Today’s article is a guest post by LadyHeat.
LadyHeat is a badass lesbian bitch who kicks in the teeth of marginalization. Her experiences of queer isolation and poly in poverty give her a unique viewpoint for today’s post.
Her geeky interests are many and include comics, gaming, and dreaming of being a lady-romancing space pirate.
She previously contributed “Proximity, Social Pressure, and Same Sex Erasure in Polyamorous Relationships.”
And check out what she wrote for Poly Land today:
Dating While Poor Is Difficult, But Doable
I’d been thinking of grabbing lunch out instead of eating my packed lunch. Now I was staring in disbelief at my banking app.
“Available balance: $15.67”.
I scrolled down, trying to understand how my calculations had been off. Something posted late, money I thought had already been taken when I did my planning for the week. Shit.
I opened my Google Calendar app and did some calculations. I had a week to go until payday.
Dinner was tomorrow. I could maybe do an appetizer and a single drink. I couldn’t guarantee I’d have enough for tip, though. And that wasn’t a compromise I felt okay with.
I sighed and opened the dating app I’d been using and messaged my date. “Hey, something’s come up and I can’t make it tomorrow. I know it’s short notice, and I’m sorry about that. Rain check?”
I should have maybe known that a single “ok” in response meant that I was not going to be given the opportunity to try again, but truthfully I wasn’t too disappointed, either. Although I’d messaged her first and given her a call to verify that I was, in fact, a woman, and we’d had the “this is for me, not my boyfriend” talk, and I’d been satisfied with her answers, our conversations were stale and not promising. The spoiled date did shed some light on an issue, however- that my finances were still going to be a barrier to dating.
Invisible Poverty and Well-Meaning Advice
I’d grown up in a level of rural poverty that isn’t quite visible. Not quite living in a trailer, but we definitely went years without cable, and occasionally, hot water, in the summer when it wasn’t dangerous to do so. While we had nice Christmases, the months after were always full of bill concerns. I’d enrolled in college late in life and spent a lot of time there, living with family and using student loans to help keep bills afloat.
Despite reading all the well-meaning advice about cooking your own meals, cutting out little treats to save, and buying in bulk we still struggled.
No matter what experience you are having, there will always be some article writer, politician, or Internet commenter full of ‘helpful’ platitiudes, anecdotes, and advice. Trying to explain to them that these options aren’t accessible or helpful to you for complications they can’t comprehend is often seen as “making excuses,” because everyone has a magic answer, and when you tell them they don’t, they are incapable of simply listening without trying to solve your issues in a few minutes.
Even Little Dates Can Add Up
These attitudes often crept into my dating life, complicating the path to companionship. I’d assumed that when I moved to a city, no longer trying to keep a group of people financially afloat, I’d be much better off but surprise costs crept in. Who knew, not eating ramen a few meals a day really took a bite out of my budget. Longer times in traffic meant more gas was being used.
I also began to notice that little dates, even when we split costs, were eating into my finances.
A dinner and movie and ice cream after would set me back $50. Not a crazy amount, but a chunk of change nonetheless, and in the early days of seeing someone, at home hangouts are not the best option.
Cheap Dating = Event + Food Already on Hand + Free Parking
The formula for cheap dating that wound up working best for me combined an event and a food option. One of the two had to be free for both of us, and by free I mean it did not cost anything, in terms of parking or extra food having to be bought. I found myself getting creative, and coming up with experiences that were adventures for me and my dates.
One time, I took some plastic champagne cups and a couple of fancy deserts home from a work luncheon. I combined those items with some items I had a home. A few days old Costco rotisserie chicken became a chicken salad. I threw in some Aldi cheese bricks slices and crackers and olives. We met near the local botanical gardens and enjoyed a lawn picnic and a long walk after. (cost- completely free, although she used gas to get to my part of town).
One time we went to the local beach and made sandcastles. We then went downtown for dinner and walked to a candy store and bought fancy sodas, and walked the downtown area. (cost- about $15 per person. Parking was free that day as it was after 6.)
One time we went to the art museum and made up stories to go with the artworks. I brought snacks and we ate at a nearby restaurant. (cost- about 10$ per person)
On our first date, we went to a taco place and then went to the metropark where we found a big area to create chalk art.
I found ways to share meaningful adventures with my partners that didn’t cost a ton, but required the other party to be open to playful ideas that might seem, to some, a little silly. These are the best kind of people anyway.