The Irony of Dating

I was *talking with Bee this afternoon/evening (she's in New York and I'm not), and for a few moments of the chat, I was at a loss for words. It is true that even when typing, I am loquacious but in this moment I was zitta. What paused me was Bee’z comment during our circuitous conversation of life, jobs, families and books "I find that ironic that you feel you should be treated differently in terms of dating."

At first, I too found my philosophies on dating slightly ironic-- “I am the lady, you invited me out, you pay for dinner, blah blah blah” – oh how old fashioned! Why shouldn’t everything be even? After all, I work too! Why should women be treated differently when dating? Because they are pretty! And smell good! And are pregnant for 9 months! Oh, what I am saying???!! But then I thought through those comments for another ten minutes, and now I no longer see the irony.

To me, dating is similar to marriage—there are established patterns and expectations. Women know that their husbands will give them gifts and tokens of love: birthdays, Valentine’s, birth of child, job promotion or weight loss. And they do the same for their husbands' birthdays, business conquests, sporting successes and just for being them. Likewise, girlfriends expect the same displays of affection from their boyfriends for anniversaries, birthdays, valentines, amazing romps, whatever, and are more than happy to show how they care as well.

When you are in the fuzzy zone where you date a lot but don’t have a boyfriend, you expect that your host (and rightfully so, as per Emily Post) will pay for the date. That being said, free-form dating is pattern and expectation in its basic form. You are asked out, you say yes. He hopes you are interested in him, you hope so too. The Host pays for the Guest, and the Guest should always say Thank You.

I’ve decided to ask myself more questions to investigate the irony of my dating habits:

Do I expect to be paid for on every date?
Yes, if each of these “every dates” is with a different guy who asked me out as his guest. Men ask women out for their company, for the possibility of sex, for their fabulous personalities, great figures, amazing humors. They ask out women because they are attracted to them. And they want to be men. It is old school formality and also a bit of the dog pack mentality— they want to be gentlemen and also the alpha male, aka impress the chick. Sometimes it is via the penis (or a sloppy, lapdog kiss), other times via the wallet.

*Do I do the faux-wallet grab?
Only on a first (and sometimes second date), one that is particularly and unexpectedly odious. I actually exaggerate the fake attempt at opening my purse with a very limp hand dangling in front of my lap, and then gently pull dead hand towards my breast-bone in an accurate imitation an Annunciation scene, moi being the Virgin.

Okay, E, what about the 2nd, 5th and 10th dates, do you still let him pay?
To be honest, by that point he is my boyfriend and we obviously have established some routine that involves neither of us feeling uncomfortable about a restaurant check, a movie bill, a cell phone call, nada. We understand each other and what we can and cannot do (all the time and some of the time—aka dinner at Nobu, Fendi purses, Dolce & Gabbana jeans, 2 karat diamonds- his and hers). We are also having sex without feeling weird or nervous or satisfied that I ‘gave it’ away too soon or that I ‘held off’ long enough.

FYI: We probably aren’t really going on “dates”—you know, those pre-planned “lets get to know each other (again)” mini-events that can occur at any stage in a relationship.

** After 3rd date plus subsequent others and he is not my boyfriend, he is a guy friend who insists on paying for every meal, was raised in the “old school way” or a "gentleman" and quite possibly has a well-paying job with an expense account. It has occurred twice that these non-boyfriends had crushes on me and I was completely oblivious to their attempts to win my charms. It has also occurred that these non-boyfriends do the same with all of their female friends.

Finally, do I expect my boyfriend to pay for every meal? Every vacation? Everything?
Absolutely not. But I do expect him to occasionally enjoy my cooking, ask me where I want to go out to dinner, what movie I want to see, and be thick as thieves when it comes to vacation planning or any planning for that matter. If he doesn’t do any of that, then yeah, he is paying for dinner, drinks and Dubai because by that point, he is essentially paying for my presence since that is all he expects/wants.