I'll confess: I'm a 30-year-old woman who happens to be royally, fiercely, totally terrible with MONEY, baby.
I'm trying to get better (sort of), but I fear my reckless spending is genetic, and I will be forever doomed to a life of an overdrawn bank account.
As I find myself splitting the check on a date, I'll silently will to the universe, "Please go through, dear MasterCard. Please go through, dear MasterCard. PLEASE go through, you gorgeous piece of PLASTIC MAGIC!"
I'll swig back my wine and be paralyzed with the fear that my credit card is going to be declined. If it does, I'll look like a reckless, free-wheeling, irresponsible loser trapped in adolescence in the eyes of my date. Not an award-winning first impression, kittens.
I come from a long line of smooth-talking hustlers, so I know how to make money. I'm just a terrible, deplorable, awful human being when it comes to the art of saving.
I'm that girl who haphazardly tosses a $20 bill in her purse, and the money manages to flies away. (Not my fault, entirely. My vintage purse has a weak gold clasp and is often hanging wide open, unbeknownst to me.)
I don't even check my bank statement because I can't handle the bitter, dismal realities of adulthood. (I hate reality, especially when it's bitter and dismal).
My financial life is akin to going on a wild roller coaster while blindfolded. I never know when I'm going to soar high and scream screams of glorious thrill, or fall to the bottom and feel my gut fall into my knees.
My financial life is akin to going on a roller coaster while blindfolded.
I can't possibly begin to explain how painful having an inconsistent bank account is, in general.
But how brutally suffocating it is when it comes to dating? Now THAT I can talk about.
I'll be sitting across the table from a really magnetic, fabulous date, enjoying myself as I freely order a $17 side of truffle fries... when suddenly, the fear hits me.
I can feel the chic, art-adorned walls of the restaurant close in around me as my spirit ascends out of my chair and watches my date happen.
It's an out-of-body experience where I'm seeing my body go on autopilot, going through all the date motions, but my brain is elsewhere, anxiously circling the ceiling, stuck in the static air of debilitating dark thoughts.
These are the 10 thoughts I have when I'm not sure if I can actually afford this date:
1. "Did my rent check clear today?"
If my rent check CLEARED, I will be $400 in the hole, which means my debit card will decline, which will be cringingly embarrassing and I will have to leave New York City in shame and immigrate somewhere far, far away like Australia.
It's bad enough when my debit card declines at Whole Foods, let alone on a date with this gorgeous, smart, put-together woman at this gorgeous, sophisticated restaurant.
2. "Oh, whatever. That's what credit cards are for, right?"
Like my fellow irresponsible, heavy-spending friend, Sid, likes to say, "Fuck it, chuck it on the card."
Thank the goddesses up above for creating this beautiful piece of plastic I can recklessly charge dinners I don't have the money for onto.
Fuck it, chuck it on the card.
3. "Shit, I'm maxed out."
I would "Fuck it, chuck it on the card" but my credit card is maxed out. It only had a $350 left, and I exceeded that last weekend when I got hammered and picked up the check at brunch.
Because I'm delusional and think I have money to blow on my friends (most of whom are rich) at brunch.
I can't believe I ordered three glasses of champagne at $17 per glass! And we're only halfway through the date.
Who do I think I am? If my card DOES decline, my date will be forced to pick up $60-worth of my booze, since I clearly have a drinking problem and don't know how to pace myself.
However, they're not exactly pacing themselves either, are they now? They're ordering their fourth gin, and that gin is not cheap, babes...
I wonder if they're rich? The plot thickens.
4. "They're totally rich and totally going to pick up this bill! I have nothing to worry about!"
OK, honey. I wasn't the one who suggested oysters; my date did. I simply agreed, but I didn't initiate the oyster consuming.
Whoever initiates market-priced oysters should be the one to pick up the check. I mean, who is this asshole? They can't go around ordering really exorbitantly expensive oysters and assume that I can SPLIT THE PRICE.
I know I look rich (I make sure I do), but I'm not rich.
And this asshole should be able to see this posh outfit is all a facade!
5. "It was me who ordered the oysters."
Come to think of it, I ordered the oysters. They just agreed to eating them.
I wish I could close my eyes and turn into liquid like that girl from "The Secret World Of Alex Mac."
I'm going to go the bathroom to transfer funds. I think I have some money tucked away in my savings account?
OK, I'm safe in the bathroom now, but there is no goddamn internet connection! Honestly, the nerve of these pretentious bistros to have LOCKED WiFi. Aren't they supposed to accommodate to their guests?
How can you pledge to have "the finest service in the Manhattan borough" without having free, unlocked WiFi? It's 2016, not 1985. And they wonder why Millennials don't frequent this part of town.
I've been in the bathroom 10 minutes now... my date probably thinks I have a cocaine problem. I need to get back to the table.
6. "When did I order that fourth glass?!"
Great. Not only have I been in the bathroom for a suspicious amount of time, but there's also another cold glass of champagne at my seat. Maybe I could return it? Oh, Zara, get a GRIP! You can't return champagne.
Just slug it back. Nothing blurs the reality of life like a cold glass of bubbly. Ohhh, the bubbles sifting down my delicate throat are putting me gorgeously at ease.
Nothing blurs the reality of life like a cold glass of bubbly.
7. "You know, if the card declines, I'll just tell a really great lie."
I haven't told a lie since I was 20. (I actively vowed to stop lying because I realized I was too good at it, and it was making me a terrible, untrustworthy person.)
But you know, desperate times call for desperate measures.
8. "Why am I drawing lie blanks?!"
I guess lying is a muscle that must be exercised, and I'm sorely out of shape. Hmmm. I could say I just got back from Europe, haven't called the credit card company to inform them I'm back and my bank probably thinks this is fraud?
But then I would have to call my bank and my cover would be blown. Le sigh.
I could just feign shock? I could get up and leave? I could say I got a text saying my sister has been committed to a mental hospital and I NEED TO LEAVE NOW?
9. "Or I could just turn to God."
Dear God, It's me, Zara. We haven't spoken in some time, but I'm asking for your help on this fine December evening.
See, I'm on a date with someone I really, really, really like, but I'm about to screw it up because my credit card is going to declined and I will be outed as a loser who can't save money.
No one wants to date a loser.
Please let my credit card go through today, God. If my credit card goes through, I promise to be a more charitable human being.
I'll start reading books to kids in hospitals. I'll make sure I recycle every single time. I'll stop drinking bottled water; I know how bad it is for the environment, and I vow to stop.
Just let it go through! Just this once. I've been such a good girl, God. I promise. Please...
10. "Holy shit, they paid the check!"
All this time I was praying and sweating and panicking, I didn't even notice when the check came! It's been paid for!
God exists! My anxieties are cleared! I never even had to worry about the great decline!
The only thing is, I've been zone out of this entire date worrying about my weak finances, and this cutie looks a little bit, um, bored. Maybe they paid the check to end this boring date?
I wonder what's worse? Being outed as poor, or being outed as boring?
A girl can't win in the modern dating culture, can she?