(Originally published by GQ)
An argument for always going Dutch
“You ain’t gotta be rich, but fuck that, how we gonna get around on your bus pass?” asks Amil on “Can I Get A,” a classic Jay Z collaboration about personal finance. While I don’t know that bus passes are something that most people concern themselves with this side of the last Clinton administration, the general sentiment hasn’t changed: when you’re dating, somebody should be footing the bill for both of you.
At some point, we collectively decided that if we were going to put ourselves through the sex preamble we pretend is about getting to know one another, there should be a free movie, meal, yoga class, or some other type of monetary transaction involved, depending on what type of psychopath you’re most inclined to date. This idea that someone should be paying for everything seems to stand in stark contrast with the idea that the two people on the date are equals. In many couplings, the person tasked with handing over their credit card is essentially putting quarters into dating’s claw machine, hoping that another chance to eat together, or perhaps a light fondling session, will be snapped up in the mechanical vice grip of love. And yes, it might be an antiquated practice, but among heterosexual couples, it’s often assumed that if you’re a dude, you’re the one paying.
Let’s take a moment to consider that generally speaking, when sex isn’t on the table, there’s no expectation that somebody else will be treating you to a latte or a friendly romp through John Boehner’s sex labyrinth. When we’re actually trying to get to know other people in a non-fluid swapping context, we bring cash. I suggest you do the same on dates.
If you’re the kind of person to whom it’s important to always pay for dates, take a hard look at yourself and consider why that is—shelling out money for another person doesn’t make you a hero, and a date worth sticking around for isn’t looking to be saved.
“When your relationship becomes transactional, the romance slowly fades until you’re basically just roommates with boundary issues.”
Once you’re solidly in a relationship, I think there are certainly times when a paid-for date wouldn’t go unappreciated, but after a certain point, it feels like you’re handing money back and forth. When your relationship becomes transactional, the romance slowly fades until you’re basically just roommates with boundary issues. I’ll buy the groceries, you buy me drinks, I’ll wear that dog collar, you don’t tell my mother you voted for Ron Paul, and so on and so forth. I don’t want to feel bad about ordering lobster when we’re out because you don’t get paid until Friday and your bank account’s looking a little anemic; I want to feel bad about ordering lobster because I had another living thing boiled alive so I could drink a stick of butter.
When there’s no expectation that someone else will shell out cash for the thing you’ve both agreed to do, there’s an honesty and an openness that’s hard to achieve when someone’s expecting dinner at the French Laundry and you make them watch a pirated copy of Ratatouille on our sister’s laptop while you do your whites. You’re not buying your date, you’re not buying their time, and there’s no reason you should be buying their food, either. Start with a level playing field—slices of pizza, meals you cooked at home, a Netflix queue you’ve curated enough to keep your date from wondering what it could possibly mean that you binge-watched all of One Tree Hill.
Save the money you would have spent taking out somebody who’s probably just trying to harvest your organs on something you’ll use. Go Dutch forever. One Tree Hill is on Blu-Ray now, or so I’ve heard.