Pat Brothwell worries about a future where he is able to provide a woman with the kind of lifestyle he’d expect himself to provide, even though he’s currently single with no prospects.
I guess I’m what you could call a “young 27.” I’m perennially unattached, I travel a good deal and a larger amount of my disposable income goes to my bar fund then I let on to most strangers (yet, here I am broadcasting that over the Internet). In fact, the reality that I am 27 still catches me by surprise from time to time. In a lot of regards I still consider my friends and I to be in the “post-collegiate” stage of our lives when in fact we’re far from it—I just went to my 5 year college reunion this June.
I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that in my group of friends, no one has necessarily “moved on” with their lives. I’m not saying this is a negative attribute in any way. The majority of my friends have done very well for themselves professionally and at the moment are focusing on working and living. Most of us are unattached, most of us are very mobile and there’s no one getting ready to “settle down” anytime soon.
I realize this is merely a reflection of the people I surround myself with, but it is my reality so I’m always somewhat shocked to run into guys my age or younger who are already married with children and the number one thing I always think, largely because I’m a superficial asshat, is “How can they afford that?”
I’ve broached the subject before, with my friends, my siblings and my parents. My friends and siblings are usually more or less on the same page as I am, while my parents simply remind me that it’s just different priorities. What they save up for wedding rings, diapers and the start to a college fund, I blow on international flights, Amazon and saturated weekends with my friends. It doesn’t make one or the other better, but when I think about it in those terms it does make sense. I’ll inevitably say something to the effect of “I’m not ready to give those things up yet,” and my mother will then point out that if I found a girl I really liked maybe I’d give those things up. Usually whenever my mother starts talking about getting me hitched up to a nice girl I start tuning her out (sorry Mom, but you’re aware of this fact) and mostly it’s just because whenever we go down that road we start to argue, but more often than not it’s because I start panicking a little, thinking that maybe, maybe I won’t ever be able to afford to settle down in a way it is traditionally thought of—with the girl of my dreams.
At the moment I live a very nice lifestyle. I make a public school teachers salary, which in the part of Pennsylvania I live in, isn’t as low as people think. It’s perfect for someone who’s 27 and single. Still it’s not completely disposable, and those international flights, large Amazon purchases and weekends with friends require some budgeting and sacrificing in other areas. I rarely eat out, I take weekends off and I don’t purchase a ton of material possessions in lieu of paying for experiences. It works for me, but in order to say, date someone and then down the road possibly propose to someone and marry them, I don’t think it would work for me, or more specifically, I worry that it wouldn’t work for the kind of boyfriend/fiancé/ husband that I would eventually like to be.
Now, I realize that as a teacher it’s laughable that anyone would ever date me for money, and I don’t really go for the super-materialistic shallow type anyhow. In reality, I’m sure that the type of girl I would date, and most of the girls I’m friends with, are the type who wouldn’t mind paying every now and then and wouldn’t have any issue scaling back if cash got a bit tight.
I’m the one who would have the problem. Hell, I’m the one worrying about this and let me assure you, there is no line of women in the wings waiting for me.
I don’t know if it’s societal projection, or just personal pride, or maybe witnessing the sort of provider my father was. Either way, I’d like to be the kind of boyfriend who’d be able to pay for a nice dinner out, a surprise weekend getaway or some really impressive Christmas gifts. It’s weird because part of me realizes I don’t have to, that most women will look past these things, but I want to. I further look at the girls I hang out with and realize and respect the fact that they are financially independent and not looking for a man to pay for things for them. Still, like me, they’re used to a certain lifestyle and I worry that I’d feel inadequate if I wouldn’t at least be able to keep on par with them. I have no problems with dating a girl who makes more money than me. But I’d still want to be able to contribute in some way, and in more than an I-help-with-the-bills-and-groceries-way but in a wow-I-can’t-believe-he-did-that-for-me way and at this point, unless something drastic changes, that’s not in the cards for me.
And don’t even get me started about having a family down the road. I didn’t grow up wealthy by any means. I grew up knowing the value of money but I also grew up with fun family trips and vacations and memories and those things do cost money. I’m already in a way worried about providing comfortably for a hypothetical family that doesn’t even exist.
And I think I just described to you the ultimate first-world male problem.
Photo: Timothy Tolle / flickr