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Ask any woman if they think women should have the same pay and opportunities as men and you get a resounding, “yes.”
It’s not even something we think about, it’s an automatic “of course.” The same applies for most questions about equality and as a single mom with a great career, it makes me happy to be shattering the glass ceilings for women on every front, except when it comes to dating.
Sometime after my divorce, I decided that it was time to dip my toes into the dating pool. Like many women out there, I looked to online support groups to help me navigate the waters, hell my last date was in college, almost 20 years earlier.
Somewhere within the vast land that is social media, I felt like I had stepped back in time. I had been magically transported to a time where men are expected to initiate all contact, pay for all dates, and be sure to treat a woman like the “prize she is.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say no to a guy who sends me flowers or wants to pay for dinner; however, as a woman dating in the 21st century, I was shocked by the expectation that a man should always pay, especially on a first date.
The reasons astound me. I’ve heard from women that men should pay because women have to pay for a babysitter; (apparently, single dads don’t exist and only women have to make childcare plans); that as a whole men make more than women (so the appropriate recourse to correct this issue is to make men pay for dates?); I’ve even read a statement from a woman that men should pay because of the cost that goes into a woman getting ready for a date. (I think I left that group immediately.)
How did we evolve into a sex who wants equality in all things, but stays stuck in a dating mentality circa 1950?
Where did we create the dialogue that we are not looking for a partner or an equal, but someone who is going to worship us. The more extreme dating coaches will encourage women to refuse to be in an exclusive relationship until a proposal. I don’t know about you, but to me, the best way to figure out if you are compatible for marriage is certainly not by dating a bunch of guys on rotation until one buys you a ring.
So equipped with this strange contradiction about the sexes, I started my dating journey. I offered to pay at each date. Some said no, some let me buy the wine or pay for the second date, no one was offended by my willingness to contribute and most appreciated that I didn’t have monetary expectations of them.
I know this idea may be controversial. I’m likely to hear that men want to provide, that traditional gender roles are rooted in biology, that you like how it feels to be treated by a man—I’m not saying that we don’t all feel appreciated when someone offers to pick up the check, but surprise, that includes men too. My fiancé has been clear with me that my expectation of financial equality in our relationship was a big turn on for him after feeling that he was being used for a free meal on more than one past date.
There are women and men who are looking for a traditional relationship with traditional gender roles, that’s totally fine, personal preferences are allowed and should be encouraged, but these dating gender roles go well beyond personal preference and into well-established dating expectations.
To all the single women out there my request is simple, stop assuming. Don’t assume he has more money than you, that he makes more, or that your effort or time is worth more than his. Consider where your expectations that a man pay are rooted, and consider for one second that maybe it’s time to offer to split the check.