About a month ago, my closest male friend Dionne Warwicked me and told me rather bluntly that I’m going to be single for the rest of my life. This guy is no fortune teller but one simple item on my list of things desired in a man led him to predict a lifetime of solidarity: I’d like the man that I marry to have the same income as I do. How dare I right?
Now to be completely transparent, in the past I’ve been “involved” with characters who not only didn’t have a pot to piss in, they had to borrow one and likely a few dollars for transportation to return it. And while I have a great income for a single woman in New York City, Sallie Mae owns my behind until 2038 or something like that and I have two more years before a few small debts are completely wiped out. At that point, I won’t be balling out of control, but I will be at a place where savings and discretionary income aren’t an issue and (gasp!) I’d actually like the person I spend the rest of my life with to be in the same boat, rather than on a raft drifting out to sea trying to play catch up.
I really didn’t realize I was apparently asking for the moon and the stars to come together in perfect alignment when I shared a wish that, to me, was rather simple and reasonable — and honestly negotiable at the time. But the more I was forced to defend my soft requirement, first to the friend mentioned above and then to other friends (male and female) whose opinions I sought after our disagreement, I became that much more adamant about sticking to what I want. Firstly, I became rather annoyed with the undertone in my discussions that men are the only ones allowed to have an unwavering checklist of requirements. No one tells men who don’t want to date women with kids to be more open-minded or men who won’t date women on the thicker side to be less superficial. Why all of a sudden is it when I say, “hey, just a thought here, but I’d like someone to come to the table with the same thing I am financially” are my standards suddenly too high?
Perhaps the perception here is that I want someone to take care of me, which would miss the whole part where I said the same income not higher, but because people tend to read their own insecurities into things, allow me to explain. I’m not looking for a one-sided upgrade, I’m working toward financial freedom that would allow me to travel, have a decent savings, and provide for children should I have them and I need a partner who can share the load, not become one of the expenses. I was raised by a single mother, and though I always had everything I needed when I grew up, I certainly missed out on experiences that would have been beneficial to my adolescent development and was left a bit financially handicapped as a young woman, particularly when I graduated from school and Sallie and her goons came knocking. The bottom line is at 29 I’m not trying to go backward and I refuse to believe it’s outrageous to require something of someone else that I require of myself, regardless of the stats people have thrown my way about the median income in America and the statistical probability of someone I meet rising above that.
Of course when any woman raises this issue, the topic also gets convoluted with questions like “well what about the way he treats you?” Oh, I’m sorry is it impossible to meet someone making decent pay who also respects women and treats them well? Didn’t realize I was out here searching for a unicorn. Money and manners are two separate topics. If I can be a decent human being and bring home a decent pay, surely someone with different reproductive organs can do the same. There’s nothing mutually exclusive about either requirement. And yet this morning I came across an article by Terrell Jermaine Starr on The Root in which the single 34-year-old proclaims he hasn’t had a girlfriend since he was a freshman in college in 1998 and has gone as long as five years without sex, all of which he attributes to his income which he admits is on the lower end of the spectrum. Reading his essay immediately dredged up images of Michael Ealy’s character Dominic in “Think Like a Man” being taunted by the wretched Lauren Harris (Taraji P. Henson). Even though I’m a woman who could be considered to be of the latter mentioned’s ilk, I find it hard to believe Starr’s six-figure-earning female counterparts wouldn’t give the debt-free international traveler a chance. While Starr says he only wrote this piece as a definitive answer as to why he has trouble dating, what’s missing from his essay are his own list of requirements for a woman which I hypothesize might also have something to do with his relationship status.
Without knowing Starr personally, I don’t believe his income is the million-dollar answer to his single problem anymore than it is mine. An individual’s financial health is one of those things you typically don’t learn until you’re deeper into a relationship — unless a man is treating you to Mickey Ds on a regular and always disclosing his money woes. That said, I don’t rule out anyone in the dating pool strictly based on their finances. However, as the relationship progresses, I do think it’s important to discuss income and earning potential to see if you’re on the same page as far as financial goals and lifestyle preferences are concerned. Like anything else, there’s going to be compromise and for women like me, we may one day have to decide whether a certain quality of life is more important than a certain person in our life. If we decide the former is the case I don’t think that’s unreasonable. What do you say?