Being young and single in the city sounds so glamorous, yet it can be truly challenging. Especially now that feminism has largely disrupted traditional norms for love and courtship, it can be hard for young men and women to know how to behave when they meet that special someone. Who should initiate that first date? Who should pay?
Cosmopolitan understands that many of their readers face this quandary and could use some advice. So, Cosmo turned to a more seasoned woman for guidance. During a recent interview with Hillary Clinton, cosmpolitan.com senior writer Prachi Gupta asked the Democratic front-runner: “Dating as a feminist can be tough. Do you think that men and women should split the bill on a date?”
The nation’s former top diplomat responded:
Look, I think splitting the cost on a date has to be evaluated on a kind of case-by-case basis. You know, many years ago I remember doing that, and I know a lot of young people who even today do because they kind of consider more casual dates, group dates, to be ones where everybody pays their fair share, but I think you also have to be alert to the feelings of the person that you are dating. If it’s important to that person to either split in the beginning of the relationship, or for one or the other of you to pay for whatever combination of reasons, you know, you just have to evaluate that and take it into account. So I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule, at least that I have ever seen followed in every instance.
We’re accustomed to hearing political-speak on “Face the Nation,” but less so in women’s magazines. Here, Hillary tries to relate to all women, or at least all Cosmo readers, by defaulting to case-by-case consideration rather than “a hard and fast rule.” She also suggests openness to “young people’s” belief that group dates are real dates, sounds Bernie-esque suggesting that everyone pay his or her “fair share,” and gives a thumbs’ up to splitting the check.
Now, I readily acknowledge that I am not Hillary Clinton’s target audience. I don’t swoon when I hear her speak, and I find her vision of feminism and family entirely unappealing. However, given that Hillary could be our next president, I feel compelled to offer an alternative view to women who are currently dating and seeking their male complement.
Ambiguity Is Out; Reciprocating Is In
First, no matter how smart, talented, and professionally accomplished you are, dating is its own sphere. While it’s (obviously) socially acceptable for a twenty-first-century woman to initiate a first date, the odds are that if you take the lead, you’ll waste time on men who just aren’t that into you. You’re special; let the right guy pursue you.
Second, if you’re spending time with a crowd, unless it’s an explicit double or triple date, it’s a bunch of friends hanging out. A real first date should involve two people going out, doing something special, and getting to know each other better.
Third, while Hillary is right that there may no longer be universally accepted rules for dating, there’s one rule I used to follow and still like: Whoever initiates should offer to pay on the first date.
In the long-run, Hillary is right that financial matters are best handled on a couple-by-couple basis, but I take exception to the idea of splitting the check. Going Dutch should be forever relegated to the Friend Zone.
Dating, and long-term relationships especially, are about two people caring for each other. One symbolic way we show our interest in taking care of that other person is by treating him or her to dinner, drinks, or a movie. So, if a couple is young, deep in debt, and looking for a modern twist on tradition, I suggest a better solution is to take turns paying. That way no one’s wallet is too impacted, and it’s a much warmer way to finance fraternizing.
Dating should be fun. It should lead you to the person with whom you’d gladly share your life and a bank account. Mastering how to best finance those early dates is one way you practice for marriage, keeping in mind that everybody’s most likely to be happy going forward if both sides are open to sharing and forget about tallying up everyone’s “fair share.”