Black Friday has just passed us by, Cyber-Monday is upon us and the holiday shopping season kicked it into high gear as we celebrate a season of togetherness, friends and family through the time-honored tradition of conspicuous consumer spending.
It’s a little hard not to think about money when damn near every commercial on TV and email in my inbox is encouraging me to BUY! BUY! BUY!
We live in a culture that’s obsessed with money: who has it, who doesn’t and what having it says about you. We have a split personality when it comes to personal wealth. On the one hand, we still have the remains of the Calvanist idea that the rich are rich because they’re inherently better. On the other hand, we are told over and over again via pop culture that only the poor have The Life Force; the less fortunate are more connected to the things that “really matter” or are more creative or are otherwise just better people because money inherently corrupts.
We simultaneously laud the material goods we buy but also praise ourselves for being less material than everybody else.
Money is so tied up with our self-image, our concept of status and the idea of net-worth as self-worth, that we tend to see it as an end-all, be-all of our lives and put more emphasis on it than it’s actually worth.
I actually get a lot of questions about money – usually from guys who have relatively little and are concerned about what being broke will do to their dating life. Occasionally I get questions from people who have bought into the idea that money is a pre-requisite for dating, or that women will only date guys of a certain income or status level.
So it seems as good a time as any to talk about money and dating.
I Ain’t Saying She’s A Gold Digger…
The idea that you need money to get women is a common one. Whenever men’s rights advocates gather, one of the most common subjects to come up is the idea that all women are hypergamous; that all women are looking for men of superior social and financial status. The idea of women-as-status-seeker is built into the DNA of the Pick-Up Artist movement – the status games and “demonstrations of higher value” were born from the idea that all women areonly looking for someone is of higher social status than she is. Money translates nicely to status, so someone with a high-profile job, a flashy car or other external indicators of wealth is someone who has greater access to women than the average peon.
The problem with this belief – other than the fact that it’s rather wildly misogynistic – is that it’s also not true. It’s what’s known as a compositional fallacy: some women are only interested in men who have lots of money, ergo all women must only be interested in men with lots of money.
It’s an appealing belief though. On the one hand, it instantly excuses any failure a man might have with a woman – after all, she’s just a gold-digging, hypergamous bitch who’s just looking for her next meal-ticket. At the same time, it’s aspirational: the Horatio Alger idea of the American Dream by way of Larry Flynt and Axel Braun: ”If I work hard (or get lucky) enough I’ll be rich and then I’ll have all the pussy I want.” Reach a certain income level and suddenly velvet ropes part, legs open and you’re swimming in the sex equivalent of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin.
The idea that women are status-seekers ties into the commodity model of sex: men want sex, women control access to sex and therefore men must negotiate with women to reach a price sufficient to allow the men into the sex vault. Evolutionary psychology is often used to validate this theory1: women want the best providers for their children, therefore they will instinctively be attracted to only the richest or highest-status males available, “settling” for less until a better option presents itself.
It’s bullshit, but why let little facts like that most women marry sideways – staying within their social and economic class – rather than up and that hypergamy is on the decline get in the way of blaming women for someone else’s failures.
“Gaming With The Cheat Codes On”
While nobody disagrees that material wealth can be an advantage, that’s really all it is. It creates opportunities; you have a wider selection of places to live, less stress over bills, more venues and activities for dates. You’re less stressed when you’re not worrying that movie tickets for two people can cost upwards of $30 before you factor in any other date-related expenses. You can afford better clothes, travel more often, spend more time outside of work.
There’s no question that throwing money around can attract women. Back when I was spending time on the club scene, there were plenty of times that my friends and I would post up in the VIP section of the club and pool our money for bottle service; we referred to it as “gaming with the cheat codes on” because of all the way women would immediately flock to our table, competing for our attention. Every time we would do this, we looked like kings and players and we would be knee-deep in women all night.
While my friends and I may have enjoyed the attention we were getting in the VIP at the club, when the night was over, the women would almost always drift away. We were trying to impress women by throwing money around and buying their attraction… and they were willing to be bought. But it would ultimately not go anywhere. We’d get numbers, sure, but those didn’t mean anything; they were part of the dance of the club and party scene.
It was easy to get hooked on the feeling of being a player for the night and the occasional action that came with it, but it was fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying.
It had it’s moments, don’t get me wrong. But they didn’t last and usually weren’t worth it… especially since most of the time, money was being used as a short cut.
It’s easy to get people to pay attention to you, even be attracted when you’re throwing money around. But the people you’re are attracting are interested in the money, not you.
If you don’t have a car and you’re walking
Oh yes son I’m talking to you
If you live at home wit’ your momma
Oh yes son I’m talking to you (baby)
Wanna get with me with no money
Oh no I don’t want no…
The inverse of this situation are the guys who believe that being financially strapped means that they can’t date at all. The idea that a man who’s broke is rendered undatable is one that’s wedged very firmly into our culture. It doesn’t matter that the economy’s in the tank and we’re all scrambling to keep our jobs: if you’re broke, you’re a joke. Someone working a fast-food job, for example, is written off as someone who’s on the lowest rung of the social ladder, one step above being unemployed entirely. Stuck using public transportation? Well, you’re in the majority – especially in larger cities – but not having a car is often seen as a mark of someone who is never going to get anywhere in life.
The problem is that too many people take this idea to heart and let it define them. It becomes a self-limiting belief – they’re a loser because they’re broke or working a crappy job or can’t afford $4-per-gallon gas or have to commute by bus or subway.
Letting your self-worth be defined by your net worth is a great way of driving yourself into an emotional hole that it’s hard to climb out of. Women may judge you by your job… but they’re much more likely to understand that circumstances suck for everyone. You may be stuck in a shit job, but drive and ambition are actually very attractive qualities. They just have to be backed up by action. It’s one thing if you’re always talking about the job you’re going to have some day or the business you’re going to start. It’s another entirely when you can show that you’re actually working towards something better rather than just shooting your mouth off.
I’ve known more people than I can count in dead-end jobs who were always talking about their way out: the novel they were going to write, the bands they were starting, their screenplay, their comic, their online business… but they never did anything about it. I’ve also known folks who surprised me by showing me their finished manuscripts, their business plans, their graphic novels or CD release parties. Even the ones who tried to chase a dream and failed had a leg up: they demonstrated that they had the motivation to change things instead of just enduring the daily drudgery.
Want to guess which ones were more successful at getting dates?
There will be people who won’t date you because of your economic status. That’s fine; they’ve just done you the favor of self-selecting out of your dating pool. These aren’t people you want to be trying to strike up a relationship with anyway.
Dating While Broke
Many people who’ve written into me have been concerned with the fact that they can’t necessarily afford to take women out on fancy dates; even dinner and a movie is outside of their price-range. Never mind buying flowers and candy, they can barely afford rent or gas. “I’m stuck taking the bus everywhere. How am I supposed to take women on dates when I can’t even pick her up at her place?” one writer asked.
The answer is that you need to quit looking at your situation as a disqualification but a challenge. Which is cliche as hell, but it’s still the truth: you ultimately have two choices: you either admit defeat or you adapt to the situation at hand. The problem isn’t whether or not you have money, it’s about disconnecting the idea of having a good time from “having to spend money”.
It’s possible to date on the cheap without looking like a loser; you just have to learn to put your focus on connecting and interacting with your date rather than worrying about what activities you can and can’t afford. Some of the best dates I’ve been on have been free; wandering around the Greenbelt in Austin, hanging out in the park on a summer day, wandering through the City Garage Sale, street fairs, hot rod shows or art bazaars. With a little help from Yelp, Craigslist, Facebook, Google and your local alt-weekly, you can find any number of cheap or free events in your town just about every day.
Dinner dates can be had for less with some pre-planning; I’m a big fan of Romantic Pizza date. You invite your date to your place for home-cooked Romantic Pizza and she needs to bring at least one ingredient. It looks impressive: people have the idea that making pizza, even from scratch, is harder than it actually is. It’s cheap, it’s interactive, it’s tactile, it encourages the two of you to get playful while you’re cooking and it’s made more romantic by the fact that you’re going to eat it by candlelight. Everything is more romantic by candlelight. Throw in a bottle of cheap (but good) wine and you have an incredibly memorable and romantic date for less than it would cost to go out and have someone else cook it for you.
Don’t Play The Status Game
When I was getting learning how to get better wtih women, I was constantly bombarded by the “status” message; I needed an attractive job or a flashier car. I should pad out my verbal resume a little; after all, who can say that I’m not really a club promoter or an executive at my job?
Ignoring the fact that it’s easier to call people on their bullshit now in this always-connected world, I would consistently have better results just hanging around, chatting with women who knew me as a comic artist and occasional photographer who drove a Prius and preferred to get a burger and beer to a “rock and roll photographer” at a club with a drastically overpriced bottle of Absolut. It was more authentically me; I wasn’t putting on a show or trying to impress them with flash and bullshit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there aren’t status-seekers; I’ve run into plenty of those… even ones where the status they’re trying to cozy up to is “Local movie blogger”. I’m not saying that there aren’t gold-diggers. Of course there are. That’s part of why we have prenups.
I am saying that the vast majority of women out there aren’t looking for a prince or someone to shower them with money and treat them to a lifestyle to which they intend to become accustomed; they’re looking for someone who gets them, who they can connect with.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a bar-back or a CFO. It’s the connection that’s the real money.
- for suitably dubious values of “validation”… [↩]