Modern dating can be incredibly awkward. Somehow, in just a matter of years, most of us went from having the capacity to meet partners in real life, to shopping for future dates from behind the safety net of a screen. Apps like Tinder and Bumble are an absolute minefield, not to mention time-consuming. If you’re not swiping, you’re chatting, or perfecting your profile to try and lure in the right ones. All this before even meeting anyone in person. Then, once you do actually step out of the house to go meet your real-life (hopefully) human, you’ve got to navigate potential pitfalls, like them not looking like their pictures, being total douchebags, or even completely standing you up. There’s also the issue of paying. Recent research from dating app Happn shows that despite our modern dating landscape, some old fashioned habits are refusing to die. Researchers asked 2,000 people about their dating history, and found that on average, single Brits are spending £70 on a first date – with men spending almost double the amount women do, at £92 compared to £47.
The thing is, in hetero relationships, men used to pay for everything because they had everything. Back in the day when women were just pretty little things who didn’t have jobs and sat around waiting to be passed from her family to a man, the male would have to pay if he wanted the company of a good woman. Then if he liked her enough, he’d marry her and fund her lifestyle until the day she died. Such romance, much wow. These days – at least in the Western world – us feeble women have been (mostly) freed from our shackles and are allowed to work and earn our own money, and don’t need to marry a man to be able to eat. We can fly solo until the day we take our last (sassy, independent) wheezing breaths. So why are some of us still stuck in archaic ways when it comes to financing our dating escapades? I went on a first date last summer which ended up getting expensive. When you move from sipping beer to necking espresso martinis, costs escalate rapidly. The guy suggested a place that sold the worst – and most expensive – espresso martinis I’ve ever tasted. The ones my friends made for me on top of a mountain for my 30th birthday – out of ice coffee cartons and cheap vodka – were way nicer than these. Despite being my round, he put his card down when the bill came and offered to cover it, but the stubborn independent woman in me insisted on paying half. Even though I knew he earned at least three times as much as me (he accidentally let slip a hint about his salary) and even though the entire date ended up costing me half a day’s wage. (Which would have been fine, had I ended up seeing him again.) Instead, I wound up worrying about money and realising that I can’t afford to date. Which is actually fine because it’s a great excuse to not meet strangers off the internet, which I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really not into anyway. Chatting to a close friend about it though, she was shocked that I was even bothered, and said I should take full advantage of the gender pay gap: ‘They earn more than you, so let them foot the bill.’ That just doesn’t sit right with me, though. I feel like if we’re fighting for gender equality, we should lead by example. We ought to hold our heads high and take the rough with the smooth, not cherry pick the bits that suit us.
For many women who insist on ‘going Dutch’, there’s also this notion of not wanting to ‘owe’ someone, which is another old fashioned thought – it’s like we’re being paid to go on dates. And I’d like to think if I was being paid to go on dates as an escort, I’d deserve greater remuneration than a few drinks. I’d been struggling to figure out why so many of us have this fear of owing, until I realised that it often comes from men themselves. Remember the woman whose date asked her to pay him back for half of what he spent when she denied him a second date? And the woman whose date asked her to put £3.50 in his account to cover the cost of the coffee he’d bought her, when she said she didn’t want to see him again? It happens. One pal was telling me recently about a guy who got angry with her when she wouldn’t go back to his on a first date. As if him buying her a few £4.50 rum and cokes entitled him to her body. Of course, not all men are like that, but to weed out the ones who are, many of us are proud with our purses. ‘For me, it’s also a case that until I know I like someone I just don’t want them to be out of pocket if nothing develops,’ says Amanda, 35. ‘I don’t see why one person on a date should have to bank roll that experience.’ Interestingly, Sara, 32, pointed out that it’s not necessarily a case of not wanting to owe dates, but not wanting to owe anyone at all, which I 100% agree with. ‘I don’t like owing anyone, whether it’s a partner or a friend,’ she says. ‘On the first date with my husband, I bought the first round, and we go halves on everything now.’ Speaking of buying the first round as a female on a hetero date, I’ve noticed how uncomfortable it’s made every single man when I’ve pulled my purse out first.