When my daughters began playing Little League softball I was determined to learn all I could about the game. The first thing that became apparent was the disparity between the treatment of boys and girls. The equipment designated for the girls was old and busted, the fields were poorly maintained and the overall attitude about females as athletes was dismissive. I decided to challenge those archaic beliefs and eventually took over the softball portion of the league. My focus was simple–or so I thought–to make sure there was equality in every area. When fancy new baseball fields were built and girls were not allowed to use them, I’d had enough. I enlisted the help of a lawyer whose daughter played softball and together we notified the elected officials from the City of Henderson of our intent to file an injunction freezing all ball fields in the city until a fair and equitable distribution of those fields occurred. It caused quite a stir. Seems nothing can piss people off more than to take away their ability to scream at an umpire. I wasn’t popular and I’m sure you can imagine the things that were said about me, but the girls got their fields.
In spite of my belief in the equality of men and women there is an area where I am highly conflicted. On a date, who is picking up the check? I’d like to say it is something that is inherently male—the job of paying–but I’d be insulting the intelligence of both men and women with that statement.
I could spout off some rhetorical blah, blah, blah such as, “Men don’t have to carry babies for 9 months, the least they can do is pay.” Or, “Women suffer with our monthly friend—just part of being a female–paying for a date is part of being male.” But I can’t allow those tired old clichés to cross my lips.
I’d have to call “bullshit” on myself.
If I utter that nonsense then the next thing you know I’ll be singing country western songs or some other god-awful thing like collecting those dolls Marie Osmond sells on QVC. Although once, after an especially painful break up, I belted out a haunting rendition of “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,” and although it was 1982, I can still be moved to tears when I recall the emotion behind those words. Rick, you do remember when I sang that to you over the phone, right? If not, that’s OK. I’ll add it to the next mix tape I send–Memories of Us, Volume 49. Did you move?
Back to the money issue.
When the bill arrives on any of my recent dates it doesn’t register that I should pay. I never reach for it. All of a sudden I have alligator arms. I wonder if it’s my age? When I first began dating the rules were clear. The guys were asking and they were paying. Period. Am I stuck in that place in the past where gender roles were defined?
The truth is I’ve never dated a man in my life that would accept a woman paying for anything. Yes, lots of those men had more money than me, but even those who were equally strapped pulled out the cash. If I began to dig in my handbag for tip money for the coat check person or valet, many would become indignant. “Don’t be ridiculous,” was something I heard often. I took it for granted and never analyzed the phenomenon until now.
Am I as guilty of discrimination as those blowhard Little League board members?
Why am I so presumptuous? Shouldn’t I at least offer to pay for my portion of the bill? It isn’t about the money. I’m generous and love to pick up the entire check when out with friends. No one has ever called me cheap or even frugal. Or is it that I’m naturally drawn to the Mr. Big Time sort of man—the guy who takes it as a slight to his masculinity if a woman pays? I have to say guys like that are certainly familiar in my dating history.
This is not something limited to MY love life. When my adult daughter tells me about a date the first thing I ask is, “Do you like him?” And then follow immediately with, “Did he pay?” I say this to the young woman who took that Little League experience and worked tirelessly to become a Division I college pitcher setting multiple school records during her years playing ball. She was fearless—a contender and certainly a better athlete than most men she’s dating today. There wasn’t a moment in her childhood that was marred by the belief that she was anything but an equal in the gender game.
BUT, I’m certainly giving her a mixed message now.
I’m a strong and opinionated. That’s been a challenge for lots of men in my life, yet there’s a large part of me (if I’m being honest) that wants to feel like a woman in the most pure and probably primal way. I want a man who makes me feel safe, protected and one who takes charge in the bedroom. Is it that uber-masculine guy—a man’s man—who creates those feelings? It seems to be for me.
I’m not sure what I’ll do in the future but even if I don’t reach for the bill, I’ll be acutely aware what is beginning to feel like a lack of generosity on my part.
I need both men and women to weigh in on this one. Fill the Comments section with your thoughts or post on my Facebook wall. Please share your experiences or beliefs. Help me figure this out. It’s been a slow week for dates—I’m a little gun shy after being busted because of this blog–so there’s been lots of time at home to ponder this dating process.
If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll follow back. @Melani_Robinson
“I don’t understand the whole dating thing. I know right off the bat if I’m interested in someone, and I don’t want them to waste their money on me and take me out to eat if I know I’m not interested in that person.” Britney Spears