Today we’ve had stories about financial inequality in relationships and about marrying across class lines. It’s time to look at one more aspect of money and partnership: how money affects our choice of whom to date.
Show of hands: how many of us, when we peruse the online dating sites, find ourselves wary of messaging people who earn considerably more than we do? As much as I like to indulge in Cinderella fantasies of meeting some kindhearted bazillionaire, when I see the actual number on the online dating profile, I think “we are probably not going to fit together very well.” Like Cheryl Strayed said on the new Dear Sugar podcast, sometimes the person you’re looking for is a person who both came from the same place as you and traveled the same distance.
And sometimes you look around and find yourself surrounded by tech millionaires, as Alexis Coe writes for Pacific Standard:
The man-child standing before me in the coffee shop was wearing a faded Facebook hoodie, which means something very specific in San Francisco. He wanted people to know that he was an early employee of Facebook, and that in 2012, when the company went public, he became a millionaire. He looked to be in his late 20s, and since it was 11 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday, it was clear that employment was optional. He could do as he pleased, and being told “no” wasn’t to his liking.
Coe’s piece is brilliant because it captures a particular frustration of dating in a tech-heavy city, and I’m glad she wrote it so I didn’t have to. These are the men who work hard and play hard, and whose profiles indicate that their ideal partner is willing to jet off to Southeast Asia on a whim, or anywhere else these spontaneous dates might want to go:
“Do you realize,” he sneered, “that I could charter a helicopter right now, and we could be having dinner in Napa?”
Obviously, and let’s get it out of the way, #notallmillionaires. In fact, I’ve never gone on an actual date with a man who has sneered at me. My dates have been pleasant and charming, but there has also often been a distance between us. I rarely mention the “I wash my dishes in a bucket” thing, but I know it’s going to have to come up eventually.
The flip side to Coe’s piece, and one that I need to mention out of my own sense of personal honesty, is that when she writes about these men being afraid of life “Before Money,” their “personal dark age” that left them “permanently scarred,” well: I’m afraid of that, too. I don’t even have that much money and I’m afraid of going back to life Before Money. I’m afraid of going back to only being able to afford gas station pizza. That’s the reason I also hesitate before messaging potential dates who earn considerably less than I do. It’s not a particularly flattering thing to write about, but it’s true.
I know that the distance between me and my dates comes as much from me as it does from them. I am beginning to believe that Cheryl Strayed is right, and dating is one long process of looking for the person who has come from the same place and traveled a similar journey, so you can meet each other as true partners.
But show of hands: who else scrolls past potential online dates, or hesitates before agreeing to meet up, because of money?
This story is part of our relationships month series.