Ask Mr. Philosopher: Ought I Be A Broke Dater?
H. writes, “Mr. Philosopher –
I’m a guy in my mid 20’s and I’m basically paycheck to paycheck. The bills are paid, but I haven’t gotten to really diversify my bonds and increase my portfolio – basically, a nigga broke. But, you know, I still love taking chicks out on dates, trying to get some pussy and, you know, maybe even fall in love. Dates be expensive though, and that doesn’t help when I’m trying to increase my bonds and shit. So basically, should I be trying to date when dating can be prohibitively expensive?”
Dating does hit the wallet and dating multiple people at once, if not budgeted for, can wreak havoc on a wallet. That said, whether or not one should date while being financially responsible depends on perhaps the reason for dating. In general, if you want companionship then you should go out and seek it in whatever form you desire. So if you just want sex, go find someone to fuck. If you want someone to kick it with, find a buddy. If you want someone to be in a relationship with, by all means be on the lookout for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Just be advised that there are a few issues that come with being broke:
1) Who’s going to pay for the date?
2) Why can’t you ever pay for the date?
3) Why can’t you ever not need anything?
With regards to 1, the custom is that the man pays and the more general custom is whoever asks pays, but if you’re a broke guy then what message are you communicating to someone when you can’t pay for the date? It signals that you’re unable to support in a financial manner and that’s a red flag for many women in relationships. So even if you’re a grand emotional provider, that won’t matter if she’s nervous that the bills won’t get paid or that you can’t afford to be with her.
But wait, you pay all of your bills on time? Well they aren’t her bills, so it doesn’t really matter. She’s looking at the after-taxes, after-bills money and if you ain’t got it, somebody else does. Being broke reduces whatever special thing you bring to the table as being able to be bought out, or at least reduces it to the constant threat of a buyout, which leads me to 2.
With regards to 2, it’s one thing if you don’t have spare funds the day you’ve paid your bills, but another thing entirely to lack funds regularly. It might not even be you – I’ve dated a girl who had to tell me that it wasn’t me, I’d done ample paying of shit regularly as a way to keep her from thinking about money as best I could until my financial situation changed and that wasn’t feasible. She once told me she wouldn’t visit until she had the money to, and it was a result of her not wrapping her mind around the new financial situation I ended up in (worse than the original but better than the intermediate financial situation). I could pay for everything – she just lost faith that I could amidst prior situations that I couldn’t necessarily control. And once she loses faith in you (and your ability to provide), it’s really just a matter of time before she wants to believe in someone or something greater.
With regards to 3, the adage is that broke people break people and it’s because of the constant perceived need that, “you can’t buy shit for yourself so now everything is on my dime,” and the buyer is wondering if you are worth, literally, the time and money involved in this. They’re looking for what you bring to the table, wondering if it offsets the money. Plenty of people do this with purely physical relationships – men and women alike go and date some broke motherfucker who can fuck well, they have to spend the majority of the money in the situation, the other person doesn’t have a car or access to consistent transportation, always wants something, and after awhile the dick/pussy just isn’t worth all the trouble of dealing with someone who is ultimately too flawed for you. What might be worse is not wanting to be that broke person but ending up as that broke person, and if you’re that broke person just know that resentment on both sides is a real possibility.
Someone said yesterday, “How are you going to ask me out and then tell me you can’t afford it?” Well, I can’t afford to take someone out on a date that costs over $60 regularly and it’d be foolish for my financial situation to take a weekly $60 hit, at least for a few months. Does this mean that I shouldn’t be dating? Quite the contrary; you find someone who is willing to manage their expectations. So if you don’t have a lot of money, you might not be dating some fine ass lawyer-type because you can’t afford her lifestyle. But there’s likely some pretty, smart, available woman in your tax bracket (get them while they’re in law school). And if there aren’t, then be upfront and get your issue off until you can afford to spend what has to be spent to get who you want.
The unfortunate aspect to all of this is that people have placed financial situations towards the crux of why they can or are in a position to find love. Many successful, long lasting couples found each other as they both didn’t have much money, and were able to grow together. Most people won’t independently become Jay-Z and Beyonce and then get together. That is a myth, a fairy tale, or at best just extremely rare. Expecting that you get that is like expecting to win the lottery. You shouldn’t EXPECT to win the lottery – it’s a damn miracle if you do and the expectation should be that you lose the lottery. I understand that it costs money to live, but it doesn’t cost money to love. There’s also a great deal of hypocrisy involved, as there are men and women who think they require more than what they actually deserve judging by what they financially bring to the table because of other assets they think they possess that warrants the price tag they’ve assigned themselves. So if you’re a bad bitch you might not be working as much/bringing in much money because somebody is taking care of primary bills precisely because you’re a bad bitch and as a result, there’s a price tag to be able to get in a relationship with you. Same with powerful men, the power grants them a price tag of some sort. But on average, most EVERYBODY you know are paycheck to paycheck, with very little savings, no emergency fund, no Roth IRA, no 401K, they make $40,000 but it feels like they make $20,000 and Suze Orman would fail em on her “How Am I Doing?” segment. So when these same people say, “I’m never dating a broke nigga again,” I wonder how many think of themselves as broke bitches? Same for the ones who say, “I’m never dating a broke bitch again,” it wouldn’t surprise me if they themselves didn’t recognize their own brokeness.
Finally, those who remark that broke folks should, “work on themselves before finding their significant other” have a false belief that there is an established order of operations for finding love and that the very first step is to have some established, consistent funds. The next step is to, when you’re financially able, to start wasting money on a long line of potential significant others until you find one to settle on, try that out and see if it’s love. The false belief comes because the way the order is set, you’re not open to love until after you’ve gotten a certain position in your life. I understand wanting to have security, particularly as a man to be able to offer security as well, and I also understand that not everybody is ready for love at all times. But that’s precisely the false belief that this hinges on, that nobody is ready for love until they’re secure, and security here implies financial security (according to someone’s ideal). But security itself doesn’t imply just financial security, and I often think about two of the best men I’ve met in my life when I think about the question, “Are you marriageable?”
Michael and Lonnie (names changed for anonymity) were a couple of guys I met during high school, older guys who were as hardworking as you knew – punched in early, didn’t leave until late. They had consistent values about educating young people, always gave me good advice, and were respected by their peers and coworkers. Both were married, and had been for at least a couple of decades. I never wondered if they could provide for their wives and families, or if the wives had lost faith in them because of their job. Michael once told me that he met his wife when they were young and when he got the job I met him at, she was happy for him and it provided for his family. Lonnie definitely was happy to have the job he had and he was secure in who he was, what he did, and how he provided for his family. They both were proud men, who took pride in themselves and what they brought to the community.
They were both janitors at my high school. Some woman heard that her potential husband was going to be a janitor and didn’t turn her nose up at him because he was hard working and loving and doing what he could to provide with what he had. Janitors, even at a private school, don’t make much money. But their wives weren’t tripping off of the money, they looked to see who they could build a family with. I mention this because the initial question of why are you dating ends up looming extremely large. If you’re dating for fun, then finances might impact how much fun you could have and then it might not be as prudent to date a whole lot. But if you’re dating for a partner, then your financial situation shouldn’t be an impediment to you finding your soul mate. Indeed, you don’t want to settle because you weren’t open for love when you should have been and now that you are, you don’t want to be alone and you settle on contentedness over striving for happiness. Ultimately, the goal of dating should be to find someone who does make you happy. So if you’re happy fucking a few people, go to it. If you’d be happier with one, settle down. If the one you want to settle with isn’t the right one, go find another. But if you’re not secure in who you are, what you offer (in total, not just in your wallet), and what you want, then it’s not financial issues that’ll wreck your dating.