Sliding off the balance sheet

Greenstein is a Los Angeles-based website producer and freelance writer.

I've never been hung up on dating rich men. Sugar daddies don't cross my path too frequently. Sure, we all want to date gainfully employed men, but the size of a man's bank account (or lack thereof) doesn't automatically disqualify him.

I also pride myself on reciprocating. If a man takes me out a few times, I feel it's appropriate to return the favor, financially speaking.

I truly thought I had figured out the commerce of dating until a recent romance went awry.

Earlier this year, I began dating Frank, a wealthy, age-appropriate, Ivy League-educated, amicably divorced law firm partner whom I met through But don't think "stuffy lawyer." He lives for music and culture, as I do, and furnishes his house with esoteric modern art. On paper, he is the man mothers the world over want their daughters to marry.

And he knows it.

We hit it off immediately (or so I thought). We had a couple of nice dinners and talked for hours. Then he took me to hear Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. So the next week, I offered to treat Frank to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. We were on date five -- I thought it was time.

He chose one of those ubiquitous small-plate places on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. Perusing the restaurant's menu online, I figured the over/under for the meal was $100.

After my futile effort at wrangling reservations at some time resembling dinner hour, he made a call (he knows people), and there we were at a table for two on a winter Friday at 7 p.m.

He mulled over the menu's wine selection. Like many eateries that boast small plates, this restaurant also features a big wine list, with prices ranging from $40 to $400.

I assumed that since I was treating, he'd order something closer to $40. I figured wrong.

The wine bottle he ordered was petite, with a fairly ornate label. I may not be a wine connoisseur, but I know that an irregularly shaped bottle with a nice label is either beer or ... really expensive.

Carefully (though nonchalantly), I scanned the menu one last time, preparing myself for the collateral damage.

Sure enough, the wine cost $90 -- more than the price of all our fabulous small plates stacked together.

So I had truly reciprocated.

Wearing my cloak of denial, I actually enjoyed the dinner. I was crazy about this guy (emphasis on me being crazy). After dinner, as some sort of twisted insurance policy, I lent him a few of my DVDs. No one would borrow someone's DVDs if they didn't plan on making a return visit, right?

As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

After that night, I didn't hear from him for a few days. I called him midweek, to breezily say hello. He left me a message 24 hours later (as was his way), saying he was busy that weekend. (I assume he was watching the DVDs.)

But surprisingly, the next day he called and asked me out for a Sunday lunch ... that he canceled on Sunday morning. And then we rescheduled for the following Saturday.

My mind raced the next few days. It sure felt like I was about to be downsized.

Alas, we didn't make it to Saturday. Valentine's Day interrupted.

I certainly wasn't expecting anything from this very reluctant Lothario on Feb. 14. The day ticked away in my head relatively calmly.

But about 4 p.m. my iPhone blazed "Frank."

The Hallmark holiday had apparently gotten the best of him, and he had to cut bait. I wasn't ever going to be his Valentine.

Without so much as offering, "Is this a good time to talk?" (I was at work) he made his closing argument:

"Jane, I have no romantic feelings for you," he said.

"What? We have a date Saturday," I said, racing from my cubicle in search of an empty conference room.

"Well, I don't want to prolong this any further," he said. "It will just get worse for you."


I drove home crying and called my mom. Until that call, she didn't know of this person's existence but quickly expressed horror at his callousness. Who could sling a venomous arrow into a woman's heart on Valentine's Day?

But what really galled her was that he ordered a $90 bottle of wine. "Who does that?" she asked, incredulous. "He knows you don't make the kind of money he does."

It finally hit me. Ordering the wine didn't matter to him, as he knew this was the last hurrah. Why not take what you can get?

Was I being taken advantage of? Or am I just bitter because my reciprocation didn't result in a relationship?

And those DVDs I lent him? He mailed them back upon my request ... with his law firm picking up the postage.


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