You know what has always bothered me? Society’s expectation that men are responsible for paying for dinner, movies, concessions, coffee, whatever. We live in a very progressive society. How come we’re so cutting edge in so many ways, but so old-fashioned when it comes to who pays?
On my Twitter account (@lookingfordarcy), I took a poll asking, Should men pay for dinner? 67 percent answered “yes.” I’m not surprised in the least by this outcome. Male dominance is a strong part of our history--Pride & Prejudice shows us this.
Mrs. Bennet was obsessed with finding suitable marriages for all of her daughters. Even if Bingley had boils and a stutter, she still would have pushed the girls on him because he had something her daughters didn’t: money. Thankfully, he’s charming and handsome--Jane was very fortunate (as was Elizabeth).
But it leaves us with the impression that it was difficult (or in Charlotte Lucas’s case, damn near impossible) for a woman to prosper on her own.
In Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, she makes constant reference to Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, a married woman who managed to live by her pen (as Austen herself did). So clearly, such independence could be accomplished, but without a man, life would most likely prove quite trying at times.
Now clearly we don’t live in the nineteenth century (sadly). But there still seems to exist a mentality that men are somehow responsible for their woman.
Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t start dating until later than most, but I’m not particularly comfortable when a man pays for my meal--even coffee still feels weird. It’s not that I think these dates expect anything in return for the $4.00 coffee; they’re good guys--I wouldn’t go out with them if they weren’t. This won’t turn into a feminist rant. Honestly, I can’t explain why I struggle when men pay, but something feels...off when a date buys things for me. Friends? No qualms. But a date? I don’t love the feeling.
My mother constantly tells me this is a problem I need to “get over.” (It’s one of the perks of being a cute girl, right? Boys buys you drinks and stuff?) I used to work with a guy who spoiled his girlfriend. He would take her shopping for absolutely no reason, buying her new purses and clothes. I distinctly remember that he started taking on extra shifts just to be able to afford dating her.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing a guy spoil his sweetheart like this in relationships--but only when it happens occasionally. When you start to expect your boyfriend to pay for your bills, your new clothes that you don’t need, and whatever else you can come up with (to the point where he’s taking on extra shifts at work), this is an unbalanced relationship.
There are certainly girls that expect to find a man to take care of them. I used to know a girl who banked on marrying her high school boyfriend and becoming a trophy wife--that plan worked out really well for her when he dumped her. She had never really considered a career beyond motherhood. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be taken care of. Who wants to worry about bills and paying taxes and other adult things? But security isn’t a guarantee. Ever. Life happens, and that’s a terribly scary thing to know, especially when you’re putting all your eggs in one basket.
So here is where I’m taking a stand on this whole should he pay or not to pay question. It’s OK if he pays. It’s OK if you pay. But I think there should be a balance. He picked up the wine last night? OK, I’ll get the next coffee date. From what I’ve experienced with this strategy, I not only feel more comfortable when guys do pay for me, but my dates seem impressed that I not only offer, but insist they let me pay.
We claim to live in a society of equal rights and equal pay, so why shouldn’t the check be an equal split?