1. Get your first full-time forever job. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in earning a salary, buying dishes at HomeSense and owning furniture that isn’t from IKEA.
2. Learn how to drink like a human being. Now that you’ve graduated college, please stop double fisting. Chugging beers and downing shots does not count as a casual drink with your 30-something coworkers.
3. Get a tattoo you’ll probably regret with your best friend. It’s part of the journey.
4. Fall in love. And I mean that crazy, can’t-live-without-eachother kind of love. The kind that shakes you to your core and changes everything you ever thought love would be like. The love that makes you want to plan your dream wedding, pick baby names and choose wallpaper for the home you’ll make together.
5. Get your heart broken. And I mean the earth-shattering kind of heartbreak that even a bottle of red and Toni Braxton can’t fix. Your best friends are named Ben and Jerry and you spend nights on end wondering if he was ‘the one.’
6. Move thousands of miles away from your home. The change of scenery forces you to learn how to accomplish grown-up tasks like grocery shopping and booking Pap tests.
7. Make friends with your parents. Being in that place in your life where they don’t pay your rent or take you to dentist appointments is really wonderful.
I doubt I would be completely off base to say that it isn’t uncommon for most people to be unbalanced financially. Between the recession and movie tickets for Catching Fire being absurdly expensive, almost everyone’s wallet has taken a hit. It is also common knowledge that dating is ridiculously expensive at times. Dinner and a movie and coffee afterwards can quickly stack up and take your hard-earned paycheck down a few notches. Fancy nights out are incredible when you’re in a committed relationship and you know you can stand to be around the person you’re with for a few hours, but first dates and the potentially subsequent second and third dates are trickier. You’re still trying to feel the person out, to understand them. The first date is a chance to see if you and the person are compatible, and no one wants to pay + dollars a date just to be reminded we would rather be home on our couch binge watching Netflix by ourselves. Here are five simple and affordable date ideas for when you want to date around and feel out your options without being reduced to eating ramen every night you are not with a cutie.
Redbox and wine
If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joes or Whole Foods near you, you are lucky enough to have access to some of the most decent, cheap wine there is. Commonly referred to “Three-Buck Chuck” (it was “Two-Buck Chuck, but, you know, inflation and shit) this .99 bottle of wine is both affordable and decently delicious. Unless your date is a wine aficionado, they probably won’t be able to tell all the nuanced differences between a dollar bottle of cab sav and one you picked up with the change in your car’s console. Wal-Mart also has three-dollar bottles of Oak Leaf, that is, if you’re into serving your date a beverage that is sure to give them a hangover. If you don’t drink, sharing a cheap pint (or two) of ice cream is also a good avenue to go. Redbox has plenty of options for affordable movie rentals that you can snuggle up to your cutie while watching.
2 for Chili’s deal
If there is a higher power, they are the one responsible for this bargain at Chili’s. Not only will you feel like a big spender getting an appetizer and two full entrees for a fraction of where it would cost elsewhere, you’ll know by their reaction whether there should be more dates. Anyone who thinks they are too good for casual Tex-Mex dining is suspect, in my opinion.
Go for a walk in a park
Cliché, but effective. Nothing says “I want to get to know you and maybe undress you in a totally respectful but sexy way” like looking at some foliage together. If it is cold, grab a few to-go cups of coffee and use each other’s hands to keep warm as you stroll among the trees.
What you bake together is irrelevant, just as long as you’re working together and being cute and perhaps smearing batter on each other’s bodies. Ingredients for boxed brownies are affordable and fucking delicious. The best part of this date is after you share your hopes and aspirations, you can suggest eating your creations off each other.
If you live in a metropolitan area like Chicago or NYC or LA, you know that there is almost some sort of festival happening in some neighborhood. I know from experience living in Chicago that during any given weekend in the summer, three different festivals were going on. If you live in a more suburban area, look up local art festivals. Usually, cover to get in is nominal or on a donation basis. You and your date will be strolling through beautiful creations of art that will make you both feel a little more cultured and a little less crushed by student debt and bills.
This article first appeared on BoyFactor
Sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich
If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you’re not hungover today, chances are good that you’re reminiscing to all those times when your trusty Hangover Helper was there for you and saw you though the tough times. You party hard, and know the price you must pay for said partying. I respect your dedication to the night, my friend. Just don’t spike that coffee with the hair of the dog that bit you. It never ends well.
Juice, and only juice
You are either on a cleanse, coming off of a cleanse, or at least believe in the cosmic high that a cleanse instills. Your self-control is formidable, and your ability to make other people guilty might as well be a freaking superpower.
Muffin and latte
Chances are good you entered your local coffee joint with the intention of only buying a latte, but you saw the muffin glittering in its gorgeous jewel case and heard it calling your name. You are all about the instant gratification and really, who could blame you? To start your morning with a small smackerel of glorified cake and a classy-ass latte? You have funds to spare, but just remember to share that sweet cash with those who can’t afford to start their day with a breakfast every now and again.
Healthy cereal or plain oatmeal
If your inner child could see you now, they would weep with the virulence of learning that Santa doesn’t exist. While you’re on your daily quest for fiber and regularity, remember that ghost of your innocence and mix it up every once in a while. Dabble in the world of sugary cereal. Go a little crazy. It’s okay. Your comfort zone will be waiting for when you’d like to return.
Yogurt, granola, and fruit
You are the Pokemon evolution version of the healthy cereal person. You are probably the most adult person you know, and phrases like “401k” and “pension plan” don’t terrify you. But you. You terrify me. You terrify everyone. (Unless you’re a yogurt-cup-with-fruit-and-granola-already-mixed-in kind of person. In this case, you run chronically late and are still just trekking on and trying to figure out this “adult thing” as you go.)
Last night’s dinner
There is a very good chance that you are reading this in sweatpants that could use a good washing, but I am not one to judge your comfortable ways. Maybe last night’s dinner was really good and you can’t wait to have it again. Maybe this is the day after thanksgiving and you’re a proud resident of leftover city. Maybe you had cake for dinner last night and you want to break all the rules and have it again. But yeah, maybe you should just change your sweatpants into a clean pair of sweatpants.
You are everything your inner five year old dreamed you could become, and you hold a specific sadness towards those who eat healthy cereal. Revel in your assertion that the grain (crust) + dairy (cheese) + protein (meat toppings) + vegetable (tomato sauce) combo is a balanced meal. Hold fast to your beliefs. They’ve served you well these past few decades, and there’s no reason to change your ways now. Stubborn? Not you. You just know when you’re right and everyone else is w-r-o-n-g.
Bacon and eggs
You idolize Ron Swanson above all others, and long for the day when you could pull such a baller move as asking your waiter for all the bacon and eggs in any given establishment. At the very least, you find the tenets of the Paleo lifestyle to be interesting, and you laugh in the face of doctors who warn you against high cholesterol and clogged arteries. You, my friend, are a daredevil. You live fast, and if you die young, so be it. You will have died happy.
You are a traditionalist, and you often like the nostalgic idea of a thing more than you like the thing itself. You’re a optimistic son-of-a-gun, and you always hold out hope that one day, there will be a glorious moment in which everything you think to be true will manifest. You also believe in your horoscope, and check it religiously every single morning. May the stars be with you.
Your level of cool will only increase exponentially throughout the day, but anyone who starts their day with a helping of hot sauce is pretty fly to begin with. If you manage to procure one of these bad boys after 11 am, your levels of persuasion are formidable, and you would do well as a FBI negotiator.
As you sit atop your throne of swag and powdered sugar, remember the little people who are not as decadent as you are. Marie Antoinette once suggested that the starving people should eat cake, but she may as well have said French toast. You know how to treat yourself in the most luxurious of ways. Way to do you, Big Pimpin’.
Keep fighting the good fight, trooper. You are not alone.
Underwear Man stood in the front yard of my friend Dean’s house everyday at 1:45 in the morning for six weeks.
Last spring, Dean lived with a group of his friends in a bungalow near campus, in a neighborhood that is fairly picturesque like a stretch of houses, shrubs, and white picket fences yanked out of a scene from Pleasantville.
It is a clean, safe, and calm emblem of suburban bliss — despite its proximity to a college. On Sunday mornings, small children run up and down the sidewalks — blowing bubbles, chasing chipmunks, and indulging in the carefree whimsy of youth (before adolescence takes its hold, causing pimples and sexual frustration to strike).
Underwear Man, as Dean and his roommates called him, began to appear in the front yard late last January. Each morning that he held vigil in their yard, he stood in the same spot — approximately two steps in front of the miniature bird fountain (leftover from a former resident and certainly nothing a group of 22-year-old boys would ever choose).
No one was sure who Underwear Man was — whether he actually lived in the neighborhood or came from elsewhere. He earned his nickname because he wore a pair of bright, white briefs on his head — a mess of mousy, brown curls spilling out from underneath the waistband, which cut across his forehead.
It was clear that Underwear Man was harmless. Each time he came, he simply stood motionless, as though in a trance.
One night before a particularly brutal week of exams, Dean, his friends, and I stayed up until a ridiculously late (or early) hour. We alternated studying with watching Underwear Man through the dining room window, where we’d set up camp.
The moon cast a dim, gauzy glow over his face, lighting his sharp features from the chin up. Though Atlanta sits at the seat of the South, its winters are colder than one might expect, but Underwear Man only wore a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt that looked flimsier than it did warm.
“Dude, we need to call the cops on him or something,” one of Dean’s roommates remarked around 2:30, approximately fifteen minutes past the time that Underwear Man usually left.
As someone who regularly criticized Glenn Beck but still kept the Fox News website bookmarked on his computer, he’d unsurprisingly offered the more conservative suggestion — which, like always, I took with a grain of salt.
“It’s not like he does anything,” I said. “He just stands there. We can let him be, right?”
Dean murmured in agreement; his roommate shrugged, slipping his headphones back on; and I glanced at Underwear Man once more before turning back to my homework assignment. He had moved slightly, crossing his arms in front of his chest — to, perhaps, stave off the cold.
The next time I looked out the window, he was gone.
A couple days later, I hurried to the office where my college newspaper ran business — late because an earnest but misguided student asked a question two minutes before my last class ended, and the professor insisted on keeping us all there as he explained the answer.
At the time, I was news editor, and these biweekly production nights — during which my team helped prepare the paper for print — were already stressful, even when we started on time.
“Steph, can you do me a giant favor?” one of the other editors asked as soon as I walked in the office, before I’d even had the chance to set my bag down or catch my breath. He added, not waiting for me to respond, “I’m putting together the feature for this week. I need you to look something up for me.”
“Can’t you ask someone else?” I looked around the office. “I have way too much to do right now.”
My assistant editors were missing amongst the crowd of coffee-powered students jabbing away at their laptop keyboards. This meant I would have to start the news section by myself.
As though he hadn’t heard my response, the editor lifted a green, leather-bound book from the desk next to his — a collection of issues that the paper ran in 1999. It was so heavy that I buckled slightly at the knees when he thrust it into my hands.
“I’m putting together a timeline of the most significant events from the last twenty years in University history,” he explained, taking a bite of his burrito.
I stared down at the book in my hand and said a silent prayer to the Rice-and-Bean Gods that that burrito would give him indigestion. Hopefully, this wouldn’t take too long. “What do you need me to do?”
“Fact-check one of the events for me: Michelle Browning’s kidnapping in 1999.” He glanced at a sheet of paper in front of his computer. “I think the paper broke that story in the September 17th issue.”
I sat down in the chair next to him, opening the book in my lap. As I thumbed through the pages to find the right issue, I asked, “What happened, exactly? Michelle Browning was a student, right?”
“Yep. She was a junior, I think — can you double-check that? Really well liked, led a couple of campus charities, in a sorority, etc. The police never found her after she went missing at an off-campus party. Apparently, they identified her kidnapper, though — some guy who lived in the neighborhood.”
“Did they arrest him?”
“Nah, he also went missing before they could — weird, right? Can you check the spelling of his name?”
I flipped to the September 17th issue. A photo of Michelle Browning, grinning as she posed with our college mascot, took up almost half of the front page along with a headline that read “Police Identify Suspect in Student Kidnapping.”
As the other editor resumed typing the rest of the feature, I skimmed the beginning of the article before turning the page.
Suspect Bailey Cott, 41, is a former high school English teacher who lives two houses from the party where Browning went missing, I read before noticing his picture, on the side.
His hair was parted in the middle and hung down, past his chin, in loose curls. The picture was black-and-white, a contrast that made his face seem especially gaunt.
According to the Atlanta police department, Cott is currently on the run. When officers arrived at his house this past Sunday, they found a message he had left on his dining room table — a pair of white, men’s underwear and a note in unknown symbols, which police are currently working with linguistic experts to decipher.
“A pair of white, men’s underwear…” I murmured, suddenly processing what I’d just read.
I glanced at Bailey Cott’s picture again.