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How to Be Young, Poor and in Love

A hopeful guide to a life less lonely.

by Robert Foster, Illustrations: Sam Taylor
30 August 2013, 1:10pm

Ah, to be young and in love. To rub it in the faces of the lonely wankers and one-night stand brigade, letting the world know that you've replaced STDs and MDMA with PDAs and DMCs. It truly is the dream. But the course of true love ne’er did run smooth, and as a struggling twentysomething in this unpleasant economic climate, you’re as likely to be held back romantically by dire financial straits as you are by your plain features and abject charmlessness.

Thankfully, help is at hand. I've decided to exploit the fact that I'm almost certainly poorer, uglier and less charismatic than you, and bring you a guide to finding love when you have nothing to your name other than a baked bean tin full of coppers and a lonely, disgusting mattress you found by the side of the A40.

Here are some gold-encrusted advice bullets to see you through, presented in as unisex a format as possible.

Before You Really Get Going, Work On Your Self-Esteem
As any oligarch, social media shareholder or rapper will tell you, broke people's biggest problem is that weird "low self-esteem" thing they all seem to have. People with no money tend to feel helpless, worthless and listless, but it's not inextricably tied to penury. Look at Morrissey – he's rich and famous and lives in LA and he's still miserable because he can't get any. This is all the proof you need that it's all in your head. You’re not going to pluck up the courage to drop grade-A bon mots on the object of your affections if your inner monologue is filled with regret and self-hatred, so let's address this:

Let’s assume that you’re in your late teens to mid-twenties, are either an intern, a student, unemployed, a "creative" or a "creative" who works in a pub. Look closely, those are all positions of potential energy – the best is yet to come. In effect, you chose the Left Hand Path at some point, and it's probably a safe assumption that you’re now at least 10 to 30 percent more interesting than the shitmunchers and drones you went to school with. Fuck it, you probably don’t scrub up too bad either. So you’re fine, you’ve got lots to offer – yes, even you can find love. So go get ‘em, champ!

Free Internet Dating Is Shit, Don’t Do It
Having established that you’re not the absolute worst, you’ve still got to go out and meet someone. This can be tricky, and the temptation will be to join an online dating service. However, the wholesome marriage material who spend £25 a month on sites like eHarmony and Match are wholesome marriage material because they’ve lived lives of hard work and moderation. Some might say it's weird that you'd pay to meet people; others might say it's just pricing the freaks out of the game. Don't concern yourself with that though, you're poor and alone, arguing about the ethics isn't gonna get your end away.

What you're left with are the free sites: the likes of OKCupid or Plenty Of Fish. The folks on OKC are, well, they’re like you: they’re bored, skint, horny chancers who like drugs and not turning up to places on time, and POF is just people with other people's names tattooed on their necks. In short, neither group are the type you’d want to take home to meet your mother. The eHarmony/Match crowd might think all songs sound better on a ukulele, but at least they don’t go through three grams of K a week. If you want to meet people and you can’t afford to pay to do that, go to a house party.

Don’t Be a Negative Nancy
This is how you imagine you’re coming across: the protagonist in a Douglas Coupland novel, filled with a zeitgeist-capturing ennui and a pithy, wry way of looking at the world. You're Palahniuk at his most acidic, Nietzsche at his most Nietzschean, Draper at his most don. You despair of your situation, you despair of humanity and you’re dynamite in the sack.

This is how you actually come across: a sad sack unemployable dickhead that people at the house party aren’t interested in burning one of their weekend evenings hanging out with. When you’re skint, you don’t have much to offer in what PUAs probably call "a seduction situation". If you’re not buying drinks or giving bumps out freely, you’re gonna have to rely on things like “funniness” or “being engaging”. If you’re not 100 percent sure you’re capable of making "down on your luck" seem fun, just forget about your own life and riff on people’s bad shoes or something.

Go HAM On the First Date
From this point on, let’s assume that you met someone at a house party, you hooked up a little, they’re nice, their clothes smell nice and you can picture one day owning a cat with them. Here in the UK, it used to be that "dating", as an activity, didn’t exist. We just slowly mashed each other's lives together until we'd forgotten who we really were and got too scared to leave our literal Other Halves behind. But globalisation also applies to genitals, and as much as we’d all like to skip to the part where you spend evenings in riffing on exploitative Channel 4 documentaries together, you’ve got to make it through the blue-balled, fart-holding-in contest that is American-style dating first.

Here’s our advice to you, the poor person, for that crucial first date: fuck it – you like each other, you’re excited and you don’t have anywhere to be in the morning because you’re incapable of managing your own life. Frugality is not sexy. Drop 50 quid on a shit ton of booze in a nice pub and a funny drunk kebab together on the way home, be more sexually progressive than you told yourself you would be, burst out laughing and talk till dawn. You’ll wake up even more skint, but it won’t matter, because you’ll have found a little shipmate with whom to navigate life’s stormy seas.

Keep a Tidy House
You’re too modern to put a label on it at this stage, but you’re obviously having a "thing" with this person now. You’re hanging out a lot but have you noticed that hanging out tends to happen, 9 times out of 10, at their place? That’s because you’re a povvo and you have a gross house; there’s mould in the bathroom, rats in the kitchen and turds in the unflushable toilet. This isn't all your fault – if you’re living in a major European city, you’re living like an animal until you’re paying £550pcm, that’s just a fact.

So how can you make it so that your newfound beloved doesn’t feel like they have to put their shoes on to walk to the bathroom in the night? Well, it turns out that you can polish a turd, when the turd is your house and the polish is you cleaning it. And if you can only face doing your depressing little room, picking your fucking shit up off the floor will make the place much less ghastly. Get some bright lightbulbs to help lift the gloom and – without wishing to sound like the mother you left behind in the home counties – make your bed. All of this will help you get your head together and make the set up 1000x more inviting.

No Leeching
Despite socialised medicine and a resurgence in the popularity of workwear, we're still some way from the conditions of Stalinist Russia. Given all of the free market capitalism going on at the moment, even if both of you are poor, one of you will inevitably be poorer than the other. The temptation will be to invoke one of the tenets of Stalinist Russia, and assume that your partner wants to share their wealth with you. This is a nice idea, and it's also nice to share things with your partner, so by all means go for it. But let's not forget the teachings of the great philosopher Ayn Rand, who taught us that people who are held back from reaching their financial potential end up wanting to kick their leeching partner out of the fucking flat. No one likes Blake Fielder-Civil for a reason.

Don’t Hang Out All the Time
Have you any idea how annoying the overuse of the word "like" sounds? No? Well, trying hanging out with you for 16 hours a day. Millennials' intonations and ticks are probably the most annoying of all time. What did people say too much in the 1950s, "bare swell" or something? Doesn't grate half as much as our US TV valley-isms, does it?

Netflix
We’ve all got grand plans for how we’re going to spend our time together when we enter into a relationship, and certainly, trips to Brighton might happen at a push, but lettuce be cereal: you can forget about gallery days and learning to rock climb together once you're past the four-month mark. If you’re in your early twenties and in a major city, a good 80 percent of your time together is going to be spent getting really into TV shows.

However, if you're poor you probably won't have a big screen to hang out in front of together while growing fat on Chicago Town pizzas. So you're gonna have to stream everything off your shonky 36-month-old laptop with the missing Escape button like the rest of us. If you're skint, I'm sure you've been resisting Netflix, but how many times are you going to hunt down all those infuriating fucking pop-up Xs and wait for buffering before you realise that 6 quid a month is fuck all for guaranteed TV? Think of the hours of eye rolling, bickering and looking like a deadbeat in front of your partner while you wrestle with your shitty computer you'll save.

Plus, if you just go to mediahint.com and install it on Chrome, you can access the American Netflix for free. You're welcome, everyone.

Don’t Do Drugs Together
This should really apply to all couples, on the breadline or not, but as with most relationship problems, this is only exacerbated when the parties involved are broke. Taking drugs is obviously the funnest thing ever, but have you never seen an episode of VH1's Behind The Music? Generally speaking, drugs lead to disagreements later down the line. For example: "You took all the drugs!", "No I didn't, that was you!", "No it wasn't!", etc, and also "Stop taking drugs so we can talk about our problems!", "No, I'd rather take drugs!", etc.

When this situation is compounded by poverty, the drugs become more precious, the rows more unpleasant and the fallout more severe. You'll definitely break up – Leif Garrett-style hatchet-burying reunion in 25 years' time notwithstanding. 

‘Date Night’ Is a Bad Idea
Obviously Netflix is the backbone of any modern relationship, but you do have to do nice things together occasionally, because it's fun to have fun. However, reserving a day a week to spend time with each other is awful for the same reason anyone sane hates organised sports: enforced, time-allocated fun is never as fun as actual fun. Which, by definition, is spontaneous fun. When you're both working shitty jobs or not working at all, the last thing you want to do is drag yourself to a mid-priced eatery to agonise over which of the lower-tier mains you can afford and then stare into space while you wait for it to arrive because you're fretting about rent money. And all because a while ago it was decreed that Thursday night is "date night".

It's totally pointless to stick to rules that make your life miserable – what are you, Mennonites? Structure is for recovering alcoholics, just try to enjoy yourselves when you can, because when you're working a decent job and going sailing in Devon every weekend with your wife, you'll look back on these kind of relationships the same way Henry Rollins looks back on touring with Black Flag: gnarly emotional journeys that prepared you for adult life, taught you self-sufficiency and helped you develop the team skills that keep a real relationship alive.

Illustrations by Sam Taylor. Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at samtaylorillustrator.com.

Previously:

How to Be Happy, Young and Jobless

The VICE Guide to Adulthood

A Big Night Out at... the Worst Club Night Ever?