Is he interested in me, or does he just want Hamilton tickets?

Originally published in the Washington Post
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Dating is rarely easy, but it was a lot easier for me before 2015. Not because I was younger, thinner or less cynical. Rather it’s because, before 2015, “Hamilton” had not yet opened on Broadway.

What does Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical have to do with my love life? A lot more than I would like it to, as much as I love the show.

According to Carrie Bradshaw, when you live in New York, you’re always looking for a job, a significant other or an apartment — the three elusive keys to success and happiness. Now that list has grown to include tickets to “Hamilton.”

Yes, “Hamilton,” the groundbreaking musical that’s sold out months in advance. When a single ticket can cost over $1,000, revealing just how much money you spent on the show has become a status symbol in cocktail-party conversation.

I have seen “Hamilton.” I have seen it three times, in fact, thanks to my job as a journalist, which frequently involves writing about theater. And when I’m dating, somehow that one aspect of my existence is all anyone wants to talk about.

I can see why, if people read my work, they might think I somehow have easy access to the show. I’ve interviewed most of the original cast, including the women who played the Schuyler sisters and Chris Jackson, who played George Washington. I wrote about Javier Muñoz’s triumph over cancer and, in what is by far the most unexpected moment of my career, I have beat-boxedwhile the show’s creator, Miranda, free-styled.

When New Yorkers meet someone for the first time, they usually ask “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?” When meeting potential gentlemen callers, I’ve come to dread answering that question, because about 95 percent of the time, the conversation immediately turns to “Hamilton.” The exchange usually goes something like this:

Him: What do you do?
Me: I’m a journalist.
Him: What do you write about?
Me: Culture and politics. I focus on feminism and health care.
Him: What kind of culture?
Me: I write a lot about theater. And film and TV as well.
Him: Have you seen “Hamilton”?
Me: Yes …
Him (leaning in, speaking quietly): Can you get me tickets? Or do you know how to get them?

I’ve compiled many responses to this question. If I’m feeling generous, I explain that journalists are usually provided tickets related to an assignment and can’t request them whenever they feel like it. If the person only seems interested in me once “Hamilton” is brought up, I tease them by saying: “Maybe, but I only talk about that with people I really like” and refuse to continue the conversation. If I actually want to get to know the person, I laugh and change the subject. Sometimes I ask if they’re interested in theater other than “Hamilton.” Often, the answer is no. And if I’m annoyed or frustrated with the person for asking, I simply say “No” and walk away.

The question is even harder to navigate on dating apps. If people are bold enough to send unsolicited nude photos to strangers, they certainly don’t shy away from treating me like a ticket broker. Eventually, I began counting how many back-and-forths took place before “Hamilton” would come up. The average was six. One man even asked me, during our very first exchange: “Do you take dates to the theater with you? I mean, if the tickets are free… ;)” My response? “No. I take people I actually know and care about as my plus ones.” Instead of gold-diggers, my friends refer to these shameless opportunists as “show-diggers.”

To save time, I’ve begun answering the “What do you do?” question with: “I write about theater. Yes, I’ve seen ‘Hamilton.’ No, I can’t get you tickets.” If this exchange takes place in person, I usually offer to perform the show, from beginning to end, right there and then. (Surprisingly, nobody has taken me up on that.)

I love being a theater critic, and to people outside the industry, my work may appear to be extremely glamorous. I know it looks that way on my Instagram. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have a career I love that involves seeing plays and musicals, and interviewing the artists who work on them. What these potential suitors don’t realize is that theater criticism is a rapidly diminishing field in which many people are not even paid for their writing. We don’t do the work for the money; we do it because we love it and we can’t imagine not doing it. Sometimes seeing these shows is the only compensation we get, so having them immediately viewed by someone else as an opportunity to get tickets is hardly a path to romance.

I would love to meet a man who enjoys seeing theater and would appreciate all of the dates we’d go on together — not just “Hamilton.” One of the musical’s most famous lyrics states: “I am not throwing away my shot.” I wish these men would realize that when they ask if I can get them tickets, they have already thrown away theirs.

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