Post-Netflix cheap dates you probably haven’t tried

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Photo by Isaac Rosenthal

Another day, another recession trend piece. This week it’s dating on a budget, and a story in the The New York Times offers such outré suggestions as 1) watching movies on Netflix, 2) playing Trivial Pursuit in a park and 3) baking cookies at home. What’ll they think of next? Read Rilke poems! Give each other a massage! All fine ideas, of course, if you live in Dayton, or perhaps a nursing home. But this is NYC, and even a lack of money is no excuse to be that dull. (You have a whole relationship ahead of you for that.) Here are some ideas for courtship on the cheap that actually get you off the couch:

1. Test Drive Your Dream Car
Enjoy the luxury of German engineering without the hassle of decoding APR financing. Schedule a Mercedes test drive at Sovereign Motor Cars (2205 Utica Ave, 718-252-3595) and impress your significant other with a romantic drive down to Brighton Beach. Load your iPod with your favorite playlists and, keeping in mind that the dealer will likely be in the car with you, ride in the back seats to “test the suspension”/snuggle. If you’re single, try flirting and possibly making out with the dealer—remember, you can’t put a MSRP on true love.

2. Benching!
A hot new hybrid sport combining sitting and staring, benching is your ticket to hours of contentment. Be sure to bring a thermos filled with coffee, tea, or, if you’re feeling hedonistic, Dark ‘n Stormies or mulled Trader Joes wine. Liven up the experience with a little competition: count families with 7 or more children on Ocean Parkway, scan Prospect Park for people with boundary-pushing relationships with their terriers, and canvass Red Hook Park for smug couples who have decided that Brooklyn Flea has gotten “too mainstream.”

3. Free Baseball
Every weekend all over Brooklyn, grown men suit up in head-to-toe regulation baseball uniforms and play hardball, with real wood bats. Does this image fail to thrill? It’s understandable—but consider breaking the mold of your rigid urban attitude, leaving the $500 Yankee tickets to the pressed chino set, and finding yourself a good blanket and a six pack. Then, head out to parks whose names you can’t pronounce to watch the men of the NYCMBL (yes it sounds like an acronym for the transgendered) battle for adult baseball glory.

4. Be a Crappy Bar Band’s Biggest Fan
Tonight, take your date to a rock show—not necessarily a big-indie-name, OMG-it’s-Grizzly-Bear type show. Instead, look for bands that are likely to be on the sympathetic side of terrible. The real magic happens when you make a collective decision to rock out in the front row, scream for encores, buy the merch, and generally shock the living hell out of the band by emerging, out of nowhere, as their official “following”: Recommended venues for what could be the greatest night of some sad band’s career: Spike Hill, 184 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg; Sunny’s Bar, 253 Conover St, Red Hook; Don Pedro, 90 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint; Canal Bar, 270 Third Ave, Park Slope.

5. Be A Role Model!
It’s hard not to get a little impatient with the whole whimsical Where The Wild Things Are, cultivate-childlike-wonder Do-Gooder culture, but if you and your date can summon the resolve to volunteer as a mentor at 826 NYC or Big Brothers/Big Sisters you’ll get the satisfaction of making a difference in a child’s life, plus the added incentive of a libido-spiking self-esteem boost. Here’s why: the kid is going to think you are way smarter, and cooler than you actually are. Encourage this by dazzling them with your long division skills, and casually referencing your ability to buy candy any time you want.

Heather Wagner is the author of Happiness on $10 a Day.

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