That Time I Sold Myself for Charity

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

I can probably count on two hands the number of times I've been asked out on a real date. Narrow it down to requests from someone I'm actually interested in? One hand.

I've never been the girl that guys flock to, or flirt with, or talk about with each other — like, "Is she gonna be at the party? Is she single?" 

I've never been the girl who gets the attention. 

Until two weeks ago.

My attitude toward life for the past six months has gone a little something like this: fuck it.

I was fed up with roommates, flaky friends, internet dating nonsense, money worries, job troubles, and my life in general. So I started taking a new approach.

Sick of my living situation? I moved, broken budget be damned. Tired of trying to arrange outings with other people? I started going solo and exploring on my own. Bored and unappreciated at work? Time to stop saving those vacation days.

This might sound like common sense to most people, but for someone who's spent the majority of her life meticulously planning, constantly worrying, and always trying to please everyone else, this was a revelation. And it was at that point that an email circulated around the office: a friend of an employee was running a date auction for a local charity and needed volunteers to be auctioned off.

Fuck it. Sign me up.

NAME: Lisa L
AGE: 29
OCCUPATION: Copywriter
INTERESTS/HOBBIES: Reading, road tripping, trying out new recipes, fixing up my apartment, exploring the city, pretending I'm outdoorsy
SUPERHERO POWER I'D LIKE TO HAVE: Teleportation (no more parking tickets or taking the T!)

I submitted my profile info and then promptly forgot about it for the majority of the next few weeks. It felt like this abstract thing that I mentioned to people, as a sort of "Isn't this hilarious?" conversation topic. (Also: a "these things still exist!" conversation topic.) It didn't feel like something I was really going to have to do.

Until the week before, of course.

In a panic, I got my hair cut and colored. It was a disaster, and I had to go back to the salon to get it fixed. I walked around with frizz and zits for days, certain it wouldn't get better before the auction. In my attempt to not make the night feel like a Big Thing, I hadn't bothered shopping for a new outfit, and that just added another layer of anxiety to the mix a few days beforehand: Do I own anything appropriate for this kind of scenario? Do I own anything that makes me look even vaguely appealing?

The day of, I rushed home from work, cracked open a bottle of wine, and frantically texted my friends for makeup tips. (When was the last time I'd worn eyeshadow?!?) My dress of choice was one I've had for probably four years at this point; the heels were shoes I cursed at last year's Christmas party when I could barely walk by the end of the night.

I inhaled a burrito, downed half the bottle of Chardonnay, and hopped into a Lyft.

The event was held at ICON nightclub, and this marked my first ever visit to a nightclub, period. I teetered up the steps, signed in, and was forced to slap on a name tag that I spent the rest of the night trying to smooth down. I'd known that another girl from work — the pitcher from our company softball team — was doing the auction, too, but it turned out that two more Wayfair people had volunteered, as well. I chatted with them for bit while I sipped my $14 (it's-for-charity, it's-for-charity) vodka tonic, and then forced myself to work the room.

We were encouraged to mingle and talk to guests before the auction, but at that point in the evening, it was nothing but a sea of fellow auctionees. I was impressed by the array of people who'd thrown their hats into the ring: heavyweight fighter, CEO, personal trainer, designer, police officer, engineer, performance artist (yup), marketing manager...the list went on. One thing I realized after talking to people was that most had brought along an entourage of friends and family who could be relied on to bid for them if things became dire.

Per usual, I was completely and utterly solo.

I was having a pretty good time talking with the others, joking (but secretly serious) that my goal was to go for at least $30. It was at that point that one guy, who had participated in the auction before, proceeded to tell me that the highest bid last year was $450.


If you know me, if you've read this blog, if you've ever talked to me for a significant amount of time, you know that I'm a total Scrooge McDuck. I don't pinch pennies; I cling to them with a death grip.

It's at this point that people usually chime in with "Yeah, but it's for charity..."

Valid. But the way my mind works? Something like $175 would be my big, all-out bid. Even if it's for a good cause. So, needless to say, I was pretty shocked.

At that point, guests had finally begun to arrive, so I said goodbye to my comrades and started circling the room, awkwardly trying to insert myself into conversations and introduce myself to people. I managed to talk to four non-participants before the bidding began and I was summoned to the stage, told that I'd be the second woman auctioned off. (What do you mean, second?!)

The stage was a tiny thing at the front of the club, and our hosts for the evening were two local radio personalities. (Thanks for dressing up, guys.) The first man up had a little choreographed number planned to the James Bond theme song, and bidding started at $100.

It started at $100?? There went my $30 goal.

Number One had bids pile up pretty quickly, and eventually sold for $300 (they went in increments of $50). One of the next guys opted for a PG-13 strip tease to earn his bids. The first female was an executive chef who loved yoga (theme of the night: all girls "love yoga") and she had a respectable number of bidders.

It all went much too quickly. It was my turn before I knew it.

The upside? There was no time for a full-blown panic attack. I clung to the stair rail and made my way onto the stage. The hosts had some fun with my profile, offering to the crowd that I was good at fixing things: "Guys, she can fix your toilet!" (Nope, really can't.) And the second they started the bidding, I had an offer — one of the people I talked to earlier in the evening! Two points for awkward socializing.

And then something crazy happened. Someone else put in a counter-bid. It was a guy in the back of the room, too far to tell if it had been one of the other people I'd met. But it set off a full-on bidding war.

If there's anything more surreal than watching perfect strangers offer to pay large sums of money just to spend an evening with you, it's this: watching a perfect stranger pay $650 to spend an evening with you. Also known as: the highest bid of the night.

I think the look on my face in that picture pretty much says it all.

So what have I learned from this experience?

#1. I will do almost anything for a good story.
#2. I should probably invest in different shoes.
#3. I'm actually pretty good at holding a conversation when forced to turn on the charm.
#4. I should avoid mentioning my love of yoga in any future dating profiles.

Am I pleased I was able to raise that much for Project Smile? Heck yes. Did I gain a little smug boost of confidence in that moment? Guilty. By the time the night was over, though, that had worn off and mostly I just felt a combination of hysterical laughter, confusion, and squirming uncomfortableness.

I don't all of a sudden think I'm hot stuff, and that guys are going to actually start noticing me now (though I did leave the club with a phone number). Realistically, I just happened to talk to the right person at the beginning of the night — someone who was willing to donate a significant amount of money to the charity no matter what — and I managed to pick a good conversation topic (books, you never let me down).

But at the very least, I learned this, too:

#5. I'm worth more than just $30.