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Dining with Daddy & Why I Deserve More

When I was around two, my parents separated and subsequently divorced. I was too young to know what was going on and don't even remember my father ever living in the house that I grew up in. I lived with my mother from then on. My dad never missed a beat, though. Although our time together was limited, I'd see him often and would look forward to our "dates." You see, my dad and I would spend much of our time together eating out at our favorite restaurant, particularly on birthdays and special occasions. I remember getting dressed in my Sunday's best to dine with daddy: church dress, ruffled socks, some patent leather oxfords or penny loafers, and hair adorned with matching ribbons. Every year he'd ask, "Mia, where do you want to go for your birthday?" "Houston's," I'd reply with a giggle because year after year, the answer never changed. It was our spot! We'd usually start with a spinach dip and a grilled chicken salad. My dad would order his medium-well prime rib with a loaded baked potato, and I'd order the barbecue ribs. The server would always asks if I wanted the children's portion. My father, who seemed to spare no dime, turned down that offer. "Whatever she doesn't eat, we'll take home." He taught me how to order like an adult (and eat like an one too lol). We'd always finish with two desserts (because I was too greedy to share) and often he'd ask me to order something to take home to my mother. My dad knew that taking care of me sometimes meant going the extra mile. I grew to admire his willingness to give without a second thought. After dinner, he'd drop me off at my mom's front door. "See ya later, alligator," he'd say. "After while, crocodile," I'd respond, holding back the stream of tears that would fall as I'd watch him drive away.

My dad and I still dine at Houston's on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Whenever I'm home or he visits me in New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and beyond, I dine with daddy. The costs are of no importance because our special moments together are rare and priceless. I mean, I don't always order the most expensive thing on the menu (lol), but I know that I can have my "tastes" and that there will be no judgement from him (besides teasing me about how greedy I still am). I know what you're thinking: "She's spoiled!" :insert eye roll here: However, dinners have always felt more like a reward than a spoiling. I work very hard for everything I have. The work ethic that my parents instilled in me has afforded me the opportunity to go to the best schools, create some incredible art, and travel the world doing what I love. Dining with daddy has always been a treat! Needless to say, my father set the bar high.

 As I've aged and moved on and away from my parents care, I've come to understand that dining with daddy taught me how to treat myself. I've never been one for high fashion, expensive shoes, the latest gadgets or an affinity for luxurious delicacies. I've always considered myself to be a "low-maintenance" woman, a subtitle that I used to think would benefit me in the dating world. Although I loved being my father's "baby girl," I didn't yearn for a man to treat me like a princess. So for years, I led myself to believe that it was okay if a man didn't share my love for dining out and trying new cuisines. I tricked myself into thinking that it was okay that he didn't bring flowers or anything close to the candy bouquets my father would gift me after many of my childhood performances. My parents raised me to be incredibly independent, almost to a fault, so of course I didn't need a man to take me to Del Frisco's Steakhouse when I was perfectly capable of taking myself. "I'm a grown woman" and "I can do bad all by myself" are deceptive affirmations that led me to settle for less. And then, I woke up.

I woke up sometime last year when I actually started walking in my daily affirmation: I deserve more. The more I began to accept that I had been selling myself short out of fear of ridicule or rejection, the closer I moved towards the desires of my heart. I recently went on a date with a guy who, frankly, couldn't afford me. I've never felt like one of those women who flicks back her $400 weave and crosses her legs that are anchored in Christian Louboutin heels barking, "He can't afford me." That ain't even in my spirit. But this guy and I literally walked from restaurant to restaurant and I watched him look at each moderately-priced menu and decide that we weren't going to eat there. I played along so I wouldn't seem cantankerous but I really wanted to crawl into a hole by this point. See, this was after his initial plans to take me to a movie folded because he forgot the tickets (which I later found out were discounted) at home. He refused to buy non-discounted tickets once we got to the theater, and I refused to offer. I get it homie--the movies are expensive or whatever but is $28 really going to set you back? After "we" decided against the movie, he wanted to take me to Shake Shack, which is like a fancier McDonald's. yuck! That plan folded because there was no seating. So here's where we begin the stroll down restaurant alley. I tried to play along, looking for happy hour deals or "specials." We ended up at Chipotle, my suggestion because it was cold outside and I was tired of walking, and I ate my vegan burrito bowl like a champ while trying not to daydream about getting back home to my bed. 

Listen, dating is expensive and we live in New York City, so I'm not expecting a 16 oz strip steak on the first, second or third date. However, his lack of preparation, financial and otherwise, was less than impressive and I started questioning why I've spent so much time over the last 4 years suppressing my "tastes." Why have I been allowing men to aim below the bar that my father set so many years ago, yielding to their lack of ability to make a woman feel special? Was I afraid of being labeled "spoiled?" Was it because I actually can take care of myself and afford my desires? We're not in college anymore living off of our stretched refund checks. We have jobs. We know how to budget (or should) and there's no excuse for poor planning when you're pursuing a potential life partner. As I pushed through this semi-awkward Chipotle date, I thought about the desires of my heart and reminded myself that I deserve more.

My general theory on dating is that you shouldn't do so if you're not financially ready. That goes for both parties seeking to relate to one another. And even if you are financially stable, like a few men I've dated, are you ready to share your resources? Stinginess is a sign of unpreparedness as well. My father didn't take me anywhere he wasn't financially prepared to take me. I don't take myself anywhere I'm not financially ready to go, be it a restaurant, on vacation, to sign on a new apartment, or back to school. I think that the same should apply with dating. I don't make a lot of money at all, y'all, but I work hard! Life happens. Financial stability comes and goes. I've been broke before without enough money to get on the subway. I know the value of planning and prepping when funds are limited and how to still have a good time. I don't know all of this man's expenses or what his salary looks like. However, I'd like to think that if you're broke, you'd do an even better job of planning and prepping for dating. A picnic on the pier with a box of pizza and a bottle of wine is worth a thousand steak dinners. Even with little financial resources, there's still a way to make your date feel special. *Hint*: it requires the lost art of putting forth an effort. Moreover, I think that it's not as much about the money than it is about my interests. Eating out a few times a month is a priority for me. Not only did I dine with daddy, but I had a mother who lived for eating out every Sunday after church. We didn't miss a Sunday a Piccadilly's or Henry's Soul Food or Cheesecake Bistro (if she was feeling fancy). I value that and I'm willing to go dutch if we could even get that far into the dating process. 


Here's the thing, I sat on this post for days because I didn't want people to think that it's all about money. Ultimately, what I liked about dining with my father was the way he made me feel.  I liked the way he made me feel. I liked getting dressed up in the mirror and my mom styling my hair. I liked meeting my dad at his ring of the doorbell and how he escorted me to the car and made sure he shut my door before walking to the drivers side. I liked the way he would make sure I got out of the car safely, how we'd scurry through the parking lot. I liked the way he made me feel. I liked that servers would comment on how eloquently I ordered. (I'd learned from watching him) They liked that I sat up straight and spoke with dignity, and I did those things not because my dad made me feel entitled, but because he valued my presence at the table and I valued his. We could've been anywhere! I didn't always know that Houston's was a "nice" restaurant. We could've been eating at Wendy's and I still would've felt his efforts, his actions, and his presence. I would've felt the fact that he planned for me. He made me feel like I was special, like I was worth it...like I deserved more.


I took my dad out to dinner for his birthday 3 years ago and I sneakily made sure they put a candle on his dessert and discreetly paid the bill before it hit the table so he wouldn't fight for it. I did all of that because I wanted my father to feel the way he made me feel date after date, year after year. That even at his age, someone valued his presence enough to make him feel special. If I can't feel that, then you're not worth it. If you can't plan for me, then you're not worth it. I may be "spoiled" but I'm not selfish. I don't have expensive tastes, but I have tastes, and I deserve someone who can meet me halfway. My dad didn't reward me so that I would grow into a woman who expected to be taken care of. He encouraged me--every time we dined--to set a bar higher for myself than he could ever set for me or my suitors. I don't think it's wrong to hold out for a man who values my presence, my time, and my interests the way my father did. I've learned that you can live your life fully while holding out for more.

Dining with daddy looks different now. I'm teaching him things about the ever-evolving world of dinning etiquette and wine tasting and how a steak should really be eaten. He playfully scolds me for liking mine medium-rare, bloody and still breathing. lol  I remind him that I'm grown when I order a cocktail! My father wasn't perfect, but the time he invested and continues to invests in me during our rare, yet precious experiences are what deserving more is all about. 

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