The Cost of Love

When I was a younger woman, a girl really, I booked a $300 hotel room, and then paid another $300 to fly my boyfriend across the country to meet me there. I put it on all on a credit card, because of love (and also because I didn’t have any money).

I asked some Billfold pals if they had ever spent too much money on love. They had.

“I engraved an iPod for my ex, back when only the nine richest kings in Europe had iPods. We broke up a month later.” — Nicole Cliffe

“One Valentine’s Day many years ago, I had just begun dating someone, so of course I went a bit overboard. She was a Sex & The City fan, so I bought DVDs of all extant seasons (there were five at that point, so I spent well over $100). I presented her with the first season and hid the rest in the fridge (?) and said hey, why don’t you fetch us a couple beers? And she went into the kitchen and opened the fridge and BLAMMO. I also got her one of these bears. I was a classy gent.” — Jake Mohan

“I paid my boyfriend’s rent for a year when he was unemployed. Though I don’t know if that was due to love or utter stupidity. They’re basically the same thing.” — Anon.

“I once flew to California for 36 hours under the guise that I was coming out for a job interview, but it was actually a trip to try and get a woman to re-fall in love with me. I really did have an interview, but it was for a position I didn’t want at a publication I thought was bad. Of course the interview went awfully and afterward, when I called the woman to try and meet up, she told me she didn’t want to see me. I then spent the rest of the day alone in a bar, where I had a cup of coffee and three pints of beer in the few hours before my flight home. Altogether I probably spent about $800, which I now look at as my stupid tax for spending my own money on a job-interview flight and convincing myself that low-level stalker behavior is acceptable if it’s in the name of love. I didn’t get the job or the woman, but that’s OK because I didn’t deserve them.” — Cord Jefferson

“Between my three jobs, I average out to something like $12 an hour. So big spending is not in my budget. My partner has come to accept this, with occasional reservation. When giving gifts, I tend to know my limitations and go for thoughtful over extravagant. Our dates are most often a $6 bowl of pho and a stroll through an Asian market for weird fruit. We’ve splurged on fancy a small handful of times. The most I’ve spent on love, thus, was flying out to California to see her during a fellowship this summer. She had to help me, so really the most I’ve spent for love was paying my partner back for getting me a couple plane tickets. Since she moved back East, I’ve spent money on a series of bus tickets to see her. But it’s worth it, of course.” — John Wenz

“I once went on a date with a guy who got dumped after paying for his girlfriend’s brain surgery. ‘A lobotomy?’ I joked, not knowing he was serious. ‘No,” he said. ‘That bitch had a brain tumor.’

Anyway, I haven’t ever spent a ton of money on love, unless you count flying to LA almost every month last year to see my long-distance boyfriend.” — Amanda Green

“I’ve never spent too much on a valentine. Last night I careened into the Victoria’s Secret in Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn, determined. I flitted through the store knowing that literally every single item was way out of my price range, then floated out into the mall and up the escalator into Target, where I picked up an armful of OK-looking polyester numbers. I mean you could tell they were Target but they’d get the job done and while the bubblegum-pink variations were like, creepily teen-ish, the black ones were passable. Then I got to the fitting room and the attendant said I couldn’t try ANY of them on because they all had thong panties plastic-stapled to them, and even though I assured her passionately that I would not be putting the thongs on, only the tops, she said no, company policy. So I instead bought a pair of yoga shorts and a comfy bralette and a box of Betty Crocker brownie-cookie mix and spent a total of $25 and went home and baked them for my boyfriend and overcooked them.” — Lauren Rodrigue

“One Valentine’s Day in college, I planned to take my then girlfriend Sarah out to our favorite Chinese restaurant, which also happened to be in a mall (the mall part is largely inconsequential to the story, but I think it stresses how good this Chinese food is). I had set up a reservation at the restaurant which turned out to be unnecessary (see earlier mall comment), but I had also taken an old wine bottle and whittled down a candle to fit in the top, which I was going to bring to the dinner and light (I had cleared this with the owner, but it is almost certain something was lost in translation and I’m not sure if he knew what he was agreeing to, nor was I sure if breaking Pennsylvanian fire code or not). I essentially stole this wine bottle/candle idea from Lady and the Tramp but what the hell: it worked for those two dogs so I figured it would work for me. Post-dinner, I was planning to whisk us away to the greatest ice cream place near campus (it was in a separate strip mall). Truly, nothing could stop me from pulling off what was officially the first Valentine’s Day I’d ever had with an active girlfriend.

I never got to enact this plan because as it turned out, my girlfriend’s parents were coming into town that weekend. It was just coincidental that it happened to be Valentine’s Day (we had only recently started dating, to be fair), and Sarah obviously had to hang out with them. I was invited along, Sarah’s mom and dad (and Sarah herself) feeling badly at how the timing had worked out. Sarah’s parents ended up taking us to the very restaurant I had made reservations for, which led to a very confusing scenario of me trying to explain to the owner of the restaurant why I was there but would no longer need my original reservation for two (the place was more or less empty, but still didn’t want to sully my good name for not appearing for my pre-arrange party of two). Afterward, Sarah’s parents took us to that (you guessed it) strip mall ice cream place, making them 2-for-2 on taking us to the places I had pre-planned for a great Valentine’s Day.

So this is an example of a time I actually saved a bunch of money on Valentine’s Day (didn’t have to pay for anything but a latent candle), but at the non-monetary cost of spending it with my girlfriend’s parents (who were very nice, but were still 50-somethings that I spent my Valentine’s Day with). I never did get to use that candle bottle and eventually it broke during a party a few weeks later, which I still maintain is a crime to the concept of romance itself.” — Matt Powers

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