An acquaintance recently complained that she had been called a gold digger on more than one occasion. We were sitting with a small group of women and the conversation, regarding dating and this issue of women expecting the man to always pay, immediately became animated.
It used to be so simple, back in the dark ages when I was dating — the guys invited and paid, the gals waited by the phone and allowed a kiss goodnight (sometimes). When the sixties dawned, free love flowed, the pill was invented and things became topsy turvey. By the late seventies/early eighties I would listen to male and female friends discuss the pitfalls of dating and the protocols no one seemed sure of anymore; there was general confusion. The males didn’t know when to open a door or if they should, when to use the “manners” that their mothers had beaten into their heads or refrain because often the strident young women would become insulted. I didn’t really believe this until I saw for myself a young woman berating a man for holding a door for her to pass through. You’d have thought he was holding the door to usher her to her execution the way she carried on.
Fast forward to today. When these women began talking about the gold digger remark I offered what I believe is a perfect solution to the dating dilemma. I call it Dating Fair.
First of all, everyone is free to call anyone else for a date, anytime. No game playing. You meet someone you’d like to know better and you can call them without the women being thought of as “desperate” or pushy or forward. Then the cost of the date is split evenly. We all go out enough to know how to do this smoothly without a lot of confusion. At the end of the date no one feels beholden and no one has to feel that since I paid I need to “collect” a reward of some sort. When women go out with their women friends they only go to enjoy the other person’s company, they each pay their share, or take turns treating one another. It should work the same way in a male/female outing. If you’re not willing to pay your part to be with this person then don’t agree to go out. Tah Dah! I thought I had a brilliant solution… only to hear my friends squall in outrage.
“No, no, no! It’s a terrible idea!” “Why?” I asked. The main reason the “gold digger” came up with was that she spent a lot of money every month on maintaining her looks and she felt it was done for the pleasure of the men she dated so it was only fair that they pay for the dinners, movies, theatre, week-ends away etc. My mani/pedicures, hair cut and color, gym membership, tanning salon, etc., all cost me each month. My maintainance is expensive!
I was shocked. But, but… I was at a loss for a comeback to this irrational thought process. Finally I said, “Wouldn’t you like the freedom to just pick up the phone and make a date with a guy?” The answer, unanimous among these women, was, “No, I want the guy to call me and pay for the date, always!” “Well,” I persevered, “do you feel obliged to ‘pay him back in some way’ when the date is over, or when you’ve had several dates?”
“No, not really. If I like him then I might have him over for dinner one night, otherwise, no. I feel he gets his money’s worth just having my company.” Again, my mouth dropped open. Wow! It’s just like the 1950s but with more self involvement.
If you want a funny and well-written novel on this very subject of “gold diggers”, I highly recommend A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, which has the best gold digger in recent fiction and wasnominated for the Man Booker Prize. And if women stay true to the “I’ll wait for him to phone” routine, I refer them to the incredible short story by Dorothy Parker, “A Telephone Call”, which can be found in The Portable Dorothy Parker.
Obviously, this is only a morsel of the larger discussion. It’s only one of the symptoms of how social interaction has developed… perhaps we’ll go there another day.