, listen up. I guarantee you Almeter is going to have more success in his dating life trading in money for attention. Dating in the age of recession doesn't have to mean sharing frozen dinners. On the contrary, it can encourage us all to be more creative. Most of the best dates I've been on have involved little or no money: a bike ride exploring the city, going to an art gallery, a picnic in the park. What's your idea of the perfect cheap date?

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