I should be getting ready for my noon lecture, rather than sitting here in a nightshirt and hoody thinking whether, of my time-reduced options, I can have a coffee and a shower, or just one of those things.
However, instead, I’m going to blog. I’ve got eight minutes yet anyway until I really need to just get some clothes on and leave.
I said I was going to do the feminist rant thing soon, and I am. The other day a guy I know took me out for lunch – we went to a restaurant in a nearby town, and had a lovely (if expensive) meal. All the way through the meal, I was getting worried, because I knew I couldn’t really afford to eat at the restaurant he’d chosen, but he’d booked the table beforehand, so really, I had no choice. But we finished our meal, and I turned to get my purse out of my bag and start the whole ‘how are we going to split this’ conversation, only to find that he was already handing over his card to the waiter and brooking no objections: he was going to pay, of course, how could I possibly think otherwise? Truly gentlemanly and chivalrous in the old-fashioned sense of the word.
Now, on the one hand, of course, I can’t help thinking, ‘ooh, that’s lovely’. I was very grateful to him: this beautiful afternoon we had together was in one sense a gift from him to me. But on the other hand, I have a number of objections. The first is this: on some level, you feel obliged to someone who takes you out to dinner and buys you food and suchlike – and it’s too easy to assume that you then owe your date something. This page from a comic I occasionally read (yes, I’m still thirteen…) illustrates that quite well. And there are men (my date; let’s call him M wasn’t one of them) who would also think the same – they paid for you to eat, so you should damn well invite them in for ‘coffee’, and we all know what that means.
Of course, any man who thinks like that should probably be drowned like a kitten in a sack with his thumbs tied together.
Another objection is somehow harder to explain but also more logical. If a man is taking me on a date, making the decisions, handing over the money, driving me home, that somehow emasculates me. I know that’s a term usually used of men. It weakens me, turns me into something the man is essentially caring for and looking after, rather than sharing this experience with. I can pay my own way; I can choose a good wine for myself; I can get myself home; I am not a doll or a child. Nor am I a trophy to be showed off (‘look what I reeled in, becuase I’m such a gentleman’) or some kind of prize; and I am not going to like you any more because you flash your cash about. Just like you, I am a human being. Who just happens to be female.
I can’t really explain it. Perhaps in that case it was OK, because he knew as well as I did that I was about as impoverished as it is possible to be, and if I wasn’t, perhaps he wouldn’t have paid the whole thing – but I don’t think so. If that was the case, he would have suggested some other scenario entirely. And I was flattered, and I do like M in many ways, and I had a lovely day. He’s a wonderful person, but I think we fundamentally operate in totally different ways, see the world in a wholly different way. And with all these misgivings I have about this whole ‘date’ scenario, well, I’m not sure that M and I could ever really work as a couple. Because I’d like to think that if, one day, he was as poor as I currently am, I could offer to pay for dinner or drinks or whatever, and he would be OK with that, because we’d be working as equals. I know most of the men I am friends with think like that, but I don’t think that M would ever allow that. I think he’d be offended by that, and any man who thinks like that is really not my kind of guy.
And, of course, he’s the friend I mentioned in my previous post. Politically we’re looking in opposite directions.