I was reading a book called The Rules. I was reading it because it looked awful and I was hoping to get an article out of it. There turned out to be far too much material for one article, or even seven, so I decided to pick out the thing I found most objectionable about it and write about that. It turned out that I found most of it objectionable, cover copy, font and irritating capitalisation included, so I ended up opening the book at random and writing an article about whatever hurt my eyes first.
The Rules is a recent reprint of a 1990s dating how-to ‘classic’. Its style of writing sounds like how you would expect cocktails to be mixed in Friends, whilst music with no bass played in the background and everyone wore three-quarter-length sleeves. Basically, it feels really, really 90s Manhattan, and it talks to you like you’ve got a nice apartment, consult Zagat for your restaurant choices and are dating men mainly for their stock value. But their ‘stock value’ is their eligibility, laydeez! Woo hoo! Making business-related analogies about snaring Mr. Right! It’s so post-feminist!
Charmingly, the editors have left all references to being in the 90s in, e.g. “We 90s women always pretend that there’s nothing better than having our own careers but reallywe’re worried about being left on the shelf. Careers blow by comparison.” That’s a paraphrase, because I accidentally buried the book at the bottom of some setting cement, but this sentence, in a less sarcastic vein, does actually appear in the introduction.
So. For the sake of my keyboard, which is being pounded with increasing fury as I remember more pieces of advice from authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider (who incidentally talk about The Rules the way dictators talk about their political ideology), let’s just assume we’re all the sort of woman whose life is lived with the aim of ensconcing herself in a heterosexual marriage, and shortly thereafter a nuclear family. I realise some people’s ambitions really do just focus on household-running, holding hands and procreation. That’s fine and groovy. May I take this moment to climb on the podium and remind y’all that feminism allows you to make this your choiceand not your duty, hurrah. But let’s just imagine we’ve all made the choice to prefer man-nabbing to promotion-snatching. Just bear with me.
One of the rules, sorry, The Rules, is to always let men pay for the first date. (And maybe all dates? I’m not sure, a red mist came down shortly after I read this and I don’t remember what happened next but I came to and, oh no, the blood, oh no, what’s that in my freezer, oh no, what have I done.) The reasoning behind this is twofold and therefore must be correct:
1) Men love paying for shit. It makes them feel masculine and worthy. They’re all like, “Since my primal urge to flash my erection has been deemed unsuitable by 90s Manhattan, I will flash my $$$ instead. I’m so virile my wallet will make you pregnant.”
2) When he pays for you, it makes him think you’re worth it. See the logic there? Because he’s paying for you, you must be worth it. You’re worth it, because you’re being paid for. You’re a keeper!
This bothered me. It bothered me even more when Fein and Schnieder made their concession to the woman who likes to whip out her own $$$, which, paraphrased, goes something like this: “Do you feel bad about making him foot the bill? Well, pay for a small thing, like a taxi to the restaurant, or popcorn at the cinema. But he has to pay for the main event, because, see above.”
My main botheration was this: why can the authors concede that there are some women who might differ in opinion, but all men have the same psychology? Is it because LOL penis? And how exactly is LOL penis better than ROFL make me a sammich?
This dating book is just the gunk bobbing at the top of the horrible cesspit. The media, advertising and even walking-around human beings are full of this crap. LOL penis is responsibile for limiting and twisting men into a shape they might not actually want to occupy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying boo hoo, poor men catcalling from a dark alley, how the patriarchy has fucked you over, oh boo hoo, poor executives, what a strain it must be to earn thousands and laugh about maternity leave. I’m thinking more of the man who, faced with a student loan and an undergraduette, thinks, “I’d better take her out somewhere fucking fancy and pay for it, otherwise she might think I’m both cheap and impotent. I’ll have to keep the heating off for the rest of the week but at least I look like a dude.” I’m thinking about the man who really, really likes shopping for clothes but has to put up with a constant litany of, “It’s like you’re gay! I love shopping with gay men! Are you sure you’re not gay? Men don’t normally like fashion unless…” As long as they’re forced to perpetuate their myth, they’re going to be perpetuating ours as well. So, although I think most of our readers don’t end sentences with ‘typical man!’ or ‘men, eh?’, please discourage your otherwise perfectly sensible friends from doing it too. Men especially. Calling on your gonads and smiling sheepishly is not a clever excuse for sexism.
Because, dude, you do not look like a dude. You do not look like a dude when you find yourself ironically enjoying wrestling because haha violence. You are not a dude when you have conversation topics that cannot be aired in front of your girlfriend, e.g., “Let’s play the Nuts version of Trivial Pursuit on the pub quiz machine! It’s alright, Emma’s gone home!” And the sad thing is, I don’t think you want to be such a dick, not really. It’s just that no one’s calling you out on it because LOL penis aren’t men terrible.
Let’s end this article (you and me, dude, we’re in this together, don’t let the patriarchy LIMIT your enjoyment of embroidery) by discussing what to do on a first date.
1) Did one of you say, “Let me take you to X / treat you to X”? They’re paying.
2) Does one of you have substantially more money than the other? They not necessarily paying. Oh no, they’re not. Pitchforks away. They’re only paying if they’ve insisted on dining at the Ivy, because everywhere else is just so gauche. If you agreed on Nando’s, split it.
3) Unless you’re really hard-up and your cash-stuffed friend / lover is trying to feed you / secure your company.
4) Does one of you really, genuinely want to treat the other one, because of a special occasion, a celebration or a commiseration, or because you think it would be a nice thing to do? Let them pay, then. Not because they should. Because they want. Gender notwithstanding. As always.