You: “Hey, I really want to see you soon. Want to go grab a drink Saturday night or something?”
Your friend: “Ugh, dude, you know I’d love to, but I’m sooOOoo broke right now.”
You, wasting time on Facebook on Sunday afternoon: Click on “Photos” link. See a new album of photos posted by a mutual friend of you and aforementioned friend. See friend tagged in countless photos hitting the bars on Saturday night. (Face palm.)
“Broke,” huh? Pick a dictionary, any dictionary, and when you look up the word broke (in the given context), you’ll find something along these lines:
adjective [predic.] informal: having completely run out of money.
But for anyone between the ages of 13 and 22, the definition of broke is looser than a muumuu.
13 to 17 years old
You are still living under your parents’ roof, hating life, unleashing your hormone-fueled angst. You want to get out of the house and fast. All the stuff you can do for free in your city is wholly unappealing, especially if you’re living in suburbia. You may or may not have a job, which means you may or may not rely on an allowance. (Be honest, even if you have a job, you still beg for handouts from Mom and Pops.)
You log onto the MacBook/iPhone/iPad that you didn’t buy for yourself and check movie show times for the evening. Sweet—The Smurfs movie is playing at 9:00, and it’s in 3D. You have no idea what it’ll be all about, because you have never even heard of the original Smurfs cartoon. But whatever, you just saw a photo online last week of Katy Perry in a Smurfette dress looking foinnnneee—good enough reason as any to go see a movie. IDK, maybe she’ll make a cameo during the credits wearing something equally as tiny = worth the $10+ you’ll pay to see it.
But wait… CRAP. That is $10+ you do not possess. You scour your bedside table, bookshelves, closet, even the dark, forgotten depths underneath your bed, for money. Your findings? Approximately $3.47 in change. Time to belly up to the ‘rents for some cash. But Mom is at the grocery store, and Dad is working late, which means Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags are inaccessible, almost as awful as every bank ever closing at like 5 PM. (Which is bogus, BTW.)
This means you’ll have to tell your cronies you’re too BROKE to go to the movies, and they’ll laugh (behind your back, of course), offer fake condolences, not offer to spot you the money and will rub it in your face on Monday at school that Katy Perry did, indeed, make a cameo at the end wearing nothing but blue paint, like the chick from Avatar.
You are what I’ll call the “dependent broke.” You live a privileged life, but do not have money of your own all the time (or ever), so you are at the mercy of your parents’ wallets. You’re actually kind of broke, but you’re not going to get any pity from anyone. Get a job. Baby-sit a neighbor’s kid or walk somebody’s dog. Seriously.
18 to 22 years old
You are a college student (which almost sums this up in and of itself). You are soooo much cooler than your former middle/high school self. You are mature now. You are an adult. (Or so you think. Adult is another term whose definition isn’t actually a reflection of real life.) You probably even have a part-time job now. (You better.) You aren’t living by the rules of your captorsparents any more, which means you can drink and not have to worry about getting caught. (Well, at least by them. Now you have RAs, campus security and cops to deal with. Which is probablydefinitely worse.)
You are now accountable for your own broke-ness. You can no longer pull the line, “My freakin’ parents, man. They won’t give me anythingggg!” The tricky business about you, though? You are now smart enough to know you can use “broke” in a new way—to get out of things you don’t want to do.
Got an offer for better plans than you previously had for this weekend? Tell the person involved with the original plans: “I’m “too broke” to go to ___________________ (fill in the blank).” You’ll apologize profusely. Make sure to be convincing. Pick up phone. Call person with better plans. Tell them you’re in. Pat yourself on the back. (Okay, don’t pat yourself on the back.) But you succeeded, so kudos you or something. Unless Facebook photos later surface of the plans switcheroo, and you’ve just made somebody feel really worthless. Do you have a heart?
You are what I’ll call the “I’m-not-really-broke broke.” You probably have at least 20 bucks in your checking account. You’d have more than enough to drink for a while at a hole-in-the-wall bar, have a cheap meal somewhere or grab dessert and a cup of coffee ANYWHERE. You just prefer bro bars or want to hang out where there will be a potential for your fiddle to get diddled or something. That’s your prerogative, I suppose. Just own it.