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    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Rachel Kramer Bussell on The Check

    In her column Lusty Lady, Kramer Bussell takes on that icky heterosexual dating stuff:

    Guy meets girl. Flirting ensues. Fast forward to their first date. The banter is flowing, along with the wine; they may even be playing footsie and thinking about bedtime. But when the check comes, so does the evening's defining moment. Who pays?

    Friends, readers: if the "defining moment" of a date is who pays ... there shouldn't be a second one. But, if the "defining moment" of a date is who pays, it's not something to trifle with or laugh off or roll eyes about even analyzing and considering with any depth. In other words, paying matters.

    Lauren Henderson, author of Jane Austen's Guide to Dating (Hyperion, 2005), believes paying is a sign of respect. "Symbols are important, and a man who can't buy a woman dinner on their first date is a man who will be emotionally deficient at making a woman feel cared about," she elaborates. "Men need caretaking, but their need doesn't express itself in having dinner bought for them. Men want their ego bolstered by feeling strong, capable, and necessary."

    Low-income men are "emotionally deficient", okay? Which makes sense. I mean, all the rich guys I meet are such open, sensitive souls.

    I am also driven insane when I hear the word "respect" applied to "chivalry". Opposites, people.

    My curiosity was sparked by blogger Derek Rose (derekrose.com), who's looking for more of a "partner than a princess." He's fine with paying for the first date, and even the second, but "if a girl hasn't offered to pay for anything by the third date, she better look like Angelina freakin' Jolie, or else it's 'Sayonara.' I don't have any desire to be a sugar daddy," writes Rose.

    Now, his Angelina Jolie comment aside, I agree with Rose. Once the idea of heterosexual partnerships began shifting from economic necessity to love-match, this whole man-always-pays scenario should have been dissolved. (I know that it's still about economic necessity for some people, but I think and hope the general cultural presumptions have changed, despite sick welfare-reform marriage incentives and other such things to the contrary.)

    It's not that I think that the man should never pay or that the woman should always pay or that they should go dutch always, but that the situation needs to be more organic. Rationally, there will probably be more men than women paying, given wage inequities, but it's the assumption, and particularly the assumption of its meaning, that troubles me.

    The sex part of the mathematical hetero-dating equation requires AP credits.
    Compare 1:

    Frequent dater Jackie Summers picks up checks to make a good first impression and be a gentleman. He explains, "We're guys; we like to be needed. The woman who insists on paying half is essentially saying she doesn't need a man, she needs fresh AA batteries."

    and 2: Where does sex come into play? Guys: If you're looking to get laid, getting the check is the bare minimum. This doesn't guarantee your way into her bed, certainly girls don't want to feel like you're buying their affection. One woman prefers to go dutch so she's free to turn down her date's sexual advances. The way Rose sees it, "After the first date, a girl can get away with either not putting out or not offering to split the bill, but doing neither is a definite strike against her; it makes you wonder just how interested she is." He tells of a friend who took a girl for their third date to a Dave Matthews concert. They made out at the bar afterward, but when she insisted on going home alone, he was annoyed.

    Yes, certainly "girls" don't want to feel like you're buying their affection. On the other hand, buying their affection is the only way to show you're not emotionally deficient.

    So, women assume men are going to pay the check and men assume women are going to put out, basically indicating that the men in the scenario are, in fact, buying at least the physical affection of the women. Women need money; men need sex. Unique, imaginative, and fresh point of view here.

    Then, we bring in this AA batteries comment- I assume he means for her vibrator. So, if women need men for financial reasons and men need women for sex, the way to show men that your needs are manly, as a woman, is to pay, proving you need sex, but then showing that you have your own way of acquiring both things and therefore need noone and, since dating is about money and sex, you don't know how you arrived at this restaurant (or Dave Matthews concert), last thing you knew you were in a bathtub filled with money and your Rabbit.

    Nearly every dating or etiquette guide weighs in on the topic, and almost all stick to the same story. Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway, authors of What Would Jackie Do? (Gotham, 2005), advise that the former first lady would never pick up a tab until she'd established her date as a serious prospect, as she did with JFK.

    Jackie worship- another thing about general cultural opinion that I can't understand. Just because someone wore cool hats does not mean you should look to her as a personal role model. The woman was pretty awful.

    Anyway, back to the point here:

    Women: do you want to be seen by a potential partner as part of a class of women, rather than as a unique human being with your own qualities? Think about it for a second- you can't go the bathroom alone, you screech at the sight of a cockroach but don't believe in killing it, shoes are the key to your happiness, and on every birthday candle you wish for a diamond ring from a life-size Ken doll.

    Men: do you want to be seen by a potential partner as part of the class of men, rather than as a unique human being with your own qualities? Think about it- pizza and breasts are basically interchangeable to you, you smell bad, you couldn't boil water if your life depended on it, and you are a child molester.

    Being your own person sounds kinda nice, right? So, what if your relationships were as special and unique as you are?

    BONUS FOR GLUTTONS FOR PUNISHMENT: Nick Sylvester on The Game, another fucked-up heterosexual dating thing.


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