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Sunday, January 4, 2009

MySpace Migration: Who Pays the Bill Or Brings in the Bacon?

Does it matter? When I got engaged, ages ago – my then fiancée (now ex-husband), he made more money than I did. After we got married? I took a new position where I made more money. That? Was SO not a good thing in our relationship. I was surprised, to put it mildly. After all, it was the 90's… what did it matter who made more money?

Fast-forward a decade and a divorce later, and the question comes up again. When dating, who pays the bill? It's amazing to me how touchy of a subject this can actually be. Let me start with saying that (much to my parents' and financial advisors' chagrin), I don't care all that much about money. I want to know I have enough to do the things I need to do – outside of that, it spends pretty freely. J Now, I don't own a lot of Manolos or expensive stuff. I can appreciate fine dining, but I don't care how expensive the restaurants I go to are (in fact, no lie – I think my favorite place to eat is Chipotle). So, now that said, money should –not- be an issue with anyone I'm with. Yet somehow, it seems like it is. Sometimes, anyway.

Sometimes it's an issue because I feel bad for guys. Why should you be expected to pay for a date just by virtue of being a man? Seems like a very unfair thing to me – have a penis? Pay the bill. So, I'll often offer to pick up the tab (or at least pay for myself). When I was younger, it was because I didn't want a guy to feel like I –owed- him. Now that I'm not as young, it's more along the lines of just being fair. It took me a while to get comfortable letting the guy pay for me; it's easier now, unless I'm just not interested in him (then it's still kind of unsettling). Sometimes I just pay the tab, usually if I'm enjoying the company I'm with. Half the time, I'm making just as much or more than the guy I'm going out with, anyway – so why not?


Which leads to a question; why does this cause pause for some men? At first, I thought I was imagining it – but, I'm not. It clearly makes many – if not even most – of the men that I've offered this to (or simply done) uncomfortable. Most recently? It was characterized as "generous." Why? What makes the act generous when the same has been done for me? According to Cosmo, men secretly have an issue when a girl is in a higher tax bracket – perhaps offering to pay for outings is "flaunting it?" I love this article from the Single Dating Expert where he, ever so briefly, recognizes the contradictory side - where women want the independence, but then get upset when men let them pay for a date in the same manner they'd pay for us. I sometimes wonder if we, as women, don't somewhat perpetuate the inequality when it comes to dating and finance.

I'll concede that it's easier for someone that is in the same economic ballpark as I am. I don't care if a man makes more than I do; but, it gives me a moment's pause if they make significantly less. Not because I'm concerned they won't be able to take care of me – but, because I don't want to fast-forward to the day when it becomes a palatable problem I have to deal with. And I know, hypocritical as it might be, it's a problem I'm not alone in facing – ever see 'The Caste System' episode of Sex and The City? While it ultimately worked out for them (see below if you are a SATC nut), there was a pretty relevant fight that I have had with a guy before about financially fitting in with friends…. So, I often find it's easier just not to deal with it. Not a hard-and-fast rule (like I said, 'the rules' were for the 20s), though. But with women's earning power increasing – do you think we're in for more Steve and Mirandas? Will it continue to matter, in this age of equality, who brings in the bacon or pays the bill?

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