1 I'm Not Saying I'm a Gold Digger, But You've Got to Be Able to Buy Your Own Beer | The Billfold

I’m Not Saying I’m a Gold Digger, But You’ve Got to Be Able to Buy Your Own Beer

Not long ago, I accepted an invitation out for drinks with a guy I’d recently been introduced to via a mutual friend. He was unfamiliar with Brooklyn, so I suggested a spot midway between our two starting points.

One round in, having made a move for the second, he took out his wallet, apparently to show me what he was packing. It clearly wasn’t enough to cover his portion of our modest happy hour tab, and I hadn’t even seen the bill. To add to his own insult, he couldn’t use a card, because as he proceeded to tell me, “it’s been giving me trouble lately.”

I did what any self-respecting, jaded single would do: guzzled my full pint of beautiful brown Stout, smacked down a twenty and a tip and gestured toward the door, mumbling some nonsense about it being nice chatting with him. As I turned, I heard him say those three words every girl hopes to hear while sprinting toward her exit: “What, no kiss?”

In my grandma’s days, it would have been easy to spot the freewheeling, free-riding kind. She employed a two-point checklist on the matter: A Good Man need only present himself with a well-tailored suit, and a college degree. In her repression-era days, both signified dollar signs. But these are modern days. And this is Brooklyn! This is a modern place where modern people spend money on looking poorer than they actually are. Less repression, more recession means that Grandma’s two-point checklist is no longer a barometer for approximating wealth.

Brooklyn’s blurred status symbols have some definite perks—everyone looks broke! We’re all so cute in cutoffs! But as my grandma would surely want me to point out, it makes it damn near impossible to find a suitable companion for Friday night dinner. (By suitable, I mean someone who’s not trying to get into my pants and take them with him the next morning. If you don’t believe me, ask Google. It happens.)

Unlike the comfy ‘burbs or some other magical universe where unicorn meat is sustainable and cheap, the broke-ass dude is a fixture in a city like New York, where the pinch of our pockets serves as a common denominator, rallying cry, and subject of so many trendy New York Times think-pieces. You’ve heard the one about the guy who “forgets” his wallet or can’t pay his way due to a vague strain of “bad luck.” Then there’s the guy who never invites you back to his place, not because he’s polite or housing an embarrassingly large ant farm, but because he literally doesn’t have a home to bring you back to. Neither, apparently, does he have access to towels or Oreo’s because that is exactly what turns up missing from your place after he disappears.

Guys like this survive—better even, they succeed—at dating for lots of reasons. And I hate to say it, but I’m one of them. Probably not the only one either. Like some weird seven-eyed spider, these guys have proudly spun their haplessness into shamelessness; because even as an explicitly broke jerk, they’ve still managed to get a date. And by date, of course I mean sex.

Remember TLC’s “No Scrubs?” The late-90s pop song-cum-PSA which immortalized the type and provided tags for identifying one? In case you don’t, here’s a reminder: a scrub is someone who hangs out of his best friend’s ride, lives with his momma, and most importantly, “can’t get no love from me.” No love! So I ask: What happened to this zero-tolerance policy? Instead of left-eying Mr. Scrub, many women seem to have grown extra sympathetic to his plight. Because, crappy as it is, it’s a lot like our own.

I’m not here to explain broke-ass dude, or to tell him to get his act together. That’d be boring and reeking of something old and jaundiced. Plus, like I said, I’m not doing that much better. No, this one goes out to the women; the ones who go out with him. And not just once or twice. But three or four times. For an entire season of Walking Dead. For the time it takes you to read Infinite Jest in tandem. The women who cover his tabs and excuse him never being able to cover his own. The women who, in whatever way, contribute to his romantic success with other women. While it doesn’t make you responsible for his behavior, it’s not helping either. Like it or not.

For the record, I don’t like it. I’ve never been a fan of The Rules (just acknowledging “The Rules” makes me feel like an asshole named NEEDS-A-MAN-TO-MARRY-MARY). I have to admit that this broke bit works for a reason, and it’s not because women like me are too lazy to find a registered 501(c)3 to throw money at. It’s charming. Romantic, even. What youngish single woman with semi-creative sensibilities doesn’t get a tiny boner at the idea of a starving artist, even if they’d never admit it in front of a panel of peers? These guys are nothing if not intriguing. Because, let’s face it, before they met you, they’d had no idea where they’d be sleeping tonight. All I’m saying is that we need to get a little more honest with ourselves. A 30-something drifter with vague employment history and an Olympian ability to volley the tab on a date does not equal material for your future memoirs, just like it doesn’t ensure transnormative sex, or a glimpse into the psyche of Jackson Pollack the Second. It’s something else. Maybe no less interesting. But something else.

If by this point, you’re thinking your grandma has hacked this piece, it’s because I now believe in what my own grandma had (somewhat subversively) tried to tell me. Below all that smart style, there must be substance. And that doesn’t make me a Stepford shrew or a gold-digger. I’m just barely holding out for bronze.

So many of us are a bit addled by our penniless pathos right now. We’re got broken lights or no furniture to sit on, a bill or two that’s a day closer to being overdue. Most of us have better things to spend our petty cash on besides bitter cocktails with someone we’re not even sure we like. But that’s okay, as long as the burden of being cheap can be shared. Your broke act might be cute, but it’s not special, it’s not compensation for the two beers you just ordered, and it’s definitely not the way to get your damn kiss.


Karina Briski lives in Brooklyn. Photo: apol3


28 Comments / Post A Comment

KatNotCat (#766)

If it’s your first date out with anyone you should be ready to pay your own way– no matter your gender, no matter the circumstances, no matter if it’s a non-romantic friendship “date.”

P-Bomb (#1,032)

@KatNotCat No, he couldn’t even pay for himself. See: “It clearly wasn’t enough to cover his portion of our modest happy hour tab, and I hadn’t even seen the bill.”

KatNotCat (#766)

@P-Bomb I understood that–Im saying his behavior is unacceptable for any one in any similar circumstance. Who goes around expecting strangers’ to cover their ass? I don’t care how people ultimately decide to split a bill, but you should show up with the expectation that anything could happen and you might have to foot the bill.

I do think the “I can’t use my card” excuse was bullshit though.

swirrlygrrl (#2,398)

@KatNotCat I’m sure his card had been giving him trouble lately as there was no cash in the bank, and no overdraft protection. *gah* Dating while poor is fine – you just have to be more creative. Dating while a mooch? not cool.

homotextual (#897)

Not to troll, but this is a really long, really elaborate, and really unmoving way to make a really obvious point. (Really.)If you’re trying to be a writer: take more risks, get to your point quicker, and think about engaging language. Also I don’t think I want to live in a world in which ‘no scrubs’ isn’t a universally known pop culture given.

I really enjoyed her writing and approach to a basic subject.

editrickster (#279)

@Reginal T. Squirge Yea, me too. I’ve dated that scrub (no job, living with mom, no car), but it took me a while to figure it out. Newsflash, former editrickster: he was never going to grow up!

I feel like this could be a companion piece to the hot mess article from a while back: http://thebillfold.com/2012/04/girls-and-the-hot-mess/

@homotextual @homotextual The author of this piece obviously forgot to address the crucial Internet Users Who Go by Homotextual demographic.

jfruh (#161)

Not to take anything away from this but when I saw the headline in my RSS reader I thought it was “I’m Not Saying I’m a Gold Digger, But You’ve Got to Be Able to Buy Your Own Bear” and that would have been a MUCH DIFFERENT article.

Also I am ashamed to report a date I was on — one of my last before I met my now-wife — in which I realized walking out the door that, though I had a respectable amount of money in the bank, I had no cash to speak of, and so as an emergency backup grabbed the film canister in which I kept like $10 worth of laundry quarters. Naturally, the bar where we met turned out not to take cards. My date ended up paying just to avoid us both the embarassment of paying with a huge mound of coins.

KatNotCat (#766)

@jfruh A bear? Ugh, I don’t give it up for anything less than a tiger-owner.

@jfruh Film canister?! OLD MAN ALERT! OLD MAN ALERT!

Wait, so what are the perks of rich people masquerading as poor people?

KatNotCat (#766)

@Reginal T. Squirge Thank you.

Niko Bellic (#311)

@Reginal T. Squirge Not looking like an asshole (formerly known as “douchebag”) would be one of them.

wee_ramekin (#1,246)

@Reginal T. Squirge

Toooooo…escape the pressures of palace life…?

jimz (#1,463)

Jeebus! Just thinking of how many multiple rounds I’ve bought on GROUP dates…And without throwing out, “What, no kiss?”

WaityKatie (#1,696)

I recently went on a date with a guy who had just a couple weeks prior moved to NYC with no job, no place to live, knowing no one, and…the worst part…liquidated his 401(k) to move here. Now, I always go into dates expecting to pay my own way, but when he offered to pay for one of my drinks it caused me so much anxiety that I just couldn’t even let him do it. I can’t let someone spend money he doesn’t even have on buying me a beer. When he pulled out a credit card to pay for his share, more anxiety!

This guy’s situation just distressed me so much that I couldn’t even conceive of dating him, because, what am I gonna do, pay for everything, like his mom? Or, let him pay for his own stuff knowing that I’m contributing to him going quickly broke, whilst I have a job and an apartment and a functioning 401(k)? I mean, people make their own choices, and I never thought I was in any way budget conscious (my budget would certainly beg to differ on that one) but…that is just too much.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@WaityKatie Props to you for knowing yourself well enough to cut that short.
But you wouldn’t have to feel guilty, really, about him draining his 401K – he is doing it right now – he’d already made that choice before he even met you. You aren’t contributing to someone going broke if they’re only paying for their own meal.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@TARDIStime Yeah, I know, but…beer and going-out related expenses are optional, and I would feel bad being the cause of someone who doesn’t have any money spending optional money. And I mean, it’s nice to treat each other sometimes, y’know? But I could never feel comfortable letting someone in that position treat me. So I’m back to feeling like his mom.

skinjob (#2,502)

Do you mean Depression, not repression?

It literally makes no difference to me whether a girl is rich or broke.

cashbox (#2,506)

@Danny Denim@twitter That’s just your penis talking. And you probably never dated a rich girl who showered you with gifts or money.

@cashbox You’re right, my brain prefers rich, but my penis doesn’t care either way. Fuck, I’m shallow.

cashbox (#2,506)

Mad at price of beer? Complain to the bar owner or save your money by slipping out the back. Then stay home, buy a vibrator and wait for Daddy Warbucks. Need a better dating pool? Become a paralegal, nurse or work in financial services. Better yet, just give up on finding “Mr. Right” and get into yourself, read some books, take a class. Just please stop whining. Become a stripper, then you don’t have to worry about men not having a dollar for you and you don’t have to kiss anyone. We love strippers.

So you’re saying you want the Oreos back?

.abbey (#2,509)

Can you go out with a “scrub” and completely not notice? Last year, I was out at a club and I bumped into a guy I knew from college. We got on well, and I bought him a couple of drinks – I had money, he didn’t, no big deal. He asked me out for a coffee a few days later to “pay me back” (get the shiiiift). I was all for it! So we went for coffee and afterwards he was like “Ugh I SO want to contiune spending time with you but I’ve no more money :(” At this point it was about seven thirty or so and I was also enjoying myself so I said not to worry, I had money, I’d get us a few pints. Mutually beneficial! We both get to spend more time together, and I have cash!

This kind of thing kept happening and I kept on just thinking “Oh well! We’re all students!” until one night me, him and my flat mate all took a taxi home together to my place. It was about three am, in the DEAD of winter, I was very drunk, and he lived properly out in the country side – about an hour’s drive away, and no public transport to get him there. We lived a ten minute taxi journey away, so this was obvious. As the taxi pulled up, the fare showing itself to be ten quid, and my flat mate asked him for two and he replied, “Oh, I hope you know we’re not splitting this three ways? I mean, I’d have been happy to walk back here, you know. It was you guys who wanted the taxi.”


cashbox (#2,506)

Wait, I think I get the gist of this article now. Being poor is just a pose or a cynical ploy to get some. It would be better if you could just read a man’s wealth by his clothes. Poor guys are really “surviving” by having sex without having any money (assholes!). If only women would stop having sex with them they’d figure out what shiftless little worms they are and that they need to get a steady income. Damn those sluts for making his ego so big and confidence so intoxicating. Now I get it. Final note: Women earning 75 cents to every dollar a man earns doesn’t sound too bad if your buying your respect (hers and yours) for that quarter.

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