When Jozen Cummings, 30, lost his job as an editor at Vibe Magazine back in 2009, he was so broke that just the thought of turning on the lights in his New York City apartment made him cringe. He was going to be living on the government’s dime for a while to come, so he knew it was time to cut costs where it’d hurt the most – his love life.
“The reason [I’m putting] myself on a dating hiatus until I find gainful employment is the same reason I’m going to cancel my HBO On Demand subscription,” he wrote at the time. “Both of them are luxuries I currently cannot afford.”
So, he made a pact with himself and posted it online for all to see:
Jozen will not take any woman he meets while unemployed out on a date until his arse gets a job. Women who knew him when he had a job will still, on rare occasion, be taken out to eat or something.
Well, that was all well and good until he eventually broke his new rule. As it turned out, dating without a steady job wasn’t really all that hard.
“Who was I kidding? At the time, unemployment was still a new thing to me and nothing I was used to, thus I presumed dating was out of the question,” he says.
But with unemployment rates still high enough to make lawmakers sweat through election season, it’s safe to say that singles have begun to adjust their expectations when it comes to being wined and dined.
Just ask Thomas Edwards, the 20-something dating guru who launched a career as The Professional Wingman. He has plenty of tips for impressing a mate without digging too deep in your wallet.
“Free date ideas are all around you,” he says. “You can take her out for a walk in the park, go to the mall and “window shop.” You can go into clothing stores and dress up in ridiculous stuff together, or take her to free art galleries. Some museums have “first nights,” where they offer free admission once a month.”
But maintaining a love life while you’re out of a job isn’t just about finding the money. It’s about the challenge of presenting your “best self” to a total stranger when you can’t even convince headhunters to give you a shot.
There’s no way you’ll avoid the dreaded, “So, what do you do?” question for long. To that, Edwards says it’s important not to speak negatively about your situation.
“The best thing you can say is what you were doing in the past,” he says. “Talk about how you realised it wasn’t what you loved and say you’re now focused on pursuing your dream, using it as a way to transition into talking about what you’re actually passionate about.”
Cummings had to make peace with his new unemployed self before he really could throw himself back into the dating scene, he says.
“For five years … I woke up most Mondays (through) Fridays ready, willing, and able to go into the office and work,” he says. “This guy who wakes up every morning and doesn’t go to the office, who doesn’t get a check every 1st and 15th (of the month) is new.”
Jozen shared the ups and downs of dating on his blog, “Until I Get Married” for years. Here are a few of the more creative ideas he’s had:
“The PBS Date” Examples: Museums, classical concerts, plays, aquariums.
“PBS dates, if done right, spark interesting discussion about things other than, you know, our previous relationships,” he says. “Unless (he or she) usually dates curators. Then we’re in trouble.”
“MLK Dating” Examples: community service projects or volunteering at a food bank
Per Jozen: “If a woman is down to get her sneakers on, put a net in her hair, tie on an apron, and fill some plastic bowls with poorly seasoned chicken soup, all for a good cause, she’s a keeper. I don’t know in what world she isn’t.”
“The Soup Date”
A year ago, Jozen decided if women wanted to eat out, he was only treating them to soup.
“The way I see it, not only is this compromise apropos for the season, but it is also economical,” he says. “A really good, quality Pho-Binh noodle soup doesn’t cost anything more than $5.00 in most places that sell them. Throw in a couple of fried won-tons and we’ll be full for the entire night.”
“The Errand Date”
“The reason errand running as a first date is so ideal is because it immediately puts both of us in a comfort zone,” he says. “In my experiences, the most effective way to make her feel this way is by going to Target with her.”
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