Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tricky question of the tab, Part 2

I wish it were as simple as "we both ate dinner/watched the same movie/heard the same band, so let's split the bill" when two people are out on a date. But let's face it. It's not.

I almost got into a screaming argument with one of my best friends about this topic. She'd been out on dinner dates with two different men in the same week. One had paid for dinner; the other had not. She was miffed that the one dude had asked how they were going to handle the bill.

"The man always pays on the first few dates. You offer to pay, he turns you down, and then he pays," she explained.

"But it doesn't have to be that way," I protested. "The guy doesn't always have to pay."

"Yes, he does," she responded.

"No, he doesn't."

"Yes, he does."

"No, he doesn't."

"YES. HE DOES," she nearly shouted through gritted teeth.

"But why?" I near-whined. "That doesn't make sense."

"Because that's the way it's done," she answered, as if that explained everything.

Because that's the way it's done. No matter how far we think we've come as men and women, no matter how much technology changes the dating landscape, no matter how much we want things to be different, ultimately it all comes down to that statement. Because that's the way it's done.

The steps of the mating dance are more complex than ever, and I could argue that the money mambo is the most complicated of all. I can't speak for most women (certainly not our feisty readers!), but I will use myself as an example. I've supported myself for a long time. I plan my life with the hope that I'll one day have someone to share it with ... but I'm not placing all my bets on that horse, if you know what I'm sayin'. And when I go out on dates I don't feel comfortable letting the guy pay all the time. However, I like to feel like I'm special and I like the idea of a man taking care of me, even if it's only a meal every now and then.

Also, my friend has a point: because that's how it's done. Society ingrains in us that single men and women are supposed to act a certain way. The man is the aggressor and he likes the chase. It's the woman's job to be chased, but more importantly, to be caught without being obvious about it. We have our roles -- our Rules -- that, in varying degrees, affect the way we act in relationships. And you if say those roles and Rules don't exist anymore, you're fooling yourself. Are we as a society changing them? You bet, a little every day. But we're not gonna stop dating until we've worked it all out.

So, if I'm out with a guy on a first date and I reach for my purse when the bill comes, do I want him to stop me? My answer is complicated.

Yes, I want him to stop me, because it shows he's not cheap. Yes, I want him to stop me, because it shows that -- on the surface, anyway -- he's a gentleman. Yes, I want him to stop me if I'm into him, and this is a little sign that he might be into me.

No, I don't want him to stop me if we're friends. No, I don't want him to stop me if I invited him and I picked the place. No, I don't want him to stop me if we didn't click and I know this is going to be our only date.

The money mambo: Even if you know the steps, how well you do it depends on your partner. All we can do is keep dancing.


Anonymous said...

The man should always pay for the first few dates. And if he wants to continue paying beyond that, let him!

Anonymous said...

When you do the asking you should do the paying. A date means you are taking someone out and picking up the cost. If you ask someone to do something and each pays their own way, that's two friends hanging out together - not a date.

Anonymous said...

...but i thought that ultimately that's what you were looking for in a long-term-relationship: your best friend.

i dunno, it seems kinda creepy that people imagine romance to have some sort of latent dynamic of domination.

an easy solution i've always used is: one person pays for dinner, the other for drinks or brunch the next morning.

Anonymous said...

"latent dynamic of domination".....are you kidding? Anyone who views a date asking you out then (gasp!) paying for the meal as an attempt at 'domination' clearly has their own issues with control and seriously needs to chill out. When it comes to this stuff women have made it far too complicated. Watch four women have lunch and when the check comes it's time to break out the calculators. Watch four guys and the check comes and either one guy grabs it or they all four throw down twenties not looking for any change. It's just not a big deal to them. They don't read anything into or wonder "what does this mean" if someone else pays or if they happen to pay a little more than their share. In the long run it all works out. There is no meaning or symbolism or domination if you ask a girl out then pay for the date. It's common courtesy. You don't invite someone to something then say "and make sure you bring your wallet!"

Anonymous said...

Men should just go back to clubbing women over the head and dragging them back to their caves.

Anonymous said...

As a man the number one problem I've run into with women is they always want it both ways. Men used to pay for everything because women were expected to be barefoot, pregnant, and have dinner on the table promptly every night. It's 2006 now thought and I sure don't expect that from a woman, especially since every woman I've met has given me some sort of speech about how independent she is or how she is focusing on her career. On that same note though I also don't expect, nor will I tolerate, her sucking my bank account dry while she spends her money on all the things a modern woman needs like $400 purses and $200 shoes. You burned your bras and asked for equal rights ladies. Live with it.

Anonymous said...

Whoever asks, pays; or you can alternate who pays, if you're "steady"