Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t feel it’s too much to ask that it becomes a cultural norm that both men and women pay for the first date. It’s not just about being an independent woman. It’s about being fair and giving men a break from the same cultural pressures that harm women in the dating game. Because ultimately normalizing both parties paying that first evening goes a long way to help dismantle toxic mindsets.
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It destroys problematic expectations
One of the major arguments against women being expected to go halfsies on the first date is that they are expected to put in more time getting ready. Shaving, putting on makeup, choosing beautiful clothes, doing nails, the works. Because of all that effort, so the argument goes, men should be the ones to foot the bill. However, I think this creates a problem.
As women, we often complain that we have to spend quite a bit of time getting ready for the date. That’s because we continue to allow that societal pressure to exist by giving into it.
If you like to look extra special, then do it. If you prefer a more casual look, don’t feel compelled to spend an hour getting ready. The same forces that tell men they need to pay are the ones that make you feel like you must squeeze your tummy down into Spanx to look like the skinniest version of yourself.
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It breaks down old stereotypes
Really, breaking these exceptions for both men and women comes down to practicality. Presenting yourself as a heightened version of what you think a man wants is a mistake. That kind of commitment to your looks impossible to maintain and when you slip he’ll think you are, “Letting yourself go,” instead of knowing that’s the real you. Wouldn’t you prefer a date who sees you looking presentable and like you as you are?
Then of course there is also the whiff of sexism about the whole men having to pay for the first date thing. Men are expected to fork over the cash harkens back to a time when they literally had to because there wasn’t a choice. They made much more than women, and therefore they had to pay up if they wanted a lady to come out on the town. She, in return, would make herself look as beautiful as possible because she’d probably been told that she should already be married. So she better make this guy fall in love. And if a man could pay for an expensive dinner, all the better! It meant he probably had a good job and could provide for her and the children she produced for him.
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It lowers chances of finances being an awkward subject later on
Now many women are earning similar salaries to what their male counterparts are making. We have far more choice in who we choose to date. Women gained a lot of ground when it comes to destroying harmful expectations. So men should have the same opportunity.
Seriously, unless he suggests a place out of your budget, don’t assume he has to be the one to pay.
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It could end the toxic culture around dating
This societal pressure on men also helps create a toxic culture. When men are expected to pay fully for a date they will assume that most women are out to use them, because most dates don’t automatically lead to a relationship. And some are. I’ve had a few of my girlfriends tell me they accept dates from men who they aren’t interested in because they know they will get a free meal. Is this justice against those men who send lewd messages right away? Absolutely. But there are plenty of men who just don’t have the looks that women want, and who get used to trying to be nice. If both people are expected to pay then neither person’s time is wasted since both parties should only be willing to invest in an evening with someone to whom they are attracted.
To be fair, I understand some people love treating their partner to an expensive dinner. There are plenty of women who don’t have a problem paying for a manicure. The point is that there should be a choice. Whether that is for women to decide how much work to put into getting ready. Or men to decide if they are paying for the full date.
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Splitting the bill promotes equality
If you’re a woman who expects a man to put in 50% of the effort into the housework and future child-rearing, set that exception up early by helping pay for the date. Feminism is about letting women choose their lives and fighting for equality. And equality in this case means owning up to the financial risks that come with looking for love. Not to mention it will mean women aren’t expected to fit into Spanx anymore if they don’t wish to do so. Personally, I think that comfort is worth paying for.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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