post-feminist dating

I was a staunch feminist in college and beyond. My serious papers took on sexist language and such things. I’ve been called a femi-nazi on more than one occasion. So let’s relate this to dating…

If I don’t come across as particularly adept at dating now, you can imagine what an idealistic (in all the wrong ways) fool about it I was in my twenties. One of my more memorable boyfriends lived hand-to-mouth. Much of the time he didn’t have a dime to his name — but when he did, he was sure to buy me gifts or treat me to an amazing night out. I went dutch with lots of guys, too. I remember reading an article that promoted the notion that couples should contribute equally to relationships, and should strive to date at the level that the lower-earner of the two can afford. But let’s get real:  very few couples are composed of equal earners or equally motivated partners.

Frankly,  I now wonder whether not allowing a man to buy dinner when dating could have landed me in a decade-long relationship in which I supported an entire family. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much self-sufficiency. And I’m through supporting a perfectly capable man!

Contrast my past approach with a sassy widow I know. She recently revealed that she asks men who ask her out to pay her sitter.

Damn, girl! The last time I was in the dating game, it was common to split the tab. It was only the older, wealthier men who you knew with confidence were buying dinner. Either that, or I was just too dumb or too feminist. (And, no, I don’t believe they are the same thing.)

At this point in my life, I’ve developed an appreciation for receiving male attention in many of its forms, including gifts, meals, etc. In other words, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to pull out my wallet on the first couple of dates. Still, I’m not sure how that conversation goes…

He:  “So, wanna go out for a drink sometime?”

She:  “Sure, if you’re willing to pay for my babysitter.”

Which brings me back to my point:  If we get what we expect, then I’m okay with expecting a lot. I’m a successful woman; I deserve a successful mate. But I have yet to master the language of high expectations — i.e. the language of asking or negotiating for something I know I can provide for myself.

My friend puts it this way:  “We pay for the manicure, pedicure, brow wax, facial, we get made up and do our hair — look at the investment of time and money we’ll put into looking and feeling good for a date! And all he’s gotta do is pay for dinner and a movie?! No. I let him know that if he wants to go out with me, this is part of it. Maybe on the second and third dates, I’ll split the cost of the sitter and, if I like the guy after that, I may leave my children with my mom or sister. But my reality is that I have children, and he might as well understand that now.”

This woman has set the bar high. I can respect that. There are some dating experts out there who might refer to this as “Degree of Difficulty,” as in, a woman should have a high DoD in order to attract a guy who is willing to work hard to make her happy.

In any case, if she can rock it, I’m gonna learn to rock it, too!

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About failedatforty


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