For those people who are unmarried, or perhaps recently divorced, this issue must come up frequently. Its one of those recurring questions of international culture that men (and to a lesser extent, women) must confront regularly.
Currently I’m living in a country where relations between men and women are more heavily scripted, more traditional, and men are expected to pay for everything on a date.
It also happens that recently, for various reasons, I have been having a cash flow problem, and really had to stretch my budget to survive until the next paycheck. All sorts of money saving techniques had to be implemented.
At the same time, I also wanted to meet and go out with different women. Of course, in that process, I should meet at least a few different women and get to know them in order to find out if we are compatible.
A friend of mine was leaving the country and had a going away party. At the party I met one of her friends, we talked, exchanged numbers etc. My friend was enthusiastic and encouraged me to meet her and get to know her. Ironically this same friend (who was leaving the country) had also lent me money so I could survive until my paycheck.
About a week later, I talked with this new acquaintance of mine, and we arranged to meet at a restaurant for our first meeting/ date. During the date, I explained my financial predicament to this woman, so she knew about my situation. The date went on, we talked, and finally it was time to go home. The bill came and it was a lot more than I had been expecting. My new friend had ordered more food than I. So I asked her to help me pay for the bill. I paid more than her, because I knew that her salary is less than mine, but I did not want to pay all, as it would jeopardize my chances of making it to my paycheck. Plus I don’t really believe that I should have to pay for her stuff anyway (although I know that women in this country commonly expect it.)
Later that night when I got home, my friend (who was now overseas already) contacted me by chat. When I told her that I went out with her friend, she immediately asked me if I paid the bill. She replied that her friend must have felt sad because I did not pay for her. And that her friend would take this as a sign that I have no money and I “will not be able to pay for her in the future.” I responded critically and said women should get over this notion that men should always pay for them. After all, they can get a job and work just like I can.
My friend responded that “it means a man really loves a woman cause they can pay everything to get the girl.” This also seemed wrong to me. What kind of man will love a woman after he has just met her and spoken with her at a going away party, talked together maybe one hour? How likely is it to love a woman after such a short time as this? And maybe I would like to be the one who is loved? Maybe I would like that woman to show me that she loves me on the first date? : ) It has been a long time since I met a woman and “fell in love” with her after the first meeting. My friend ended the conversation by stubbornly insisting “man has to pay”.
Again this is the same woman who had lent me money, and here she was advocating that I spend that same money on my date’s food and drink. I was shocked that such a woman, one who had met many foreigners, had foreign boyfriends, is well-educated and lives in the capitol city could be so conservative and traditional.
Yet I’m sure when it comes to women’s rights, her ideas are much more modern, less traditional, and at least somewhat up to step with the most current ideas related to women’s rights.
Personally, I don’t see any compelling reason why a man should have to pay for a woman on any dates that they go on, if its pretty clear that both of them wanted to go. The expectation that they will is a continuing burden on men, and leads to numerous uncomfortable situations, when the man knows that he is expected to do so, but perhaps does not want to. Its difficult to discuss such a thing when you hardly know someone, and are going out with them for the first time.
Sometimes it seems that women are using controlling words and ideas to try to manipulate men into paying for them. For example, a woman I know recently came to meet me, then called and invited her friend to meet us. The two of them proceeded to order dinner. In the middle of their dinner, they started to talk about “stinginess” and asked me if I am “stingy”. Was it just pure conversation, or an attempt to manipulate me into paying for their dinner? (This is an even more annoying habit- not only must the man pay for the woman he is dating, but he also must pay for any friends that she invites to go out together with them!) Other than that seeming attempt at manipulation, it was fun though.
Women in this country seem to think that its important to get men to pay for them. But their criteria in judging men seems to be warped. They focus so much on getting the man’s money, while disregarding other factors, such as the person’s character or intelligence, even appearance. In the end will they choose an unattractive, boring, man who may sleep around with other women (who he also paid for), simply because he was willing to go along with this tradition?
Personally I think cultures should encourage men to be more fiscally responsible, and not waste money. Women are often credited (in developing countries at least) with being more responsible with their money, saving it for their family, while men are accused of being irresponsible and wasteful. In Grameen Bank’s microfinance projects, they claim that they loan money only to women, because women are responsible with the money, while men waste the money on “wine, women, and song.” Yet I wonder if, among the women who received loans from Grameen Bank, some of them are single women, who had various things paid for by men, while they saved their money and successfully paid back the micro- loan to Grameen?
Another objection I have comes from the underlying meaning of the event: it basically implies that a man is not worth meeting or spending time with, unless he pays the woman to be there. It is debasing to men’s dignity, since the implication is that the woman would not go out if he didn’t pay- what does this say about the value of that man, if he is not worth meeting without him putting up some money? What an abject and debasing condition!
Personally, I think that this tradition should at the very least, be reduced. Women should pay for themselves at least part of the time. I don’t claim that men face more disadvantages than women, but this is one area where women fare better than men, in terms of gender roles. Women seem to have little problem accepting women’s rights, International Women’s Day, etc., and celebrate these things enthusiastically- after all it’s in their benefit. But when it comes to changing their attitudes about something which benefits them- such as traditions of men paying for or buying things for women- well, those attitudes die harder (at least for some women).
Men should think critically about this and question it. When necessary they should just bring this issue out in the open and explain that they think costs should be shared- perhaps in proportion to the relative wealth of the two individuals. Not discussing it favors the conservative, old, stodgy traditions.
Of course, there will always be some man who will willfully pay up everything, buy endless gifts, etc., because he thinks somehow he will get something out of it. And some women will be impressed by this. But then those women will get a man who perhaps has little else to offer, and those men will get a woman who perhaps cares more about his money than she does about him.
Anyway, perhaps I am taking this too seriously. Perhaps I am totally wrong. I’d like to invite anyone reading this to comment- I’m curious what other people think about it!