By Sara Barron for HowAboutWe
A few years back, I enjoyed a dream-like experience. It was like something out of the most ridiculous rom-com starring… oh, let's say, Amanda Seyfried as me, the protagonist, and Channing Tatum as Mark, my strapping love interest. I'd been on a I-just-broke-up-with-my-boyfriend-let-me-get-away-from-it-all vacation to San Francisco. I stayed with a friend, wandered around, ate good food, drank high-end coffee. I spent a lot of time complaining about what the humidity was doing to my hair. One afternoon, I wandered into a local coffee shop for one more five-dollar latte, and there was Mark. Think: Not as hot as a mid-90s Jared Leto, but close; think: mid-90s Jared Leto's slightly less attractive cousin.
"So here's a thing," he said. "A friend of mine waits tables at one of the top rated restaurants in the country, which is an hour or so away. I think I might be able to get us a table. What if we went there for your goodbye dinner?"
Let me explicitly state: Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I'd never enjoyed a vacation romance. I'd never enjoyed fewer than eighteen months between boyfriends. I'd never been asked to dinner at a restaurant of this caliber. So on the one hand, I was so overwhelmed by the romance of it all, I had to work actively to remind myself it wasn't a movie. On the other, I felt a flicker of anxiety. This restaurant, no doubt, was uber-expensive; I'm talking, like, a couple hundred dollars a person expensive - and I wasn't in a position to afford it. And while it was implied and/or likely that Mark would pick up the bill, a lady never wants to presume such things. Mark, soul-mate-y material that he was, must have clocked that flicker of anxiety. For he immediately followed up by saying, "Dinner, of course, will be on me."
"Well, if the gentleman is buying," I said in the old-time-y voice of what I meant to be a 1940s movie star, "then the lady is indeed available."Here it bears mention that my old-time-y, 1940s movie star voice is one I use when I feel in incapable of adequately expressing gratitude, when the experience of looking someone in the eye and saying as sincerely as I can, "Wow. That's amazing. Thank you," feels somehow too overwhelming. Mark and I arrived at The Restaurant. The dining room was beautiful and elegant and the majority of the other couples there seemed to involve a) a serious age gap between gentleman and lady, and also b) a high-class hooker. High-class, I said. I'm not being rude.
Related: Tips for Single Women from 1938"Holy crap," I said. "I know," Mark said. "My friend says this place is crazy." I was handed a menu that had no prices. I did not comment upon the lack of prices to Mark because I was so overwhelmed by the environment - so aware I didn't belong - that I didn't have the wherewithal to do so. The waiter arrived and took our order. I chose some crab thing-y to start, and some steak-y thing as my main course. Mark ordered whatever he ordered. We enjoyed the food, which was delicious, and ogled the various older gentlemen and their seemingly younger ladies of the night.
Related: The 10 Worst First Date Foods"Ahundredandseventyfivedollars," I answered. "Onehundred. Andseventyfive." Mark and I would spend the next few months trying our hand at a long distance relationship before realizing that, whatever chemistry there was, it wasn't enough to bridge four thousand miles. Nonetheless, things ended amicably. In his final, romantically tinged email, Mark wrote, "We'll always have your onehundredandseventyfivedollar freak-out. Which was amusing enough to be well worth the price-tag. All my best, Mark."