Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Should the guy always pay?

I run into this question a lot, especially in conservative, Catholic circles. Within these groups, people are more likely to embrace the model of man as provider, woman as nurturer. Thus, they'll hold guys to the standard of always paying. They consider it a means of courtesy and hold the idea that women should just accept it, regardless of either of their financial situations. Some of my guy friends, just friends, will always pay for a girl simply because that's how they were brought up (this one transcends faith, since one of my guy friends who does this is culturally Jewish). Naturally, if someone insists on doing something nice (provided they don't consider themselves entitled to anything else), the polite thing to do is accept it. However, what do I really think of this idea?

As many know, my conservative beliefs restrict themselves to my personal (not political) beliefs on sexuality. Outside of that, I think women and men can do just about anything and I find that traditional norms constrict us to a mode that may have worked in, well, 19th century England. However, these norms do not work in my relationship. We both entered with a mindset of mutual giving and a general belief in the equality of the sexes. Therefore, if I expect to be treated as his equal, that means I also invest in this relationship both emotionally and financially. It's also my way of doing something for him. We don't go out obsessively but we do like treating one another to dinner, a play, a movie. It's a nice gesture. It doesn't mean I damage his ego or insult his masculinity. In fact, he appreciates it and is just as willing to pick up the tab when it's his turn. If anything, it makes the burden equal and easier to manage.

I don't expect this for the same reason I don't expect, nor want, an engagement ring. To me, they are symbols of a period when women had little say in their station in life, when my father had more of a say in my choice of spouse, when my husband controlled my money, and when I would have been expected to "lay back and think of England" (how about Tuscany, instead?). I don't want a bodyguard/ATM, I want a partner, a companion, someone who takes life's journey alongside me. Someone who supports me in becoming all that I am and encourages a level of independence, simply because it benefits us. I want someone who supports me in having a career that genuinely excites and interests me and allows all of that to spill into our personal life. After all, if he loves me, does he really give a damn who makes more money? Or who pays? Considering that we've talked about this from day one, the answer is a resounding NO.

As I mentioned, I do have friends who pay for every girl, friend or not and insist, even when I offer to pick up the tab or at least pay my share. Naturally, my response is nothing other than a "thank you" because that's the only polite response. Also, in a relationship, if one of you is making bank and the other is living on peanuts, it's only fair that the person who makes more picks up the tab every time. Of course, if the guy-always-paying mode works for you, go ahead. However, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for relationships. People are different and relationships are different. Thus, the way we handle those relationships should be different as well.

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