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  • Phil McAuliffe

Connection on a budget

Updated: Jan 17

Why does the gay lifestyle cost so much money?



Hello! Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma is real, and it takes a lot to engage with the subject.


I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.


~ Phil


* * * * *



Am I the only gay man who’s noticed that it costs A LOT of money to live the gay lifestyle?


I realise that a great number of you are living the current COVID clusterfuckness and lockdowns and stay at home orders and that socialising looks very different now to in the past. But back when we could – and when we eventually can – socialise together, much of what we do to socialise with other humans costs money.


  • Going out for a coffee costs money.

  • Going out for a meal costs money.

  • Going for a few drinks costs money.

  • Hosting friends or family for a drink or meal costs money.

  • Having a trip away to celebrate a birthday or a pride event costs money.

  • Going to the movies costs money.

  • Accessing all the features of dating and hookup apps costs money.

  • While the ‘chill’ may be free, the ‘Netflix’ side of the equation costs money.


Then there are the clothes we buy to wear when we’re socialising. There’s the gym mem

bership to build the body on which the clothes are worn to go socialising. Then there’s the money we spend on making ourselves look presentable – hopefully, attractive even – to ourselves and others.


It all adds up, doesn’t it?


To me, this begs the question:


How do we do connection when money’s tight?


I’m currently poor. It’s a long story, but I’ve not had to watch my finances this closely since I was a university student. I’m very fortunate to have a house and a well-paying job, but they’re not in New Zealand. They’re in Australia. Both my kids and my partner, Jeff, are in New Zealand and if I was to leave New Zealand to return to Australia and something happened to them, I’d not be able to get to New Zealand to be there for them. However, the end is near as by the time you read these words I will have – COVID-willing – returned to Australia and Jeff and I will be setting up our lives there.


I’ll go into more details when we have coffee together in Episode 21 of my podcast ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’, but I’ll simply say that these few months of being homeless and relying on the goodwill of friends for accommodation and living on a very limited income have been a huge lesson for me.


What I’ve come realise is that connection often costs money. I’ve said no to going out for coffee with people because a $4.50 coffee at a coffee shop would blow my budget for the week. Friends want to have dinner with me and Jeff before we leave, but we can’t afford to eat out. Baked beans, toasted sandwiches or canned stew are staples.

This is simply the reality, and I’m typically frugal and financially conservative anyway. But for me, the interesting part of this whole situation is my response to this financial stress. My first instinct was to hide it.




Money and shame


Initially, I found myself making polite excuses for not accepting invitations. I quickly realised that I was ashamed to admit the truth. I was afraid that I’d be judged. I was afraid that I would be treated like a charity. I was afraid of being left out. I was afraid that the work on loneliness that I’ve been doing for the past two years was a failure as it wasn’t bringing in anywhere near enough money to make it a financially viable venture.


This last one was - and remains - a big one for me to process emotionally.


I quickly realised that money was a shame trigger for me. I know that I’m not alone in this, indeed, money may also be a shame trigger for you. Do you also feel weird when talking about money, specifically the state of your own financial affairs? Can you speak openly and calmly about your current financial situation with anyone? Do you feel like a failure if you can’t live the life you think you should be living?


I know that you may be thinking about your answers to these questions and sheepishly raising your hand.


You’re not alone.


For me, once I realised that I was responding from a place of shame about money, I decided to open up to a few people in my life who’ve earned the right to hear my story and who I know will listen with empathy.


Something wonderful happened when I did this. With few exceptions, the friend with whom I was speaking would say the magic words ‘Me too’. They were also struggling – or had struggled – with their finances. Some friends courageously admitted that they were in significant debt as they were funding a lifestyle through credit cards that they knew that they couldn’t afford, but they didn’t know how to stop. They felt compelled to appear that they were living the life and were financially successful.


I know that I’m not alone feeling shame about money. Indeed, me sharing my money issues with vulnerability actually created the environment for further authentic connection with my friends.

Now, when I’m asked if I’d like to catch up with someone, I’m honest. I say, ‘I’d love to catch up with you, but I can’t afford to go out.’ I then propose something that costs nothing: A walk or a hike; going and sitting in a park for a while.


How do you connect on a budget?


But I’m all open to hearing suggestions on how you connect on a budget. I’d love to hear from you through an email or private message on Facebook or DM on Instagram about how you connect if money is tight for you.


Join me in episode 21 of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ as we discuss connection on a budget.


Loneliness is awful and it’s tempting to try to solve it or fix it yourself. Trying to do this defeats the purpose of loneliness: you’re meant to reach out for support. Please, reach out to your partner, a friend or someone in your orbit who you know is trying to put themselves into the world just like you are. That could be me through my mentoring services. That could be a therapist or a counsellor – including a crisis counsellor. That could be a coach. It could be a combination of all.


Be sure to check out my services page when you’re ready for my support and guidance.


 

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Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Services page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.



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