Gird your loins, as I’m unlikely to say this again: occasionally I feel sorry for men when dating.
Hear me out. We’re lucky enough to live in a world of increasingly forward-thinking attitudes towards gender, a world populated by more and more cool, independent feminist types (of all sexes). So why, even in liberal circles, do we still accept the dusty, archaic concept of dating, like a loveable but un-PC older uncle who happily uses the term ‘Oriental’ and shouts about how the internet is going to kill us all?
If a man is fortunate enough to find himself dating a feminist lady-type, there are times when it must feel like some cruel obstacle course – a Spartan Race of social norms, language tests and patriarchal pitfalls.
Then, to make matters worse, there are guilty feminists like myself who, try as they might, instantly lose all feminist principals the moment they fall for someone.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m a complete and utter hypocrite. I realised this the other week when, in a genuine state of confusion, a male friend asked me: “Who should pay the bill on a first date?”
Of course, I instantly declared that a couple should split the bill or, at least, that’s what I’d want. I earn money, the man doesn’t owe me anything (and vis versa) and presumably I actually want to be there, so why wouldn’t I pay my way?*
(*Side note, if I ever found myself coerced into a date against my will then yes, I wouldn’t be as eager to pay for my half of the tapas.)
When he ventured further, however, asking whether I’d be put off if a chap didn’t at least offer to pay the whole bill, I was shocked and appalled to realise that my gut reaction was ‘yes’!
I am a sham feminist. Revoke my feminist license for I am unworthy. If the feminist police made me walk a straight feminist line on the pavement I’d probably veer off course, because I’m drunk on the patriarchy…
…you get the point.
Anyway, just like that, all my many dating hypocrisies flooded back. I’m guilty of delving dangerously deep into a guy’s Instagram history, sacrificing hours of productivity to daydreaming about the fictitious couple holidays we’ll never take, and finding all and any reason to bring up the guy in conversation – “Oh, that book sounds fascinating… the guy I’m dating also has the ability to read, you know!?”
I’m not proud.
By wanting to split the bill, but then wanting the man to want to pay it I’m encouraging all kinds of bill-paying shenanigans. Thinking back, at least twice I’ve let a man pay, only to sneak money about their person and message them ten minutes later saying “Look in your top pocket”, like some rubbish confused magician.
It’s this same conflicted part of me that secretly loves it when a date holds a door open for me. The same part of me that never wants to be the first person to lean in for a kiss, and is far too forgiving of ridiculous old-timey Audrey Hepburn movies – He’s 30 years older than you and trying to ship you across the Atlantic, Audrey. Why are you kissing him!?
Does it make someone a bad feminist if, deep down, they still want to be wooed? Or at least, want a guy to want to woo them? Yes, yes, it probably does.
At the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to context – the place, the people, the feelings – but for well-meaning men dating must feel like a minefield sometimes. Or, at least, that’s certainly the impression I got from the bewildered look on my friend’s face as I stuttered my way through an explanation.
Okay, you can de-gird your loins now.