html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Harder than math.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Harder than math.

I went to irrigation school with farm boys who were determined to open the door for me. The first year was awkward. We would approach the door evenly and the boy would step in front of me to reach for it. I assumed he was in a hurry, so I would hang back to let him through and get ready to catch the door before it closed. Then we both waited, until he gestured, and I would accelerate from a stop, and not be sure whether I should hold the door for him once I was through. I was better at it the second year, and could hit the pause during the approach, to let him reach for the door so we could go through smoothly. The decision rule at school was easy (boy opens door), but I had to readjust with my urban friends (first person holds door for everyone).

Who should carry things is still hard for me. One possibility is that we are all equals here, so people should carry their own shit. But maybe the boy is stronger than I am. Surely heavy things should be matched to the stronger person, so that less work is done overall. But I am strong and capable and dependent on no one, which I could demonstrate by carrying my heavy stuff and his heavy stuff and maybe also an anvil. I haven’t figured out a decision rule based on gender, but I am entirely comfortable with my decision rule based on Chinese zodiac year. I live by a very literal interpretation of Chinese zodiac animals and will hand anything of mine to an Ox without a second thought. It is in an Ox’s nature to carry things, so it totally works out. The Ox gets to be a beast of burden and I get to have my hands free.

Who should pay for dinner is impenetrable. Since men don’t ask women on real dates, we might be ‘hanging out’. When I ‘hang out’ with my friends, we all pay for our own. But if it is only me and him, then it might be a date. I have heard that men pay for those. My mom taught me to accept gifts graciously and I would be happy to do that, but then do I pay next time? That would be fine because we are all equals here. But what if we aren’t all equals here; what if the man is destitute, like a homeless person or a graduate student? I mean, no graduate student should have to pay for an employed person’s evening. Even though I am the cheapest date ever (vegetarian, no beer), that’s like, half a student’s monthly budget.

At the end of dinner I fall silent, wondering if I should reach for my wallet to show that I don’t care if I pay for my dinner. Or is that gauche and am I signaling that I don’t mean for this to be a date? Should I even look at the bill? It is all so difficult. By the time I have guessed an answer I haven’t spoken in minutes and the guy is wondering why he ever thought I was charming. Good thing it isn’t a problem I have to solve often.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Ananda said...

If you are out with a man who has a steady job, then on the first date you should act as though your wallet and the bill are both invisible objects. (This is assuming you don't get sleazy vibes from him, such that he might think he's entitled to an extended evening just because he paid.) If there's a second date you can then offer to cover it when the time comes if you fear for his financial well-being.

The only time you should pay for your own dinner yourself is in the example you mentioned -- being out with a group. (A man who is interested in you might be embarrassed to offer to pay for you, but no one else, in front of other people.)

In short: we men like to impress women. We like it a lot. This is why we want to pay for the first date. (This is, indeed, why we do almost everything.) Please let us impress you with our suave and carefree manners as we manfully pick up the check. Those of us that are "liberated gentlemen" will be perfectly happy to work out something more equitable on future dates, once we have impressed you with our baritone voices and mastery of arcane philosophical theories.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous matt weiner said...

Opinions vary

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

It's nice that you're putting some thought into this issue. The vast majority of decent guys (who can afford it) would pay for dinner for any lady eating with him regardless of whether it's a date or not but it can be plenty annoying if it feels like the girl didn't even give a moments thought to covering her share.

I personally prefer to pay for whatever lady is with me when I go out because while I'm not a farm boy like you reference, I do have those same sensabilities about being gentlemanly and chivalrous. To extend it, lots of times when I'd go out in a group of friends, all of us guys in the group would cover the bill (or bar tab however it may be) jointly and exclude the girls from paying just because that's what our fathers would do (and our mothers would expect us to do).

3:25 PM  
Blogger Bitterman said...

Just be glad you never ran into THIS guy!!

If I ask a woman out, I expect that I will be paying, if she offers to kick in a few bucks, that is cool, I say something like "you get the tip" or "you can buy the first round at the bar" something like that. I would never expect her to pay, I wouldn't be asking her out if I couldn't afford it. Of course, I am old and un-hip. :-p

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Roxie said...

Megan dahling, we are oxen!! I'd rather not go with your Chinese zodiac decision rule. :)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Pretty Roxie,

I am a Rat. You should never have told me you are an Ox. But you'll see. It'll feel perfectly natural.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since men don’t ask women on real dates, we might be ‘hanging out’.

The person doing the instiga-, er, inviting does the paying, unless you agree otherwise.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

A woman reaching for her wallet is neither gauche nor does it signal that she does not think of the occasion as a date. It merely signals that she doesn't take the dinner for granted.

I recommend that Megan volunteer to pay once. If/when the guy says there is no need, drop the issue. Thank him. A guy who thinks that it indicates that you don't think you are on a date is thinking too much.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous ed said...

Meg-

feel free to buy me dinner anytime (unless that means I have to eat veggie too, because then I would have to think about it more carefully).

1:56 AM  

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