The Layaway Plan
Have you ever been put on layaway? Surely you've heard the term. At least in the context of retail shopping. Cash-strapped customers have the option of paying a small deposit to secure an item for later purchase. Apparently, this model also exists in the world of romance. Though, I'm not altogether sure what constitutes a deposit. Is it a date? Or merely a declaration? Perhaps the agreement is sealed with a kiss. In retail, the layaway plan serves as a win-win for buyers and sellers. In the end, everyone is happy. When it comes to the economics of love, I wonder if a layaway plan is a sound investment or a step toward emotional bankruptcy.
I met Keith awhile ago. Tall. Handsome. Employed. All good things. When he expressed an interest in me, I was intrigued. Keith suffered an injury that caused him to cancel our first date. I was slightly bummed, but I kept it moving. More scheduling conflicts and my futile pursuit of another man soon got in the way. I thought I'd missed my window with him and that there was not going back.
Because he works at a place that I frequent somewhat regularly, I saw him from time to time following our failed attempt at romance. We'd exchange pleasantries and not much more. One day, while talking about something as mundane as the weather, Keith switched up and mentioned some of the changes going on in his life. He'd just moved and had plans to take his career in a new direction. "Yeah, I'm getting myself together," he said. He talked passionately about the turn that his life was taking. I was happy for him. "So that's why I stopped calling you. But give me a little time, Coach. I'm trying to get back in the game." I gave him the side eye. I wasn't sure I fully understood his sports metaphor.
Later on, I consulted with a girlfriend. "Guys do that," she said. He knows he needs to get his shit together so that he can come correct." OK, I get that. But what do I do in the meantime? Do I put myself on the shelf? Is it ok to date other men during this so-called "layaway period"? The answers to the last two questions are pretty easy. NO! and YES!! But the answers to my next questions might be a little trickier. Do I let him know if I'm seeing other people? Should we be negotiating terms? Like, the duration of the layaway period, opt-out clauses and penalties for non-compliance?
While my girlfriend made the layaway plan sound like the most common of occurrences, I had zero experience with it. I'd heard of the wartime pacts soldiers made with would-be girlfriends before shipping off to a scary warzone, giving the soldiers both something to fight for and another reason to return home safely. And I'm certainly familiar with the less honorable and extremely less romantic pacts felons make with women before going to prison. But we're not talking soldiers and prisoners, here. We're talking about someone you might run into on any given day at Starbucks. If I do run into him, do we kiss hello? Do we acknowledge our informal agreement?
In retail, the need for a layaway plan is pretty simple. Insufficient funds. In romance, this is just one of several reasons someone might opt for a layaway plan. A man who's too busy climbing the corporate ladder may not have the time. A player who has absolutely no interest in monogamy at the moment may not have the inclination (And while I'd appreciate his honesty, I would not appreciate the sentiment). Or, the faithful, but not-quite-single guy who hasn't fully extricated himself from his current romantic situation may not have the freedom. Just because a man is currently lacking the money, time or freedom apparently doesn't have to doom a romance forever.
The idea of a layaway plan doesn't strike me as ludicrous. They say love is all about timing. A few years ago, I met someone who was really great. I just wasn't in a place emotionally to be with him. If I'd known I had the option of putting him on layaway, I might have done it. Maybe we'd be married with our white picket fence and 2.5 children by now. I wish there was a statistic out there that told me if this kind of thing is successful or not.
Is it flattering or insulting to have someone tell you that they want to be with you...but not right now. I guess it depends on the reason. The idea seems fairly practical, if wholly unromantic. We want someone who feels passionately enough about us that they don't want to wait a single second to be with us. Damn the obstacles! Climb every mountain! Yada, yada, yada. But on the other hand, it could make you feel like a trophy to know that a man is putting in work to get to the point where he knows he's worthy of you. There's something romantic in that. Clearly, I have mixed feelings on the issue.
I'm calling on my love experts and amateurs. What do you think of a layaway plan for love?