Long Beach, CA

I Meet Men in Parks for Our First Date to Save Time and Money

Elle Silver

If we end up liking each other, then we make a dinner date.

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I recognized Austin immediately as he walked toward me over the lawn of Bluff Park in Long Beach. I was seated on a grassy hill near an empty jungle gym as he strutted in my direction. I was pleased to see that Austin was just as he’d stated on his Tinder profile: he was tall and lanky at six feet.

He definitely resembled the man I’d seen in his photos. I felt relieved. He hadn’t wildly misrepresented himself like countless other men on Tinder had.

Take the guy who said he was five-foot-eight in his profile but I met him and he was actually five-four. Or the man who was twenty years older than he looked his photos. So yeah, I felt a sense of relief that Austin was at least the height and age that he’d stated.

And yet, there was something about his appearance that was definitely different than the man I’d seen on the app. My heart sunk as Austin neared until he was standing before me.

He struck me as “unkept.” His hair hung to his shoulders, uncombed. Deep wrinkles lined his face. His skin had a yellowish tone. Did he smoke?

Were his photos heavily filtered or what? He simply did not look like the same person I'd seen in his profile. Sure, he resembled his photos. I could recognize him from them, but they weren't a good representation.

I realized I was now looking at the “real” Austin. His clothes were unironed. I stood up from the grassy hill where I had been seated. We hugged. My nose prickled. Austin had the oniony scent of body odor.

Once his arms were no longer around me, I breathed a sigh of relief again. Yes, my heart was still sunk low in my stomach — but at least I knew I didn’t have to sit through a dinner with Austin.

My plan was just to meet him in this park and that was it. You might think this sounds weird but I’ve taken this approach to dating for a while.

I meet men from dating apps in parks for our first meeting.

This way I can see if I even like a guy before letting him take me to dinner. We meet for free in a park — no strings attached. I don’t feel obligated to sit through a meal with someone I don’t even know, especially if I’ve realized he’s not someone I’m interested in ever seeing again.

Maybe you still think this sounds crazy. I should be vetting better before I meet men from dating apps.

This isn’t always possible. Even if you talk on the phone before meeting someone — or even have a video call — you can still meet in person and realize you don’t like them at all.

Or vice-versa.

If people are dating traditionally where the man often pays for meals, this can become very expensive for him. If the woman isn’t into him, he’s out a lot of cash.

It can also feel like an obligation for a woman if a guy has spent money on her. As a female, it can feel terrible accepting a paid meal from a man whom you know you’re not interested in romantically.

That’s why I don’t do this at all. I don’t even want a guy to buy me a coffee — or even sit in a cafe and drink that coffee — if I don’t like the dude.

This is even true if I buy the coffee for myself. So instead, I meet men from dating apps in parks for our first meeting.

People think that’s strange. I don’t agree. It’s worked well for me as yet another layer to the vetting process.

Austin and I had a chat that afternoon, then I sent him on his way. I never saw him again and I was only out a half-hour of my time.

This was good for me and for Austin.

Time is a valuable resource we can never get back.

Besides the money it costs to go out for dinner, people often don’t take into account how time-consuming dating is. First, there’s swiping through all the profiles on an app. Then there’s the chatting process. Some people want to chat for weeks.

Then there’s talking on the phone and even doing a video call. Then there’s a date itself.

I live in Los Angeles. Going on a date often includes driving quite a distance through traffic just to meet someone.

Then there’s sitting through dinner with somebody. This consumes hours of my time.

Dating can feel like having a second job. Time flies when you’re with somebody you like. But when you don’t like someone, all this dating can feel like a huge waste of your time.

That’s why I suggest meeting somebody new quickly at a park. You get to see what they look like in person and get a feel of their energy.

If you have chemistry, you can always go out to dinner after the meeting. Or you can meet up for dinner another time.

But by meeting people from dating apps for the first time in parks, if you don’t like each other, nobody’s out a lot of time. Plus it’s free.

After I met another man in a park, we liked each other so much that we immediately went for dinner.

A month after meeting Austin, I met up with another guy in a park. Otto and I met in Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park alongside the Los Angeles River in Frogtown.

This is a beautiful park. It was pleasant to wait seated on a park bench until Otto arrived.

When he did, I was happy to see that he was actually much cuter than in his photos. He was handsome and stylish.

We also got along well. We had wonderful chemistry. I didn’t feel like the date was a waste of my time at all.

Directly after meeting in the park for a few minutes, Otto and I went off to Spoke Cafe for a meal. We had a lovely dinner, and then continued to meet up for a few months.

But still, even if I enjoyed my time with Otto, I was glad that we met up in a park first.

Meeting for free in a park is the best dating approach for men and women.

The idea of dating is that you’re supposed to be laid back about meeting new people. You’re supposed to be open. “It’s just lunch,” they say.

So you don’t like your date when you meet them. All you have to do is eat lunch with them and then you never have to see them again.

Maybe you opt for just a coffee. But the typical expectation is dinner.

However, I think this traditional approach to dating is a lot to ask of people. It’s not “just lunch.” Dating equals a lot of time and money.

I don’t want a man to spend money on me if I don’t like him. I don’t want waste his time either. I don’t want to waste my own time.

This is why I don’t do lunch (or dinner or coffee) with men from dating apps whom I’m meeting for the first time. I meet them in parks.

What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.

I’d also love to hear if you think this idea is crazy. I definitely want to hear if you’ve ever met up with someone from a dating app in a park yourself.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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