I thought I felt awkward when my friends started offering to pay for the small, unnecessary luxuries we normally shared. “Rachel, really, I’ll buy you a yogurt.” I explained, laughing, or daydreaming about the mango and brownie crumble topping, that it wasn’t really about ME not spending money, it was about not taking things I don’t need. It was about considering how I use resources and meditating on social justice. I reassured her; “I don’t think I’m fat,” and she decided it was okay to let me continue on my money fast, frozen yogurt covered in mango and chocolate brownie-less.
I hadn’t really met awkward until a week later. A first date. Eek! I said yes. How exciting. A great distraction from child abuse and cognitive behavioral therapy, topics permeating my masters in social work program. Then, it hit me. No I cannot go out to dinner with you, or see a movie, or play pool. Those all require spending money for things I do not need.
I paced campus with dear friends on our class break. How do I say this and not sound weird? How do I explain that I’m a progressive, social justice oriented Christian-before a first date? Lent can be so dark. Suggestions came. “Give it up for one night.” But the one that stuck was, “Rachel, you don’t want to be with someone who wouldn’t think that was cool anyway.” Right. Okay. So…I wrote an email. It said something like “yes, I want to hang out. I’m doing this social justice, analyze consumerism thing. So I’m not spending any money I don’t need to. Want to not spend money with me?” I’ll tell him about the Christian thing tomorrow.
Huge sigh of relief when he wrote back and told me his dad talks about the invisible backpack we carry around full of stuff. Yes, he will hang out with me. We’ll play Frisbee.
Fast-forward - it’s Wednesday, first date day. And it’s pouring rain and cold. Frisbee is vetoed. Let’s go see the amazing art museum on campus! It was closed, but there was a touch screen art computer in the atrium we played with. That took 5 minutes and it was still raining. We ended up in the student union. We voted in a photography contest, attempted a crossword puzzle, and happened upon a slam poetry contest. 19-year-old prophets rhymed about domestic violence, racism, and misogyny. Watching that is better screening of a date than any happy hour special I’ve seen.
I won’t first-date-and-tell. What I can say is that I started the week wishing I could just spend money on dinner out, to be less uncomfortable. It is easy to invite dear friends over and connect with out spending a dime. But we use consumerism to facilitate new connections, to ease our minds, to distract us from requests for real intimacy. I ended the week grateful to not have money for anything more than essentials. I didn’t eat yogurt to ease my nerves. I didn’t sit silently in a movie on a first date, wishing I were learning more about the cute guy who I came in with. This money fast, instead of making me count the days until it’s over, has made me closer to genuine connection, self-soothing, and amazing homemade lunches. Thank you Jesus!
Thanks to Rachel Cloud for this guest post.