I read this article with great interest since I have definite opinions about the subject of who pays on a date. Especially after doing time on the internet dating circuit. This article discusses the shifting political landscape of who pays mainly as it affects the twenty-somethings who are interviewed for the article. Regardless of age, it seems to me, that the question of “who pays” comes down to agreed upon gender roles and in its purest essence power.
It is my observation from personal experience and from the stories shared by women I know, that how much money and effort a man puts into a date is directly related to how much he wants to get a woman in bed. Initially he doesn’t even know if he likes the woman, but he is sure he desires her. This is not true of all men. An extremely good looking and charming man can usually find lots of women who want to buy him dinner and take him home right after, but for the average guy there is going to be some investment of capital. And because women know this, dating is a gamble if the objective is purely to get the booty.
An unscrupulous woman will allow a man she has no interest in at all to wine and dine her. I know women like this. They are, for the most part, very beautiful women who are aware of the power of their beauty and have no moral or ethical dilemma when it comes to making the most of it. I know a woman who had a boyfriend who was super cheap, I mean he went for his wallet like never. She always paid – but that’s what you get for dating a B-list, not so successful musician. She would go out on dates with guys who knew she had a boyfriend, but thought they had a shot anyway, because she would hold hands with them or snuggle up to them in the car. Those guys got nothing except a lighter wallet and she defended her actions by saying that they knew she had a boyfriend and that they just wanted to hang out. As long as she was up front with them then it was okay. The most funny/sad situation that came from her tangled web weaving was the older divorcee director who though he was meeting her for a date only to find her out with her mother – whom she wanted to set him up with. Another one of these foolish men was a good friend of mine and he got played like a fiddle at the Grand Ol’ Opry.
He came crying to me about it and I didn’t feel sorry for him because he knew what the deal was. It was like he was under some sort of spell that induced stupidity. I was amazed out how indignant he was. Just as I am amazed at men who get upset when they lavish women with gifts and expensive dinners and glorious vacations only to find that those women are “just not that into them” e.g. not going to put out. If a woman is really into a man he doesn’t need to do all that, a perfect example being the above referenced pretty woman/cheap musician duo. But these angry men who feel ripped off are those same guys who believe that everything can be bought. They’re used to throwing their money around and having people do their bidding. And there are still women out there who will go ahead and get real drunk and have sex with these guys they are not the least bit attracted to in order to keep the gifts and money flowing. During the 80s they were identified as “coke whores”, women who would put out for the guy who had the bag.
A man who has the expectation of some tangible form of reciprocity for his generosity would be better off engaging the services of a call girl. Ultimately that’s going to be cheaper and less aggravating. Of course there’s no thrill of the hunt because as Julia Roberts put it in Pretty Woman, there’s no need for seduction because the hooker is a sure thing.
I have been on more dates than I can count – the most memorable have been committed to writing for sharing with my friends, or just to remind me… And I have definitely met that guy who thinks that with dinner he’s getting a blow job. That guy who slips his hand to the back of my head during the good night kiss and pushes southward. The guy who parks the car when dropping me off and pulls his overnight bag from the back seat in order to walk me to the door. The guy who after a miserable evening of stilted conversation over dinner and two hours spent rigidly avoiding contact in a freezing movie theater wonders aloud as he’s driving me home if he might be able to get a massage.
And these were not guys that I met on Match.com! These were guys that I met through friends, or through work. Guys that were not complete strangers – they had references and context. I have a three date policy for all except the extremely heinous (the head pusher and massage guy only got two dates because I didn’t need to find out how much worse it could get). One for yes, one for no and one for maybe. This is because I am a fickle and commitment phobic female and I know I have a tendency to put a perfectly nice guy on skates. Especially if he likes me too much.
That being said I am a traditionalist in that I believe that the man not only pays, but he also makes the reservation, picks me up on time and pulls my chair out for me. He wines and dines me and shows me his very best self in an attempt to win my affection. And if I’m not digging his chili he’ll know because not only will I not hold his hand so his feelings don’t get hurt, but at the end of our second date I will insist that we split the check. If the second date doesn’t turn the tide in his favor, but I go out on date three just to be sure I’m not missing something, and I’m not, then it will be my pleasure to pick up the entire check and let him know that he can consider the evening a parting gift from me.
And thanks for playing – buh-bye.
It’s very hard to look at a perfectly nice guy whom I do not want to kiss – even after a third date that involves four shots of tequila - and say I don’t see this going anywhere. In fact, it’s so difficult it sometimes takes me a few months and a lot of money spent on dates I didn’t want to go on before I say it. Despite what my mother says it’s either there or it’s not. Chemistry is not something that develops over time. It doesn’t matter how sweet, or creative, or rich, or generous a man is, or even how much he likes me – “that thing” is either there or it’s not. The same goes for women. I know so many men that find themselves corralled into relationships that they’d really rather not be in because it’s sex they can count on, even if it’s not great sex, it’s better than being alone, or because it’s too much work and drama to end it and they don’t want to be the bad guy. That actually describes more than one marriage I know of.
My new rule is 'no more saying yes to someone I am not in the least bit attracted to', because “you never know”. I do know and it isn’t nice to play with people’s affections and feelings. I’ve been on both sides of that game and there are no winners.