EITHER YOU'RE STILL in college, just graduated, dropped out, or didn't consider it in the first place. You're stuck as a wage slave, usually have to work lame hours, and aren't headed anywhere, careerwise. You want to make the most of the freedom that comes before kids and a mortgage, but the Gen-Y dating scene sucks. Or does it? We live in a city full of possibilities for dating on the cheap. For instance:
GET A JOB IN A RESTAURANT Nothing facilitates romance like free food. (If you can land a bartending gig, so much the better.) For those who missed out on the dot-com boom, the hallowed position of busboy is like being the new yuppie. And guess what: There's a million and a half restaurants in this city, and turnover is higher than the PR office at Enron. Once you land one of these coveted positions, you can tap into an entire new staff of people just like you?young, horny, and hungry. Plus, you'll have new guy/girl pizzazz, so everyone will want you, just like the daily special. Possible downsides? You'll become nocturnal and possibly an alcoholic; but, hey, when in Rome. . . .
PLAY FRISBEE AT GASWORKS Beautiful views, grassy hills, and huge, bizarre industrial "art"?what else could a young and broke wish for? It's a beautiful place to play Frisbee, lounge around by the water, or just take a walk (still free, thank God). You will most likely see other young Seattleites enjoying the outdoors at this laid-back location. (2101 N. Northlake Way.)
BARGAIN SHOWS AT THE CREST Incredibly, this Shoreline stalwart is still cheaper than most DVD rentals. Every show is $3, so you can spend the money you save to splurge on popcorn while you enjoy a quality assortment of films (albeit ones that have usually already been released on video). Besides, you liked Finding Nemo the first three times you saw it. (16505 Fifth Ave. N.E., 206-781-5755.)
FREE/DISCOUNTED CULTURE Show your date you're interested in more than Jackass reruns and PBR. If you're a student, stop by the Seattle Opera box office two hours before curtain on the day of the show for half-price tickets (225 Mercer St., 206-389-7676). The same deal applies at Pacific Northwest Ballet (301 Mercer St., 206-441-941). Try the Seattle Symphony two hours before the show for $10 tickets (Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 206-215-4747). SAM is free on the first Thursday of every month (100 University St., 206-654-3100); ditto the Seattle Asian Art Museum on the first Thursday and Saturday of every month (1400 E. Prospect St., 206-654-3100).
DATE UP THE FOOD CHAIN Let's all learn from the example of Ashton Kutcher! Demi has plenty of dough from her divorce settlement, while he has . . . The Butterfly Effect and a canceled MTV show. Nicer restaurants, posh surroundings, and exotic vacations may soon follow. Says Kelly (not her real name), a current student at the UW: "Dating older guys is great! They meet you on an intellectual level that guys my age can't always. Plus they hang out in places that frat boys don't." (Of course it's probably those latter places where Demi found her himbo, but let's not quibble.)
MOVE TO A DIFFERENT CITY This is a last resort, but according to recent U.S. Census data, Seattle is home to roughly the same number of men and women between the generally impoverished ages of 20 and 24, with a slight imbalance of 350 more women. In other words, it's a competitive market. So, ladies, if you'd like to make some extra cash in a cannery this summer, the census reports that men outnumber women almost 2-to-1 in the Aleutian Islands. Plus all the sushi you can eat.