I was recently in a restaurant, enjoying a few moments without my child. And in the middle of my beer and tacos, I heard some young people talking about feminism and dating.  Specifically, who pays for dates and why. I didn’t want to step into the conversation uninvited, nor did I want to disrupt the silence I desperately need as an introverted single mom.   But I wanted to weigh in and put the subject the rest. We have more important things to do like deal with President Spray Tan and climate change.  And so, I’m taking it upon myself to make the decision for all the heterosexuals. Men pay.

 

4 Reasons Men Pay for Dates: A feminist Perspective

 

  1. Courtship Tradition

Our lives change all the time, much of it driven by weather, economics, politics, and technological advancements. And because survival requires humans to adapt, build and rebuild, we need our traditions to anchor us. But sometimes a tradition no longer serves a purpose. It becomes impractical, or society decides a cultural practice is immoral, such as the guillotine. In the 18thcentury Europe, large crowds congregated to watch public beheadings with their children, like it was Friday night football. They even sold souvenirs, including toys that would decapitate dolls. The French still have Bastille Day, chocolate croissants, and body odor. But thankfully, the public head rolling is over.

On a smaller scale, I reevaluated how I celebrate Thanksgiving.  My traditions include turkey, veggies, and watching Charlie Brown with my daughter. But talking to toxic relatives over pumpkin pie, not so much. We threw that one out. And with relationships, many things have changed as women have gained more rights in the last century. Women are graduating from universities in greater numbers and have more resources to pursue their dreams. And much has changed the dynamics between men and women, we don’t need to change all the rituals. The man paying for dates is a keeper. If he asks her out, it’s his job to pay. If she asks him out, it’s still his job to pay.  It’s sweet. It’s romantic. It shows generosity and a welcoming spirit.

At the same time, women shouldn’t expect a limousine ride to Café le $500. Drawing from my experiences and observations of healthy and unhealthy marriages, I’ve learned that if you can’t get along at a hot dog stand, you won’t get along at a resort.  Low expectations and a low budget pair up nicely when two people are trying to get to know each other.

 

  1. Proof of Independence? Girl Please.

Some women and men might believe that splitting the check on a date demonstrates independence. Nah.  Allowing a man to pay for a date not only has nothing to do with autonomy, I would argue that women don’t need to prove anything. Teenagers and young adults don’t know this yet, but women in general have more difficult lives than men.  We are mansplained, belittled, dismissed, over complemented on our looks and shamed for our weight. We say, “Ouch,” and the world says, “Huh?” We are underappreciated, underestimated, under represented and underpaid our entire adult lives.

Every day, women get up and embrace life despite the treacherous traps of patriarchy on every corner. When we voice an opinion in public, make vacation plans with friends, jog despite catcalls, study, or cast a vote, we are making decisions for ourselves. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were not so lucky. We do things, say things, and wear things that they could only dream about.  Ladies, we are fine. We prove our self-determination every time we walk out the door.   And if a man finds this cultural obligation unfair. I say to him, get some perspective snowflake.  It’s a date not a mortgage payment.

  1. Leap of Faith Tax

Another reason the man pays for the date is because women have to pay Leap of Faith Taxes. These fees can be very expensive. I understand that men are afraid of rejection. They don’t want to fail. They don’t want their efforts to go unrecognized and they don’t want to be ridiculed. Women also have fears. We are afraid of being followed, grabbed, choked, slapped, punched, raped, cut, kidnapped, and thrown in a ditch. And, we are also afraid that those crimes will be videotaped for all the world to see.  If we extend ourselves to a man, give him love and access to our bodies, a miscalculation of the situation can lead to a headstone.  If his judgement is wrong, there might be tears, a loss of dignity, and possibly auto body repair bills after That Crazy Bitch Keyed it!

I’m not saying men should pay for dates to make up for the violent males in our midst, or for societal problems like pay discrimination, lack of paid maternity leave, and the deplorables that scream, “You Whore!”, as women walk into Planned Parenthood. I’m saying that men should pay for dates to end the discussion of an unserious topic. Antarctica is melting and we need to move on. Besides, we want to enjoy the chips and salsa, the wine, the man’s attempts at humor, and the hummus plate with olives. Men pay for dates so that women can relax. We don’t want to think about one more thing.

4. Community Service

When a man pays for a date, it’s essentially an act of historical preservation. Women are earning more money and collectively seeking more seats at more tables. We are demanding fairness at home and in public. More importantly, the equity minded crowds are calling out the knuckle draggers in our boardrooms, on film sets, and in government. It’s a long process to pluck these angry fellas and their female cohorts, out of power one by one, similar to the way an experienced antique collector peruses an estate sale. The couple looking to decorate a home walk around pointing and shaking their heads. “Nope.” “Yikes.” “That should be in the trash.”  “That’s hideous.” “This one has a dead cat inside.” But then finally, the moment arrives and treasure is found.  She says, “Honey get the truck!” “I found something beautiful worth saving.”

Our society is going through tectonic changes whether we like it or not. Old thoughts, old monuments, old habits, old mindsets, old jobs, even words are being evaluated, updated or thrown out completely. But we’ve been through this before because all cultures change and morality evolves, leaving artifacts and heirlooms behind for the next generation.   One example being slavery.  It was heinous. And yet we still enjoy the beauty of the White House, a structure largely built by slaves. We didn’t tear it down.

However, when we decide to keep a relic, a keepsake or remnant, we have to give the object a new purpose and understand it’s past to better appreciate its present beauty.   We might need to sand it, paint it, repair a section, use a different chair, or hang it on the wall.  For example, I like it when a man says darlin’while he buys me a drink. But good lord, don’t say it during an employee evaluation! And, I definitely don’t want to hear it if I’m his boss.

But it’s more than being thoughtful, picking up the check, or trying not to sound like an idiot. These things are part of a larger conversation about chivalry. What does it mean today? Is it applicable to 21stcentury life? It might sound strange that a feminist would be interested in the preservation of chivalry. But I don’t see a conflict because chivalry has to do with honor, courage, heroism, gallantry, and having a readiness to help the weak. These values are timeless. And what is more heroic than a man who goes against the grain, and speaks out because the women in his office are being harassed and paid less than deserved?   Love letters are great but painting words on a protest sign, and then holding that sign in the rain, calling lawmakers, voting for people who value me, and using the deep well of masculine aggression and competitiveness to address injustice and environmental degradation, are also love letters.

Sure, he might like my jokes, my charm, my values and disposition, and he may be preoccupied with what’s under my skirt. All of that is part of romance, including natural lustful desire.  But does he care about my rights as a separate person in this society? Does he care about my little girl’s future and her precious friends that have attended all her birthday parties?  He can’t truly care about me as an associate in his world if he doesn’t care about me as a separate person out in the world. The totality of my experience as a female, matters because you can’t love people if you don’t know them. Without that, the relationship will only be an awful tasting sugar substitute that is worse than drinking Tab.  I like real ingredients, a kind of chivalry that has been rebooted for 2019.