I filter my matches on OKCupid by income (and then by height, of course). If he makes under a certain amount, or doesn’t list it at all, I won’t even see his profile, and that’s probably for the best. My suspicion is that very few women haven’t tried this method at least once, but if they haven’t, all the better for them. Their choice to date men of all income brackets is something that deserves a certain amount of respect, and their choices have no bearing on my own. I also expect that men are filtering me by body type, and by the sex appeal of the first picture they see, and it doesn’t offend me in the slightest. If I want my dates to be over 6 feet and in possession of a lucrative job, they have every right to want me to be attractive and slim. A girlfriend has joked before that I should get breast implants to improve my opportunities, but you’d be surprised at how many men prefer the look of a smaller, natural, shapely breast. In any case, I’m not desperate for change any time soon.
Sometimes they lie, as we all do when confronted with the carte blanche of persona-reconstruction that is online dating. Just like a woman might shave off a few pounds in her description and generously term herself as “average” when she is clearly “more to love,” a man will place himself as making six figures when his second-year consulting job puts him at no more than 90k. It’s the six that sounds good, as much in the zeros as in the dress size. As long as the lie still allows for an approximation of what I was looking for, it’s not the end of the world. After all, with rare exception, I’m not looking to build a life with these men. A minor lie at the beginning of our courtship means very little — except, maybe, that he is crafty in getting what he wants.
What do I date them for? As the title suggests, it’s often dinner. I have a love for the kind of high-concept restaurants with art for sale on the walls and a celebrity two tables over. I like the chefs with profiles in New York magazine, and the dishes that are precariously stacked on vast white plates. But it’s not just dinners. I like the theater, the opera, tastefully decorated lounges where the pretentiously-termed mixologist can make us a cocktail with equal parts lychee puree and quinoa vodka. There is a life that I want to be a part of, and not because of who frequents it, but because of the visceral pleasure it provides. Everything is an elaborate amusement park for the senses, the best of the best, silver dome dramatically removed to reveal your next course.
My job is good, but not good enough to provide this for myself. I enjoy what I do, and I’m good at it, but in my lifetime I doubt I’ll ever go much over 150k a year. With my own money, I can have my apartment and my personal luxuries. I can eat well and never feel like I need anything. When I want some of the whipped cream that I read about in my glossy lifestyle magazines, though, it needs to be acquired by other means. And as my gender condemns me to a lifetime of making less than the men I will date, and being only further punished if I ever decide to settle down with one of them, it makes the most ethical sense for me to use them as a conduit to this way of life.
A lot of the men I date, to be fair, are not looking for much themselves. They want to fuck me, sure, but only in the way they just want to fuck something. They often have high-stress jobs and aren’t interested in settling down and dedicating real time to their personal lives for the next few years at least. (Sometimes I date older men who are tragically, even in their early 40s, still very much in the “I’ll do it tomorrow” mindset of delayed family life. I don’t envy their eventual 30-something wives who are going to have to wrestle a first child out of a man in his early 60s, but that’s not my problem.) In any case, the fact that I am looking to be taken out is often not a conflict of interest. Of course, I very rarely have sex with them — and only when I am personally interested in doing so — but they were never expecting to fall in love.
There are other men who are clearly looking for something, who are interested and assume that by buying me dinner, they are making some future investment in my time and my body. They are deceived, but only in the way we all are when we date someone who doesn’t return our affections. They’ll get on with their lives, and find a girl who wants them for more than their ability to pay for a five-course meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I bid the both of them good luck.
Eventually, I will settle down, I’m sure of it. I’m a firm believer in love, and have had several serious relationships that have fulfilled and changed me deeply. I’m not a sociopath, and there’s nothing about the dating world that doesn’t seem interesting or human to me. It’s simply that life is short, and life as a 20-something with high social value is even shorter, and I intend to use it to its fullest potential. There is only one time in my life where I will be able to fill my calendar with high-cost adventures and never worry about paying for a cent of it. The game is rigged, of course, and likely always will be, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t play it for all you’ve got.