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'I'll have the scrimp cocktail!'

I'd love your take on a bizarre first date. I suggested happy hour drinks, but he wanted to take me to dinner, and picked a really nice restaurant. When we were ordering, he suggested we play "a fun game," which entailed closing our eyes and picking a number (the entrees were numbered). I said OK, then he said I couldn't pick numbers between 20 and 25 because those entrees were expensive. Completely disenchanted, I opened my eyes and chose something cheap. Later, the bill came, and sat and sat. He finally picked it up, muttered audibly about who had what, and eventually put his card out. Obviously, I turned down his request for a second date. — Not Into "Games"

Just think of the "fun game" he had in store for date two, something like "Close your eyes, Babe, and pretend we aren't under a bridge waiting in line for free soup."

It's a tough economy, and people are increasingly worried that they'll be dining on Fancy Feast casserole at 80 (or 45). More than ever, men need to be wary of gold diggers. But, this guy had good intel that you aren't one of them. The girl who suggests happy hour drinks is not the girl who orders the lobster dinner — and then adds, "Oh, and can I get another one of those to go?"

He's the one who chose to up the price tag of getting to know you. The reasonable assumption would be that he was inviting you, not you and your Visa card. Assuming he didn't lose his job between "Pick you up at 8?" and appetizers, he's either a pathological cheapskate trying to pass himself off as Mr. Big Spender or is convinced that all women are out to milk 'n bilk him. Either way, a date with him seems like a twist on "L'Oreal — because you're worth it." His motto: "Don't even think of incurring the $2 substitution fee for onion rings — because you're not."

The ironic thing is, even if you'd picked one of the pricier entrees, how much more would it have cost him ... $10 plus tip? He ended up spending a whole bunch of money on a girl who now never wants to see him again — charming as some may find it when a guy mutters over the check, "Let's see, you had that extra packet of ketchup — that's probably two cents right there ..."

Flight at the end of the tunnel

I sympathize with "On Hold," the guy sick of girls saying they wanted to see him again and then not returning his calls. Why do women think it's OK to ignore a guy — the guy they let buy them dinner ... the very same guy they agreed to see again when he walked them to their car?! — Been There, Resented That

When a woman isn't returning your call, you want to hope for the best — that it's because she died, is still in a coma, or was kidnapped by Bolivian terrorists while picking up a prescription at the drugstore.

But, you know — we all know — what no callback almost always means. It isn't that women think it's OK to ignore a guy. It's just that lying and saying they'll see him again seems kinder and less awkward than being honest to his face. Sure, a woman could say something vaguely honest, like "I just don't think it's going to happen for us." But, the guy could end up pressing her for what's really on her mind: "You aren't as cute as I thought you'd be, and you chew like you're bad in bed." By the way, it isn't just women who'll say whatever it takes to close the door on a date. Men will pledge a sincere-sounding "I'll call you!" while thinking, "You sucked the oxygen out of the room.?"

Shaking your fist at the sky because rejection doesn't come in your preferred form won't make it any less a rejection; it'll just make you increasingly bitter, making you more unattractive to women. Understand that not getting a promised callback is a common side-effect of modern dating — especially if it was a first date, especially if it originated on the Internet.

When you're just getting to know a woman, make dates cheap, short and local — drinks rather than dinner. Hope for the best, but until a woman's getting into your car to go on date two, think of "I'd love to see you again" as an announcement akin to "I'm going to go home and give birth to a litter of squirrels."

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). She is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society.


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