Monday, April 10, 2006
The Power of Paying
One of the toughest questions in dating is also one of the shortest, and seemingly, one of the simplest. But the reality is that in today's world, where we pay lip service to equality, the question of who pays for dates is not as simple as it seems. So, who pays? One of these is the correct answer, so consider each one carefully. 1) The man pays. Every time. No excuses, unless it's his birthday and his woman wants to buy him dinner. Aww, shucks--ain't she sweet? 2) Whoever did the asking does the paying. It's a modern world--if a woman asks a man out, she should assume the responsibility of paying. 3) Whoever makes the most money should foot the bill. 4) Whoever chooses the restaurant should pay. 5) If you'd like to make a gesture that says "I like you and it was my pleasure to sit here with you," no matter what your gender, or whether you were the asker or the askee, you should pick up the check. 6) None of the above and all of the above. We're all screwed. Over at the E-Cyrano blog, Evan posts about this issue of the expectation of payment. (Feel free to weigh in over there as well...) He hits many of the issues, but for me, the issue of who pays establishes a strange kind of power dynamic that I've never been 100 percent comfortable with--in dating and with my other friends too. But in dating, payment feels especially like a contract, like I'm expected to deliver something that I might not yet (or at all) be comfortable delivering. Maybe that's a sign I'm watching too much Law and Order SVU. But because money has a disproportionate value for me--I tend not to spend it because I don't have that much post-rent-and-utilities wiggle room in my budget--it's therefore a big deal when someone (even my parents) treat me to dinner. With friends, I feel obligated to "get them next time," and usually manage to keep that promise even though I'm budgetarily limited...but this is probably my issue and not everyone else's. Is money power? And does the forking over of cash for dinner establish any other kind of contract? What do you all think? Because the more I think about this, the more I think I have the answer. The answer is 6).