When Should a Girl Start Going Dutch? And is it Wrong to Acquiesce Without “Certain Intentions”?
I’m afraid this question is kind of boring, but I feel especially sensitive to it with the economy and whatnot. If the guy does the asking out, he pays; if the girl does the asking out, he still pays after some insisting. At what point/under what circumstances should a woman put her foot down for going dutch? Would the date consider it offensive? It’s just that we’re all college students making little to nothing, and I wonder if this old social custom isn’t impractical (leaving alone the arguments for gender equality). On a related note, is it wrong to acquiesce without certain intentions (planning for a second date, coming up to his place when he offers)? And is there a polite way to come over for a movie and light canoodling without being branded a tease when you don’t stay the night?
Congratulations! You seem to know how to pick ‘em, at least in terms of restaurant etiquette. It’s I who should be writing to you. Maybe I haven’t been “insisting” the right way… ?
Seriously, though, you ask a complicated question, because there are more factors at play than meet the eye. Firstly, if you suspect that he’s the kind of guy who thinks buying you dinner entitles him to some tail, then you probably shouldn’t let him, even on a first date. Similarly, if you really think he’s sexist, then don’t let him. No amount of risotto is worth your dignity. On the other hand, every guy who tries to buy your dinner isn’t necessarily trying to undermine and subjugate you by denying you a place in the capitalist economy – he may simply be drawing on a rich tradition of romantic gestures to say, “you’re special to me and I want to do something small and nice for you to let you know.” And that’s just sweet. You have to make the call based on the guy.
As far as obligations, in my mind, real gifts carry no conditions. Gifts with strings are just contracts in pretty paper, and it’s a dirty trick. Even if they pretend to believe otherwise, most guys instinctively know that. So I don’t think you owe a guy a “nightcap” or a second date or even a kiss when he pays for your dinner. Those things are indicators of affection and feeling, and if we allow them to become barter-able, we disconnect them from the very real, non-obligatory emotions that these gestures have the potential to convey. It’s disrespectful, in my mind, to your own interior life.
You’re right that the custom, while romantic, can get impractical, and if this is the case, it’s your obligation, I would argue, to take a stand. Nobody should have to break the bank to have a meaningful relationship. If you’re worried about offending him, you could say something like, “I really appreciate the gesture, but it would be mean much more to me if you’d let me pay for myself. After all, I want me to be here as much as you do.” Call it a quirk of yours if you have to. It’s sensitive territory, after all.
As far as cuddling goes, this is an issue of expectation, not bartering. I think it’s fine to want to take things slowly, but in this age of ambiguous dating / hanging-out / “it’s-complicated” / et cetera, communication is key. I do think you owe it to a guy, if you think he’s hoping for more, to let him know what he can expect to happen at the end of the night. On the other hand, you don’t want to be blunt. You could say something like, “I’d love to watch the movie with you, but I have to leave at 11 to edit my paper for tomorrow.” Do it in advance and in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a rejection. (And don’t say you “have to wake up early,” please, for my sake. Even if you do. Pet peeve.) If he calls you a tease after that, I’d say he’s not worth your time.
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