Thanks to a fancy new job and, more to the point, a fancy new salary, for the first time in my adult life I am not worried about money.
This means I can buy plane tickets to see my friends get married, and I can give people presents just because, and I can pay off my student loan and eat out with my friends and start a 401(k) and actually have a savings account and live in something other than a constant state of anxiety about how far my money can stretch.
It also means that, for the first time in my adult life, it is a very real possibility that I make more money than some of the guys I go out with.
But, I still expect them to pay for me.
And this is a problem.
This is a problem because, on a very basic level, it seems unfair. This is also a problem because, in most everything else, I am pretty adamant about doing things myself. That’s the enlightened, 21st century way, is it not? I can check my own oil and change a tire and operate power tools and carry heavy boxes, thank you very much.
But when it comes to dating I am still stuck in an old paradigm. I won’t take his last name, but he better buy my dinner. And I am not totally sure why.
The advent of what we know as “dating” is not too far in the past, and its emergence had everything to do with money. As life moved from farms to cities, wage work became the order of the day and women suddenly lost the upper hand. Gone were the days when a nice young man visited the family homestead and either won the approval or disdain of a young lady’s family. Instead, these were the days of men with money to burn and women with no comparable financial assets.
Today, of course, the game has shifted once again. Today both men and women go to college, work, make money. But the dating game remains largely unchanged. Generally speaking, men still do the asking, the paying, the proposing. It’s not that I couldn’t ask out a guy, or buy his movie ticket, but I don’t want to. And I don’t feel like I should have to. Even as I say out loud that it should be a more even split, I expect, or maybe more accurately hope, that a guy will step up to the plate and take the lead.
So why is it that dating hasn’t shifted into the new paradigm of parity and equality where so many other things now exist? And what I really mean by that question is, Why am I comfortable keeping dating in the old paradigm, when I am uncomfortable leaving anything else there?
Is it ingrained socialization or unfair expectation? Does it reflect some personal insecurity and need to be pursued and loved? Is it about the frail male ego? Or is it more about the frail female ego? Could it mean that (gasp!) I am not as forward-thinking and progressive as I think I am?
Do old-fashioned ideas about dating simply fall into the category of things we know we should change but haven’t gotten around to yet? Or do they fall into the category of things that we make a big deal out of when they’re really not?
I just don’t know. But, in all honesty, I also can’t foresee that I am going to change my mind about this any time soon, even if I am in the wrong. (So there.)
It reminds me of the long-term internal struggle I have had over my great love of James Bond movies. As a self-identifying feminist and, frankly, as a generally self-respecting woman, feminist or not, I know I shouldn’t love them. But I do. And it is not my intention to stop loving them any time soon.
I feel the same way about the dating paradigm. But I am also open to hearing the arguments against my old-fashioned ways. Maybe over dinner? Your treat.