Dating Out of Your Salary Range

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for five years and am comfortable financially. I rent an apartment in West Hollywood, eat at great restaurants, shop at Barney’s and make a six-figure salary. I had no idea until the Facebook Dating Project that this would be such a problem when it came to men.

As a freelance television producer I meet a lot of people through my job, many of whom are men. One night at a happy hour a really cute guy said to me, “I like you so much but I would never ask you out.” “Why?” I asked. “Because you’re the boss and you make more money than I do.” It kept happening. Through the FDP two guys from work knew I was single and available. They told friends that, although they liked me, they couldn’t ask me out because they didn’t feel good enough. I took care of them at work — how could they 'compete' to take care of me at home?

I dated a guy last year that was also a freelancer. We were both unemployed when we met but as the relationship progressed, I kept getting work but he didn’t and it created an imbalance. One night I was out to dinner with him and his previous ex (don’t ask — this was the first problem). She was showing off the Chanel handbag he had bought for her one Christmas and the Louboutin shoes he had bought her just for the hell of it. The only thing he had ever bought me (besides dinner) was a T-shirt from his alma mater.

I said to him later, “You know if I want a Chanel handbag I’m going to buy it for myself.” This was probably the first nail in my independent coffin. Two weeks after he broke up with me, the ex moved in with him. She was 10 years younger, an unemployed cocktail waitress (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and he was supporting her financially. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that I could “lose” a guy to a girl like this.

Back in the 80s we had tragic movies like Basic Instinct, Working Girl and Fatal Attraction that pitted the career girl against the good wife. In particular, Glenn Close and Sigourney Weaver played successful leading ladies. And by "successful" we mean single and bitchy. Just because we make money and can fend for ourselves doesn’t mean we’re nasty, vindictive, murderous women that boil bunnies and kill with ice picks. We’re strong and independent out of necessity, instinct, drive and passion. I was raised by a single mother. What choice did she have but to bring home the bacon for both her AND her daughter?

So what’s a girl to do? Sit back? Pretend I'm a delicate flower? Hide my success? I asked the guys on The Panel (a group of friends from all ages, races and relationship types) if they had ever stopped themselves from asking a girl out because she made more money then he did.

“I have never let someone’s income be the basis of whether or not I ask someone out. I dated one girl a couple years ago that easily made double my salary. Given that she drove a brand new BMW and had a miniature poodle you might think she would be status-driven and/or high maintenance. In reality, she was one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever dated.”— Alex, 31, in a Relationship

“Nothing would have dissuaded me from asking a girl out although if it became evident early in the relationship that she significantly out-earned me (by say, 25% of my salary), it might be weird. Not because I cling to any outdated mores of masculinity but for some guys, we just like to be providers. It might be that her tastes were as base as mine, but I'd imagine otherwise, and feel a little... fine I'll say it, emasculated. There.” — Rodney, 32, engaged

During the Facebook Dating Project several of my friends have told me they couldn’t set me up because they didn’t know anyone "good enough." When I dug deeper, they meant financially. They were looking for a match who was at my pay scale or higher. To this I say — the hell with it. The older I get, the more clear I get about relationships. I’m looking for great love, not great status. In this economy where you endure layoffs and ego hits at every turn, titles don’t matter anymore. But happiness does. Maybe you’re a carpenter, a painter, an electrician or a public defender. But are you happy? Motivated? A hard worker and passionate about what you do? If you answer yes to all of these questions and still only make $10 an hour, I still want to go out with you. But the real question is, are you man enough to go out with me?

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