A few months ago, I wrote a piece for a website that now seems to be defunct asking if love was a luxury. The piece was my response to a comment I got on a script I submitted for a contest. I got some good feedback for the script, but one of the concerns of the committee was the fact that my characters appeared to be working class but did not seem to be struggling with foreclosure and other issues that are supposed to plague the working class. Given that I had seen Blue Valentine by the time I got the feedback, I did and still assume that this committee gave that comment based on the fact that at least one person in the couple is clearly black.
As a black woman from a working class background and current reality, I often think about the role of love in my life. By my mid-30s, I have to reflect on the fact that I have spent practically my entire adult life single. I also have to consider the very real possibility that I may remain single for the rest of my life. I’m aware that some may look at this as part of the “black women are all single and unmarriable narrative,” but it is my own personal situation as one cishet black woman.
The point of this is not self pity. Rather, I am considering the ways being working class and in my current situation affects the ways I live my life and how I (don’t) interact with people. Quite frankly, money plays a very huge role in limiting my social activities as well as why I am not more active in seeking a suitable life partner. I don’t like to be around others when I have no money to spend and I don’t want to think about dating when I can’t pay my own way.
This presents a contradiction for me. I absolutely hate media that suggest that women who struggle with finances in life should not focus on their love lives or other emotional needs. I see it a lot in books in which a woman starts out in the working class or otherwise has lots of debt but cannot be with the man she loves until she somehow finds herself in a better financial situation. I hate this narrative because it tells women that they cannot be in love and financially unstable (like most people are) at the same time.
Yet, when I approach my own love life, I follow this narrative much more closely than I care to admit. Ideally, I would like to be with a partner on equal footing in as many aspects of the relationship as possible, but that seems difficult when I feel I have nothing to offer. Furthermore, as a heterosexual woman, I have to worry about how such gender disparities can be seen. I come across a quote every once in a while that says men are afraid a woman is fat and women are afraid a man will kill them. After dealing with men who feel free to put their hands on me in intimate ways after speaking to them for a few minutes or treating me to a bottle of water, I feel completely justified in fearing what a man feels he is owed if he buys me dinner or takes me to a movie.
Considering I actually left the security of my family two years ago when I came to Madison, I worry about depending upon anyone else when it comes to my well-being. I don’t worry so much about being perceived as a gold digger or anything of the like, especially since the few guys I have “dated” have been at least as broke as I am. However, it’s difficult to be with someone when you’re not sure if you can share all your life with him, every little small detail no matter how ugly or realistic. If I can’t be comfortable with sharing my financial situation with someone, I shouldn’t share anything else in my life either. Furthermore, if he doesn’t want to deal with all the messy details of my life, then he’s not worth sharing my bed.
I know it’s different for those who are outside of monogamous relationships, but I personally don’t believe in polyamory or a friends with benefits type of situation. If someone can make that work, then good on them, but that’s not what I want in a relationship. I also know that my situation is largely a product of my own hangups, but I have the right to self-protect even if that means taking precautions in whom I meet and trust, keeping people at arm’s length until they feel right. In any case, I should not have to settle for anything less than what I want, especially at this point in my life.
Maybe I’ll get over the whole “I’m too broke to date” thing at some point, but right now I don’t see it happening. My misery does not like company and other people do not guarantee that misery will go away. It’s difficult to tell yourself that finances do not truly equal worth when dealing with other people on intimate terms. Yet, I’m still not sure what to tell myself in this regard. I may eventually learn, but that day isn’t today.