Attending to the thundering knock on my apartment door, I’m surprised to see my friend Jeff push by me asking if I had any wine. I didn’t expect to see him because he was supposed to be on a date. I popped a nine-dollar bottle of merlot, and Jeff tells me he cancelled the date because he didn’t have any money.
“When’s that ever stopped you?” I ask.
“I know but I just had a feeling that this guy wasn’t going to pay for the meal. I couldn’t risk the cheque coming and having to confess I’m broke. That’s humiliating,” Jeff explains.
“When’s that ever stopped you?” I ask again jokingly. “Why are you dating if you have no money?”
“Because it’s Christmas, and I’m lonely,” Jeff says topping off his wine.
“If you’re lonely go spend time with your family” I say.
“That’s easy for you to say, you’ve got a man, a rich one who’s taking you shopping tomorrow. You’ve secured a sugar daddy to deck your balls with lots of holly,” Jeff snaps at me.
“He bought me one pair of Armani underwear, you’re exaggerating,” I say, “it’s not like that. He knows I’m a student and I can’t afford expensive gifts. We’re just going to the Eaton’s Centre to crowd surf to a few stores, and he’ll tell me something he wants and vice versa. It will be simple."
Jeff laughs at me. “Sure it will be simple. When he accepts your gift pretending it’s not one-tenth the price of what he bought you. Are you prepared to make up that difference with free gestures and cute surprises? You’ll be working off the guilt by doing dishes and getting up early to make him breakfast in bed. I’ll tell you this because I’m your friend: you don’t have enough money to date this guy without becoming his servant.”
“And you don’t even have enough money to even go Dutch at McDonalds,” I say ushering Jeff out the door. “Go see your family, I’ll call you on Christmas.”
The next day, Flash, the man I’m dating, and I weave our way through the hoards of shoppers in the mall. I buy him the new Swiss Army wallet he wants. After ten more minutes he says he can’t handle the crowds anymore and suggested we leave to get lunch away from the mall.
Outside it’s a blizzard so we take a cab to ritzy-ditzy Yorkville. The blizzard dissipates making it much more comfortable to shop, but for me there’s still an awkward chill in the air. We enter a shop, and while I am still browsing, Flash already has ten things ready for the change room.
He sneaks up behind me and sees the clothes I’m looking at. He orders the store clerk to get my sizes and starts me a fitting room. The young guy quickly comes over and takes the clothes slipping me a wink as if he knew what I was up to.
In the fitting room I check one of the garment’s price tag. It’s $345 for a dress shirt! I panic as pictures of endless nights of dishes and servitude blaze in front of my eyes. I stand up on the bench and look over into the next stall seeing Flash with no pants on.
“I can’t do this.” I whisper.
“What the hell are you doing,” he says startled, “just try the clothes on, I bet you’ll fall in love with them.”
“Are you kidding? That dress shirt is almost as much as my rent! I can’t let you buy this for me.”
“What is your problem?” Flash asks.
“You are, and all of this. You’re my boyfriend not my sugar daddy,” I blurt out.
I suddenly realize that I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to be sucked into this lifestyle, well at least not until I could afford it on my own. “This is over,” I tell him as I make a swift getaway without being pursued because Flash was half naked.
It would be the last time he ever saw me. I know it’s harsh to dump a guy during the holidays, but I was actually doing him a favour. In the long run he was going to save a lot of money.
A few days later I'm headed to the train station to travel to my parents for Christmas. On the way I bump into Jamie and Shawn- a couple I know- coming out of a coffee shop. They lived around the corner sharing a small bachelor apart together and although they didn’t have much, they were always refreshingly cheerful. We greet, and I ask what they had bought for each other.
“Nothing,” Jamie replied “we don’t buy each other gifts at Christmas. Instead we save for our annual trip to Mexico.”
“We hate the stress of it all,” Shawn adds, “worrying about how much to spend or how much you are expected to spend, not to mention the anxiety of disappointing him.” Shawn stops himself, “You probably think we’re crazy.”
“No, not at all. I like that, I get that.”
When we part a light snowfall calmly drifts down from above. I watch them walking hand in hand towards their little hole in the wall, void of presents. Jamie and Shawn taught me something that morning about people that have been dating in our capitalist, consumer driven city. We forget that two people with nothing can give each other everything.
An RT is not enough
1 week ago