Layoffs And Love

Out of a job? That doesn’t mean you should bow out of the dating game. Believe it or not, this can actually be the best time for you to meet someone. We’ll show you why.

By Kent Miller

imes are tough. The unemployment rate is nearing 10 percent in some states. House prices are plummeting, car sales are way down. But enough of the grim details. Let’s just put it this way: Only the Detroit Lions had a worse fall season (for you non-football fans: zero wins) than the U.S. economy. And at least for the Lions, the pain ended quickly. We’re likely stuck with this economy for a bit longer.

So, then, what’s one of the best things you can do for yourself if you’re an unemployed guy?


Wait just a second, you’re probably saying to yourself. Romance? L’amour? Looking for Ms. Right? That
“A lot of women these days don’t want a man to be a big spender.”
little voice in your head that sounds exactly like Al Pacino in full-blown Scarface mode is roaring, “I’m freaking out here! Would any woman be interested in nothing-doing-from-9-to-5 me?”

As a matter of fact, yes, says Jon E. Grant, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“Men always assume that women think like they do. And the best way to dispel that is to talk to women,” says Dr. Grant. “A lot of women these days don’t want a man to be a big spender. Most women don’t expect that the man will be the breadwinner, who pays for the mortgage and brings home the bacon, like in our father’s and grandfathers’ generations.”

You could say Grant wrote the book on men’s minds, although it would be more accurate to say he coedited it with Marc N. Potenza, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University. Clocking in at 468 pages, the book (Textbook of Male Mental Health) is a state-of-the-art tome on the Y-chromosome mind. So listen up when the good doctor says that one thing men and women think very differently about is unemployment. Emotionally, getting laid off hits men much harder than it does women. “Men tend to identify with their careers much more than women do. They have this deeply ingrained idea that their worth to a woman is in being able to provide,” says Grant.

“I see men in my practice all the time who realize it’s the economy and no fault of their own that they lost their job, but they still feel inadequate,” says Grant. “When they’re unemployed, they feel worthless. And their perception is that no woman would want them.”

Hard as it is to believe, that’s the time to go out and date. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying. When the time is right — and you’ll have to trust your instincts on this one — open up. Not in a calculated, smarmy kind of way, but by being honest that you’re worrying. A lot. “Talking about the fact that you’re scared can make you more appealing. A lot of men put on this facade that everything is fine. And deep down, women know this is kind of BS anyway… it can be a way to make yourself more attractive to women.”

Grant’s thoughts struck a note with me. A couple of years ago, I decided not to
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying.
move with the rest of my department across the country to Manhattan. In a typically guy way, I cracked wise: “No way am I gonna become a Yankee fan!” Deep down, though, I was petrified. Twelve years of drawing a steadily increasing paycheck from my corporate home. Who will want me now? I worried.

But as they say in 19th-century novels, fortune smiled upon me. Just as I got pink-slipped, I started dating this fantastic woman. While a thousand times I must have said to myself, I’m a loser, the thought never crossed Pauline’s mind. She was very supportive. And after about six months of looking, I did find a job.

Whether you’re gainfully employed or just looking, I found the basics of dating are the same. I quickly figured out that if my day consisted of 1) rolling out of bed, 2) brushing my teeth, 3) helping myself to a heaping bowl of Yummy-Os, 4) emailing a few job applications and, finally, 5) brushing up on my napping skills, well, I probably wasn’t going to be the most scintillating company when evening rolled around. So I got out of the house. I swam. I cooked, which not only saved serious money, but led to the astounding discovery that I can make pizza better than any I could have had delivered.

Says Grant: “Look at unemployment as a way to take chances and do things you’ve been thinking about but never gotten around to. Think of this as an opportunity to enhance other parts of your life. So exercise, or if you’ve ever thought of going to an art museum, go do it. Call up old friends. Start new hobbies that you’ve always wanted to. Of course, you must always manage your money, but a lot of hobbies don’t cost very much. If you’ve ever been curious about foreign movies, now is the time to go to the library and check them out. Take a class. Take practical steps to enhance yourself for when you are ready to go back to work and become a workaholic again.”

And above all, don’t give up on yourself just when you need the encouragement the most.

Kent Miller is currently writing a novel. His articles have appeared in Nintendo Power magazine, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The San Francisco Chronicle and The St. Petersburg Times.
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