Thursday, August 19, 2010

Romance on the Dole?

Our eyes meet across the crowded dining room of the fancy restaurant where I'm eating the priciest entrée on the menu. Like me, he's alone. He smiles. I smile.
He's awfully handsome. About my age. No wedding ring on his left hand either.
My mind wanders to the possibilities.
A companion. A romance. Even . . .
True love.
My friends would be thrilled. Since I lost my job last year, I can't tell you how many people have told me that I need to find a man and get married. (Well, maybe I could tell you, but it's starting to be a big number you might not believe.)

I am not kidding. People actually say this to me. Then, they reason, I would not have to worry about a job or health insurance.

Seriously, people? You call that helpful advice?
Skipping the fact that marriage-as-a-ticket-to-health-insurance is a really poor basis for a union (obviously!), the reality is that being unemployed is just about the most unromantic thing in the world. I'm not saying romance is not possible, but who in their right mind can focus on being alluring and fabulous when they have more worries than money?

I'm worried about piling up bills, dwindling savings and that %$@*&# broken clothes dryer. Oh, and let's not forget I am working about 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week to get my new business off the ground. When would I even fit in this romance?

Truth is, right now I'm more concerned with how I can shave another $10 off the grocery bill than whether or not my legs need shaving to look good in some fabulous date dress I can't even afford to buy.

Life on the dole doesn't leave much time (or energy) for flirtation.

There's also the whole issue of access. You're not likely to meet eligible, gainfully-employed, fully-insured bachelors when you lack funds for social events. These days unless he's interviewing me for a job or bagging my groceries, I'm unlikely to meet an employed man.

And, let's not forget my own lack of marketability either. What man with a fabulous job and lots of assets would want to take up with an unemployed woman? (Maybe the kind that would require a pre-nup just to go on the first date?)

The irony? I'm meeting more men than ever because I attend a large job search group. This crummy job market has hit men over 40 much harder than women. Roughly 60% of my local group are men—all unemployed like me. But, about 99% are married. The other one percent are my dad's age.

True, the rare single man near my age might darken the door.

But, if he ever did, he'd be unemployed, too, now wouldn't he?
And, so am I, remember?

Even if Mr. Single-and-Wonderful-Yet-Unemployed walks in the door and locks eyes with me and the bells ring and the chemistry steams up the room, then what?

We could use my cents-off coupons to pack a picnic and head to the park or occasionally hit the $1 matinee at the already-cheap theatre, I guess.
But, many of those on the dole are in worse shape than I am. They may have totally depleted their savings, have never-ending bills or be out of health insurance.

Mom used to tell me, "You don't need a man to be poor with—you can be poor by yourself."

Now I get it.

Being unemployed and almost broke is no fun. Being unemployed, almost broke and taking on the task of bailing out someone else who may be in worse shape than I am could be an unmitigated disaster.

Did all those helpful people who suggested I marry for health insurance consider somebody might want to marry me because I still have a roof over my head and some savings? For those who have hit bottom, maybe where I'm standing looks pretty cushy.

My mind wanders back to that handsome fellow in the restaurant. We smile at each other again. Oh, he is obviously interested.


Reality intrudes.

There's no fancy restaurant, no pricey entrée, no interested bachelor.

It was a dream.

That's what I get for being half-asleep while sitting in my very-early-in-the-morning weekly job search group. I knew I should've gone to sleep last night instead of looking at job postings until 1 AM.

I force my mind back to the speaker's topic—job search tips. Then, I do what I always do after those meetings: I go home, do the laundry, empty the cat litter box and wonder when I'll be fully employed again.

Romance on the dole? I don't think so. 

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Photo Credits:
Wedding Cake: Girl Doing Laundry:

Note: All photos are for illustrative purposes only--author is not pictured.


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