Unidentified employed man, renting his own place in London Fields: “So, what do you do for a living?”
Me, an unemployed woman, living with parents: “Well, normally, I write, but I quit my job in March to go freelance, and I’m kind of freelancing now, but also job hunting! I’m not a lazy person, I swear, I love working! I am very independent too, but you know, COVID happened, I was supposed to move in with a friend, but the pandemic followed, so yeah… I’m so smart though, and I’ve always worked, oh and did I mention that I was independent?”
Since I quit my job earlier this year, I’ve had so much time to reflect on myself, grow as a person, and I flourished beyond my imagination. I focused on my fitness, waking up at 6 am to workout, meditating, cooking healthy meals, and nurturing my mental health.
I was finally in awe with the woman I saw in the mirror. But at the same time, I also noticed that most of my Hinge conversations didn’t escalate beyond exchanging Instagram accounts, and deep down I felt like I knew why. I no longer had a full-time job.
Harvard Bussiness Review found that “unemployment reduced young adults’ self-efficacy whether or not it was accompanied by parental support. Each month of unemployment decreased the young adult’s self-efficacy below the individual’s average self-confidence over the entire study period.”
To show up on a date and to know that the man in question would have more financial authority over me, made me feel anxious. I had become somewhat accustomed to admitting that I live with my parents, but to go on a date, and already feel ‘beneath’ them on the career ladder was not something I could reconcile.
I felt like I had failed 14-year-old me in so many ways already, I couldn’t add this to the list. According to this young version of myself, by 25 I should’ve moved to Istanbul, with my partner – naturally a Turkish celebrity (Çağatay Ulusoy) after he proposed to me by the Boğaziçi bridge. I’d be travelling the world as the CEO of a female-led media corporation, and the owner of several million-pound mansions. Or at least working towards these dreams, some of which may be more realistic than others.
Unsurprisingly, the older I got, my goals in life changed. Politics got in the way of me wanting to move to Turkey, and my enjoyment of single life kept growing. But I did still want that multimillion-pound mansion and to have my own living space.
Aged 14, I’d argue with my mum and exclaim that I’d be moving out of the house as soon as I was 18, never to return. I now woefully giggle at this statement. When I landed my first full-time job on 18k per year, I was ecstatic that I was finally earning a salary and not relying on zero-hour contract work.
I thought, once I hit 20k I’d be moving out for sure. When I did hit that income-range, I realised I’d need to sacrifice a limb to move out in London. Scrolling through Rightmove and noticing my hometown in Old Street was now an area out of my financial reach, I decided to renovate my current room and stay in my family home.
This made me feel more like a grown-up, so admitting to living with family wasn’t a problem anymore. In fact, I started to boast about it – I was a true Londoner and I knew the city better than most people. But admitting to being jobless wasn’t an act I was ready to take just yet.
I’m only 25, and my friends’ always remind me that so many people are currently unemployed, and while I’m focused on finding a job as soon as possible, I’m also dedicated to finding the right job.
The BBC reported that “the UK unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in over three years as the pandemic continues to hit jobs. The unemployment rate grew to 4.5% in the three months to August, compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter.”
I am fully aware that there is no shame in my current situation, and it doesn’t equate to lack of control when dating a guy, but I can’t shake the anxiety around the way my date will view me when he finds out about my employment status.
Perhaps, on top of feeling powerless on a date, I also know that if the tables were reversed, I wouldn’t really want to date an unemployed man. According to research by a dating service, I’m not alone, as “75% of women said they would be unlikely to date an unemployed man.”
The results conclude that women “insist their feelings are not solely based on money. Rather, respondents said they were interested in dating someone who is engaged in an activity.” This suggests that being unemployed creates an image of passivity, which might decrease the sexual appeal of this person.
While I couldn’t find much data on what men think of unemployed women, in this day and age, I assume it’s parallel. Most of us want to date someone who is industrious, ambitious and a high achiever. The connotations of being out of work are the opposite of these, so unless someone knows you well, they most likely won’t associate those attributes with you if you are unemployed.
My friends know me well, they know I’m driven, I have a lot of interests, and I accomplish anything I set my mind on. For years, they’ve seen me prosper creatively, and stay motivated through tough times. They witnessed this first hand, so I have never had to explain or justify myself. But with a stranger, it feels as though I would have to defend my current lifestyle. It’s unnatural to say “I’m a diligent person, I promise” to someone who doesn’t know me.
Feeling inferior in this way adds weight to the idea that I’m weak when meeting my date. Deep down, I know very well this isn’t the case, but I still can’t seem to brush off that feeling. So for now, I am staying away from the dating scene because I never want to prove myself to anyone, especially not a stranger.