Welp. Some billionaires you never met exploited the under-regulation of asset-backed securities and compelled independent ratings agencies to misrepresent the stability of bonds filled to the brim with equity tranches, so now you’re rocking the nouveau pauvre look with your worthless degree and your crap apartment and whatever that lump is that you can’t get checked out because you’ll never have healthcare, and christ, you probably aren’t feeling all that lovable and attractive right now, right? But don’t despair! That you’ve got the stink of recession on you doesn’t mean a thing; like HPV, everyone’s been affected yet nobody’s stopped banging, making now as good a time as ever to find your special someone. Clear eyes, empty wallets, can’t lose.
Straightaway, unless you’ve got something fascinating to say about clean urine or painkillers, you’re not gonna get much play at the unemployment office. Same goes for all your favorite bars and clubs — believe me when I tell you that the scrunched-up face you make when calculating the value of those $9 cocktails in terms of Totino’s pizzas is not attractive. Dating in the traditional middle-class manner demands middle-class money, and so lacking that, you’re gonna have to explore other options.
Like online dating! You may not feel sexy browsing pictures of singles beside a meth addict and a very-possibly dead old man at the public library, but with a JPEG and a pulse, you should be able to swing a date. Play up your dangerous (read: poor) nature in your profile; choose a username that communicates this, like Renegade, or even R3negad3 — your rejection of non-numeric naming conventions indicating just how close to the edge (of bankruptcy) you really are.
Once you’ve made a connection, invite that special someone out by saying, “I’m going to be doing [whatever], if you wanna come.” Not only does this make you a subtle wordsmith (you cad) and transform cheapskate date locales into something seemingly spontaneous, but also the implication that you were going to spend the day doing [whatever] anyway means you’re not responsible for paying for your date if they want to tag along. You were planning on leafing through the two-dollar book racks at that charming indie bookstore—quipping at the silly titles and cover illustrations—all along; that there’s now a recipient for those remarks only makes the whole endeavor a bit more socially acceptable, not that you, the renegade, ever cared about that.
The Proper Attire
Though you might actually be sleeping on the street, don’t try to actually dress street. You are not hip-hop. That look costs a surprising amount of money, and Jordans don’t grow on trees (I don’t think; I’ve never been to China). Instead, find a mid-range department store with a good return policy and go hog wild! Bury your shame and never wear the same outfit twice! And while you’re there, head on over to the fragrance counter and demand they pour you a sampler bottle; as both you and the clerk know, “individual biochemistry makes finding the right scent a highly personal endeavor, and despite the rave reviews on Basenotes I simply can’t make the mistake of purchasing a bottle without first testing it on a night out.” They will almost always pour a vial that, unless you’re an overweight administrative assistant, will last for months. Suckers.
Think cheap. Figure out activities that are endearing yet inexpensive. You could meet at a Starbucks and spend the day drinking refills and chatting, but let’s try to maintain some semblance of human dignity. Think Rousseau’s noble savage—that’s what we’re aiming for.
Maybe you could cook? Invite your date over for “ironic” (but not at all ironic) Mac and Cheese while the two of you watch VHS movies on your 21-inch 4:3 Panasonic. Say you’re really into “vintage,” whatever that means. If your date seems uninterested, imply they are probably still listening to Vampire Weekend. In 2011. On MP3.
If you actually want to take the cooking thing seriously, remember that the most memorable meals begin with the freshest ingredients. Did you know the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps, to the layman) can be used to purchase seeds for gardening? Now’s the time to hop on the eco-bandwagon by reducing your carbon footprint and raising the rows of beautiful spuds that’ll keep you eating like the Dickensian unfortunate that you are! And if you’re wondering how living a Dickensian nightmare is going to help your dating life, you’ve clearly forgotten how endearing those orphans were – you sexy Oliver Twist, you. Reap and sow! Live the dream of Farmville: Detroit!
Once you’ve got your ingredients, crack open some used cookbooks and invite your date to a low-cost, no-gratuity candlelight dinner. Allow your date to attribute your ebullience to their sterling personality as you ponder how much the candles are saving in energy costs. Put your lips to your lover’s ear and whisper, “I make a great dinner but an even better breakfast,” then under no circumstances allow them to see you eat the leftovers the next morning.
If your living space isn’t fit for visitors and you can’t afford to go elsewhere, pretend to be totally interested in taking walks. Act as though you do this all the time. Stroll through the park or city, allowing your affinity for dogs and babies to reflect a love of the world unmarred by so many passionless people too scared to chase their dreams — let your date know this is exactly what you’re doing, and that your life was a conscious choice not at all a result of the total economic meltdown of your prior career field. If your date doesn’t seem to be getting it, bring out the big guns by “accidentally” dropping a Kerouac from your messenger bag. R3negad3.
Refine your personal narrative. Long a staple of the memoirist, the key is to allow your date to assume you’ve had a far more interesting life than you’ve actually had by being vague enough to convince yourself you aren’t lying. Tell them you went to school but “you know, never finished the JD/MD/MBA because it just didn’t feel right for me” which is an entirely true sentence but allows your date to ascribe to you an ambition and intelligence that you probably never had. Get creative. Maybe frame a Wikipedia picture of an obscure bit of Old World gentry and place it somewhere conspicuous. When your date asks about it, face it down with a disheartened sigh and never speak of it again. Mystery is an aphrodisiac, and who’s to say Prince William doesn’t have a distant cousin who’s chosen to work thirty-nine hours a week at a gas station? I’m just spit-balling here. I know a noble savage like yourself would never lie, but if your date decides you could’ve possibly been a royal surgeon—well, it’s a free country, they can think what they like.
After the Date
Condoms are free; don’t be a jerk.
Look, we all got blindsided by this thing. We all took a stinger. This recession, depression, whatever—it’s been hard on everybody. And I know it can be difficult to feel confident, like you’re something worth giving to someone, when your life isn’t as together as you think it should be. But there’s something about hard times that makes people reexamine what’s important to them, makes them less desirous of perfection and more willing to reach out and make the connection that means they won’t have to face this shit alone. In a less than ideal world, you don’t have to be perfect. We’ve all taken the hit; what matters is how you walk it off. And like any ballplayer will tell you: the easiest way to walk it off is by walking toward first base.