99 Days at the 99¢ Store, WEEK TWELVE: In Which Dollar Store Speed Dating Happens

If there is one person that truly gets the shaft on this experiment, it’s my boyfriend.
Publish date:
April 5, 2013

Sometimes life just gives you the lemonade, and you don’t even have to make it yourself. Since beginning this experiment, I’ve had a Google alert set for the 99¢ Store. Normally it’s just press releases about store openings, but a few weeks ago held a prized gem: the 99¢ Store in my neighborhood would be hosting a Valentine’s Day speed dating event. WHAAAAT?!?!

If you’ve been following along, you already know that the past four weeks of the experiment have had me feeling like a trapped cat. Now at Day 85, two weeks from the finish line, I had an awesome V-Day and bright skies are on the horizon.

I know you guys are wondering–– No, I did not participate in the speed dating event, but I DID attend and I DID convince my dear friend Ariana to get her speed date on for our vicarious pleasure.

Ariana had been on a behemoth international tour until about a week ago: from L.A. to the East coast to New Zealand to India back to L.A. in a little under two months. We hadn’t seen each other since her return and she was free yesterday morning, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to hang.

The event started at 9am. I repeat, this speed dating event started at 9am. WHYYYYY?!?! Who, besides perhaps a badass bitch like Hilary Rodham Clinton, is able to put her sexiest foot forward at 9am?

Whatever. Their poor strategy in event planning is negated by their brilliant strategy in pricing everything at a mere 99¢.

I met Ariana at the store because, as stated, it was super fucking early. Ariana got up even earlier than I to primp because there was, to be fair, the prospect of romance – though she said if she would have known exactly how it was going to go down, she wouldn’t have bothered to get ready.

When we arrived there were already six gentlemen standing around – a few 40- and 50-somethings in suits, an old guy with orange-tinted hair and a poet’s scarf – a bit of failed professor look, a guy I would peg as definitely working in I.T., and what appeared to be a lone eligible bachelor. Representing the female gender was a more vivacious – and considerably younger – bunch.

The PR department from the 99¢ Store headquarters in Commerce, CA delayed the start for a while in hopes that more daters would arrive. (Participants were to pre-register online.) They even asked me if I would step in, but I declined to take pictures for you guys.

It was supposed to be over after one round of 99-second introductions, but clearly the PR team was feeling sadistic because they declared, “We have time for another round!”

There were generic starter questions on each table for the uninspired or nervous conversationalists. Ariana reported back that there was a plethora of awkward behavior, and, unfortunately, the lone eligible bachelor was A. of undetectable sexuality and B. there to do undercover research for his marketing job.

On the upside, all the daters got goody bags at the end with the items from this week’s circular, complete with douche kit and pregnancy test. She did put the pregnancy test to go use, though – it came in handy as a prop for her web series, Bite Sized.

My own 99¢ Store purchases for the week shook out to $85 – the majority on food, as usual. I also had $76.06 in non-99¢ Store discretionary spending for a full tank of gas, dog food, and quarters for laundry.

Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If there is one person that truly gets the shaft on this experiment, it’s my boyfriend. I think I made it pretty clear on our first date almost two years ago that I came with some baggage, but I don’t think I articulated that it may involve masochism of this latest-99¢ variety. I set the intention to shut down my purchasing power for 27 percent of a year and he was so proud of me when I landed this series with xoJane that he wanted to celebrate for like a week – and he’s been so patient and supportive since.

A lot of our favorite adventures together involve some combination of restauranting, people watching, and window-shopping. We love our playtime together and this experiment has put a damper on the carefree essence of playtime something fierce. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I’m sorry, Jesse. I’m sorry I couldn’t get you anything more awesome than coasters for Christmas, I’m sorry about the restrictions this project puts on our couple time, and I’m sorry that Valentine’s Day is tuppence for you, my love. You deserve the whole lot.

There is indeed a plan to rectify this situation first when I regain free rein over my spending in two weeks and again on his birthday in April. I recently found out that he’s never been on a rollercoaster, the Groupon deals for Catalina Island have been incredibly seductive as of late, and one of my girlfriends informed me that the Dearly Departed tour she took features macabre awesomeness like Albert Dekker’s death with a horse’s bit in his mouth and “whip” written on his ass in lipstick. The point is, whatever we do is going to be great.

So what did he get for this impoverished Valentine’s Day, you ask?

A cake…

An owl…

And sweets…

In a bag.

Just a couple more weeks, baby. Hang in there. I love you, Jesse!

And I love all you readers following along on this journey. What are your favorite ways to do Valentine’s Day on the cheap?

Follow me every penny-pinching step of the way on Twitter @courtneykocak and Tumblr.