Think back to that “Sex and the City” episode when Carrie was off bitching about how Big didn’t fit into her perfect mold of “what a man should be” and Miranda and Steve went suit shopping for a big event that was coming up. Upon seeing the price of the suit, Steve freaked out, which prompted Miranda to offer to pay for the suit. There was an ongoing hissy fit throughout the episode because Steve refused to let Miranda pay, Miranda needed him to get the suit, and blah, blah, blah. They ended up laughing about it at the end because Steve is the best boyfriend ever. But the question that stuck with you long after the episode was over was, “Well, who cares if Miranda bought him the suit?”
There’s an unspoken rule that seemingly everyone knows: the man pays for everything. If you go on a date, the guy pays for the movie, snacks, and everything in between. If you go out to dinner with a guy friend you’re catching up with, it looks bad if you pay the bill. If the roles had been reversed, it would have been normal–maybe even encouraged–if Steve had bought Miranda the suit. But why?
Here’s a better example. A couple weeks ago, I went to brunch with a friend of the male variety. We are strictly platonic, but when I insisted the waiter take my card for the bill, he was visibly upset. He almost always picks up the bill if we go out, and if we split it, he usually pays just a little more. I wanted to do something nice. I wanted to show my gratitude. I wanted to pay the bill. After pestering him about why he was so uncomfortable, he admitted he felt that the man should always foot the bill, regardless of the relationship, and being seen with a woman taking her wallet out made him feel emasculated.
I was in shock.
We’re not trying to douse your masculinity or castrate you. We’re not trying to make you feel uncomfortable or upset. We’re trying to do something nice for you, something that we appreciate that you do all the time. We want you to feel appreciated. It’s like if we washed you car. We know you appreciate when your car is sparkling clean, so we do you a favor and wash it. When we pay, just shut up and appreciate it. That awkward feeling you get when we’ve paid? That’s how we feel after you buy for the fourth time in a row. You get over it and move on.
We barely listen to any old-fashioned rules, like the “call in three days” rule, or the “men should make the first move” rule, so why this one? It comes from a time where men made way more than women did, and while as a whole, we are still paid less, it’s not an unbearable difference that warrants this behavior. Why can’t we just laugh this one off as one of those outdated rules?
Don’t get me wrong–I see that it’s chivalrous for a guy to pay on a date, and I appreciate it immensely. But just because something is nice and cordial doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time — in fact, I don’t want it to happen all the time. I really appreciate that you want to know if I get home safely after we hang out, but do I have to text you every time? I love getting flowers, but getting flowers every time you see me makes it less special, and I only have so many vases.
So guys, don’t feel upset when we want to buy dinner or that suit for you. It doesn’t make you less of a man. It doesn’t mean you’re not a gentleman–we just want to spoil you back. Just sit back, enjoy it, and stop overthinking it, dammit..