When I tell my friends that the last time I had a girlfriend was during my freshman year in college in 1998, they respond with disbelief.
For them it’s bemusing to fathom that a man who is well-traveled, gainfully employed, bilingual, degreed, childless, not living in his mother’s basement and debt-free could go 16 years without being in a relationship and years at a time without having sex. What people don’t understand is that my income isn’t as high as many would expect, and it makes me feel insecure about how women may view my current professional station in life.
I only began working full time in my 30s; I spent all of my 20s traveling around Eastern Europe—mainly through Peace Corps, Fulbright and language study-abroad programs—and earning degrees. I consider myself a very late bloomer who has just recently realized I can make a living keystroking breaking-news stories and Brooklyn Renaissance-ing my way into a literary career. As intellectually fruitful as my 20s were, my worldly and academic sojourns did little for my bank account. All my education and travel were fully paid with scholarships, so I guess that means something.
But I wasn’t climbing any corporate ladders and adding zeros to my salary year after year during my 20s, like most women my age were doing, so I find myself financially incompatible. I can’t say that I’ve dated dozens of women who’ve told me as much, but my female friends have given me the impression that someone like me doesn’t bleep on their “He is dating, and perhaps marrying, material” radar.