Here is my instant message conversation this morning:

Chicagofriend: how are you doin

RelationshipAcademic: I’m ok… grading papers, woo hoo. Yourself?

Chicagofriend: working away

Chicagofriend: staying busy since its end of the month

RelationshipAcademic: nice 🙂

Chicagofriend: something like that

RelationshipAcademic: lol how’s life treating you?

Chicagofriend: things are good

Chicagofriend: just trying to get back on my feet etc

RelationshipAcademic: dating or financially?

Chicagofriend: financially

Chicagofriend: so I can date

RelationshipAcademic: lol I gotcha… I’m there with you on the financial part… being on a budget is hard!

Chicagofriend: so yea, just been laying low

Chicagofriend: trying to do low key things when I can etc

 

As I continued to grade papers and share the usual day drums of desk work with my friend in Chicago, his comment resonated with me. He is on a budget, so he can date? Not that I doubt the validity of his statement, but it saddened me.

After the beginning of ‘The Great Recession’, being frugal became sheik. Web companies like ‘Groupon’, ‘Living Social’, and ‘Restaurant.com’ have found their businesses booming. Yet here we are 2 years into this mess, and my friend has to save money so he can date. There seems to me, that something is wrong with this situation.

There is no doubt that we are stratified as a society. Sociologists use three classifications to determine this; income, education, and occupational prestige. My dear friend makes a very solid income for a 20-something. He obtained a Bachelors Degree from my Alma Matter. And while a desk job in downtown Chicago might not be the most prestigious, I can sure think of a lot of other occupations less prestigious. By all sociological and standard accounts, my Chicago Friend is middle class. He has a nice apartment in a great city. Now, I know Chicago isn’t the cheapest place to live, but he’s doing very well for himself. But yet, here he is, saving money to date.

If the ‘Great Recession’ taught us anything, it is that the frivolous spending of the 1980’s through the 2000’s was not necessary. Many of us shredded credit cards. Most of us evaluated our interest rates. Some of us started clipping coupons. (Although, I still can’t seem to make this one work for me!) And in this car culture that is Michigan, many friends are opting for used cars, instead of the new-every-4-years culture we were raised in. Some people have even started commuting by bicycle. Facebook status updates often gloat about deals and savings accomplishments. Frugal is hot right now.

Then why is it that he is saving money to date? Is it still a bad thing to use a coupon on a date? I belong to a young professionals group, THE hot topic of conversation and email forwards, is the latest deals on dining out and activities. I can’t imagine one of my cohorts being upset by this. But then again, we live in Michigan. Our economy is still one of the worst.

But something tells me that this is a larger issue within the dating world itself. Must we spend a lot of money to impress our new dating partners? Is this a requirement? What is more romantic, a dozen roses, or the one unexpected one waiting for you after a long day at the office?

When I met Mr. Right, we were both living a very good lifestyle and in our chosen careers. But when the calendar year moved to 2009, everything changed. I lost my position in January and he lost his in June. While this was an incredibly stressful time for both of us, we made the best of it. One of my all-time favorite dates cost nothing, not a dime. I was doing research for my Thesis and he was preparing for a certification exam. So we grabbed a blanket, walked to the park, and picked a spot by the pond. That was it. It was 2 hours of watching the ducks and admiring the spring flowers piercing out of the ground while reading. But there was something so purely simple about it, that I remember so well.

Looking back to the dates I went on as part of my field research, it’s not the expensive dates that stand out to me. The Texan grabbed some grocery store Deli favorites and a bottle of wine, and we watched the sunset on the beach. The cage-fighting lawyer and I strolled through small-town Americana and enjoyed a cup of coffee. To be honest, I cannot tell you much about the dates I went on to the fancy dinners, to the expensive shows, or even the nights out on the town. The dates I remember the most were high on thought, and low on cost.

Historically women did depend on men for their financial stability. It wasn’t until World War II that women began working in record numbers. That was only 50 years ago, not a long time in human history. But that is not the modern woman. The women that men desire are; independent, confident, and fun. Those women don’t depend on men, for anything. After all female independence goes beyond attitude it includes outside interests and finances.

The modern ‘Pure Relationship’ as introduced by Anthony Giddens is described as, “a situation where a social relationship is entered into for its own sake, for what can be derived by each person from a sustained association with another, and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it.”

In other words, modern relationships are based on mutual admiration, enjoyment of the individual, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship. Modern relationships do not rely on money, but instead rely on personality and commonalities of time. How is it then, that money still becomes an issue?

I have several female friends who pick up the check most of the time because of financial concerns on their significant others part. In fact, most dating etiquette articles in popular women’s magazines say that this day in age, women should offer to pay. It is very common for most couples to alternate who picks up the tab. Who picks up the tab today, according to etiquette experts, is whomever is best able to pay.

I’m starting to think that some women haven’t caught up to their feminist ideals that we’ve been striving for the last 100 years. You want to be independent, but yet you still expect a man to pick up the tab? Is this a situation of stubbornness or greed? Or is this still clinging to 18th century ideals while living in a 21st century world?

As we all strive for that small piece of the American Pie we always want the best that we can get. There is no need to settle in today’s society. But when it comes to settling, we must look at what really matters, the ‘Pure Relationship’. You cannot build a lasting relationship based on money. (Hello, Hollywood, are you reading this?) Instead the lasting relationships of today are based on what Giddens describes; mutual admiration, enjoyment of the individual, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship. (And if your satisfaction is based on money, start playing the lottery.)

When it comes to meeting and mating we need to revise our standards. We must look at the non-material things like personality, respect, and fun. So ladies of Chicago, please, for everyone’s sake, open up your wallets too. And as for me, I’m off to buy a discount coupon for tonight’s date with Mr. Right. 🙂

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