It’s 2017 and women are still fumbling around awkwardly with debit cards on first dates, Do I or don’t I? Will he or won’t he? Or maybe that’s just me because I’m still not sure what generation I’m in. Do I act like a spoiled, entitled Millennial or a disgruntled, old Gen Xer? Also, in the last couple of months I’ve been out with guys in their 20s and 40s, when what I really need is another confused idiot in their 30s. But just, how aren’t we all on the same page about this yet?
Up & Up
I know it’s a tale as old as time, right? Men look for certain physical characteristics that make them look like pigs, but they’re really just wired to look for a woman who they deem suitable for bearing their children. Women look for indicators that this man could support and provide for her and the children she will bear for him and this makes us look like gold diggers. We also know times have changed. Women make money now and no one takes care of their own fucking kids anyway so what are we doing? Fumbling around with debit cards on first dates, that’s what we’re doing.
We’re a long way from being knocked out and dragged into caves and none of this makes sense because it’s completely unnatural and money is of the devil. A man paying for the first date is the modern knock-you-out-and-drag-you-back-to-my-cave move except now we’re civilized so I’m conscious and no. Buying me one meal doesn’t get you a full night of my services. I’m worth much, much more than that. Luckily, I work, so let’s split the bill and I don’t owe you shit. I will come over when I’m damn well ready and when I’m pretty sure I won’t have to poop for a few hours.
Truth is, I do care about how much money you make, just like you care about my body and how often you will get to have sex with it. I don’t care about how much money you have because I want or need any of it, I care about how much money you have because the guy whose TV I threw fucked me up. I don’t need someone who can buy me things, I just need someone who won’t expect me to downgrade my life because they’re a lazy piece of shit. I don’t shop at Walmart, ok? This is a mother fucking Target family. Don’t come over here with your bullshit Price First trash bags. If it ain’t Up & Up I don’t even wanna know you.
A Kept Woman
I started struggling with the “Who pays?” in relationships business about 10 years ago with The Actor. He was no starving artist. He came from a Hollywood family of working actors who were well off. I, however, was a starving artist. I had a super part-time job as a cater-waiter. The weeks in between when I had no parties to work, I was working as an extra in film and television for minimum wage.
In the beginning of our relationship The Actor paid for everything. I’d always offer and he’d be cute about it and say something corny like “Your money’s no good here,” etc whatever … I don’t remember how long we had been dating when he stopped, but I know it was after we’d been having sex for a while and exchanged I love yous. Basically, I said “I love you” and he said “Well, I don’t have to pay for this shit anymore.” It’s fine to want your partner to pitch in. It is not fine to suddenly change your stance on relationship finances in a Santa Monica parking garage and humiliate your significant other in front of the attendant.
I was driving while we were out one night and as I pulled up to the garage exit, the attendant said, “Ten dollars, please,” and I just sat there like a good little girlfriend who always had everything paid for her because that is what The Actor had me accustomed to at this point. He also didn’t move because, well, I guess because the attendant was clearly talking to me. I don’t know. I looked at The Actor and in a completely unprecedented move, he groaned and said “Oh, I guess I’ll pay for this, too.” Then he reaches for his wallet with the shittiest attitude about paying for shit I’ve ever seen in the history of people paying for shit.
Suddenly, I’m apologizing, “Oh no, I just, I have ten … but you just always tell me no … and it’s fine, I got it …” but he’d already pulled the $10 out and reached across me handing it straight to the attendant as if to say to me, “I’ll pay for this, but don’t you even think about touching my money.” I had no idea where this came from. In retrospect, he clearly had a conversation with one of his idiot slacker friends that he was paying my way and they must have convinced him this made me some kind of mooch–but I never asked to be treated that way. He wanted to do it, even seemed happy about it at first. Then all of a sudden he became a feminist and ruined the whole dynamic of our relationship. I was broke, so if he wanted me to start pitching in equally on date nights, he’d have to start being ok with going to a lot shittier places.
First money is the problem, then everything is the problem. The quality of everywhere you go, everything you do, and everything you have comes into question. We fought more and had sex less. I’m pretty sure he started looking for money and sex elsewhere and we broke up a little before our 1 year anniversary. Then we were on and off for a bit trying to rekindle what we once had in the beginning, but there was too much resentment between us at that point. The Actor had, however unintentional it may or may not have been, made me feel like a poor, dirty street rat. He made me feel like a gold-digging, begging moocher. He’d made me feel like all the worst names and adjectives for a poor, money-grubbing shyster.
Eventually it was completely over and I was no longer being taken to sushi on a regular basis. I had to return to my sad life of shopping at the 99 cent store with 5 dollars and a prayer, so I decided something had to give. I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a management gig that would damage everything fun and good about me and my life so I could afford to live a step above the poverty line. This led me to another relationship that would start off fun but ultimately end up in fights about money and lifestyle choices. And in this case, the destruction of personal property. I wanted to marry that phone-smashing-son-of-a-bitch. I’ve never loved anyone else enough to throw their TV. But instead, we fought about money, too. And come to think of it, every time a relationship ends because “we just aren’t in the same place” that’s also really about money. We aren’t in the same place because your ass is at Walmart and I moved up to Target and if I’ve told you once, well, I told you once. But now this is twice. Pay attention. See, this is also why we fight. I’m so tired of repeating everything for you. Jesus.
Look, let’s just all pay for our own shit and if we can afford the same type of shit we’re gonna get along just fine. No one has to compromise where they like to eat or drink or be entertained. And no one owes anyone anything. And I get to sleep with you when I want instead of walking away from a free meal feeling like you’re mad at me for walking away from a meal on your dime without giving you anything in return. Let’s be honest, if you just paid a bunch of money for me to eat a really great meal and feel like you’ve already done your part, you’re definitely not also going to give me an orgasm in the same night. So really, either way, I will pay for this. I’d rather it be with my own money and not my dignity, thank you. “Yes, waiter, right down the middle. Put the extra order of independent woman on my card and the side of I don’t owe you shit on his, though.”