When I asked a friend in passing if he "went Dutch" with girls on dates, he genuinely thought I was making some sort of grim sexual innuendo. To my utter shock and surprise he hadn't heard of the phrase. I explained that "going Dutch" meant that each person pays their own way on their coffee or dinner date, as is the tradition when dating in the Netherlands. He stared back at me with a blank expression. "No, I think it's the done thing for guys to pay for the girls on dates," he replied.
I found this quite shocking because I had been previously under the apparently naïve impression that splitting the price of dates was the done thing now - especially when you're both students who've got to think about your weekly budget (God forbid you'd take anything out of your alcohol fund for an awkward morning-after rendezvous in Caffé Nero). This isn't, however, the case; a substantial amount of my straight male friends, when asked, strongly believed that the guy should always pay the cost of a date.
Why has this distinctly outmoded and unequal dating custom has continued into the 21st century? Is there honestly shame in suggesting that the expense of your mutually arranged meetup could be shared? Are guys really so egotistical as to believe that they're impressing a girl by buying her dinner, and are girls really so entitled as to expect to have everything paid for them on dates? It just seems ridiculous - especially when you're students and dating. University is supposed to be an environment based on education and equality, so why are a lot of university students still stuck in the medieval dating traditions of white knights and damsels in distress?
Personally, I've always split the cost of dates (particularly when I've decided that I don't want to encourage a second meeting, and therefore realised that there won't be an opportunity to get their drinks next time!). I'm not trying to be all holier-than-thou about fellow ladies who don't mind accepting a coffee gratis, I'm not trying to be awkward and embarrass guys who try to insist on paying; it just seems to make a lot of sense for multiple reasons.
Firstly, if you're both students at university, it's likely that you're both in the same financial circumstances - namely, horrific and crippling debt. Why single out one party to shell out more for a date than the other based solely on their gender? It all comes down to the weird Neanderthal ancestral tradition of "strong man provide for baby-making woman. Ugg ugg." etc. Not only is the pressure for a "strong man" to "provide" for a female a prime example of a macho archetype that is often harmful and unfair to guys, this outlook is also offensive to many women of our century.
We can all agree that we've come a long way from cars powered by cavemen's feet and mixing cement in pelican's beaks (what do you mean that was just the Flintstones?). Many women these days are actually quite good at taking care of themselves, thank you, and don't have to pretend to be nice to a man to get fed. Let's be objective and real about this - an 18 year old kid does not a "big macho man provider" make, and an 18 year old woman at university is not a big dependent baby. Shouldn't we stop treating each other like this?
It also leads to that bloody awkward and quintessentially British charade of what I like to call "The Manners Dance", which inevitably goes as follows -
Guy: "I'll get this."
Girl: "Oh no, you don't have to do that!"
Guy: "Oh no, I insist!"
(possibly repeat steps 2 and 3 a bit)
Girl: "Oh okay then, thanks."
PROFIT (if you're a girl)
Seriously, if splitting the bill or "going Dutch" became the common practice, all this uncomfortable fakeness with a person you've probably only met once in a club could be utterly avoided. Why is it customary for one person, who's only met the other one once, to pay the other's way? What's more, if the person has decided you're not particularly the heartthrob they thought you were whilst they were sweatily grinding on you the other night, they might not want to meet up with you again.
You've just paid for their incredibly overpriced dinner, though. Thus, the final and darkest problem with guys paying for girls on dates rears its ugly, fedora-clad head. There is then an expectation created: that the girl owes the guy something in return, something that might not be as savoury as the delicious meal she's just enjoyed. This is dark, seedy, and disappointingly an attitude that is still ingrained in the consciousness of select men. My friend Kesley knows of a guy who explicitly mentioned that he pays for dates and then expects "a return on his investment"...
Of course, the subject of this article is mostly focused around the heterosexual experience of dating, so I decided to get some perspective on it from the LGBT+ community. I chatted to my friend Katherine about the "guys paying for girls on dates" tradition, who, like me, was surprised that us "filthy breeders even did the 'dude pays for anything' tradition anymore".
Katherine is, as you might have guessed, a (hilarious) lesbian who is in a committed relationship. While her girlfriend had to foot the bill more often on their initial dates due to differences in their financial situations, Katherine admits it's nice to be sure that it was sincere generosity on her dating buddy's part, rather than her paying the bill in accordance with some stupid age-old tradition.
"I think it makes more sense that the person who is more financially able pays for stuff, rather than whoever happens to have a penis." she summarised.
Likewise, my friend Johnny said that "It's a ridiculous notion that guys should be picking up the bills 100%!" I asked him who paid for the dates when he and his boyfriend first started to date, and he explained "We went for drinks when we first started dating, and went for lunch, and we paid depending on who invited who. So he suggested we go to the French House in SoHo, and he picked up the bill. And then when I took him to Zebranos, I paid."
Now that the guys are in a relationship, they like to treat each other, but they don't go Dutch: "If the bill is quite steep, we won't split it down the middle (it feels like we're paying for ourselves and not each other!) but pay for different things, so maybe he'll pay for the food and I'll pay for the wine."
He finished up by saying, "I just think putting a monetary value on dates or moments with your partner is somewhat reductive to the point of being with someone, so my partner and don't keep track of anything but pay depending on who's feeling the most generous that day!"
I'm absolutely inclined to agree. I don't think finding true love and having to take a chunk out of your wallet are mutually exclusive events. The sooner we start to eradicate this unfounded expectation for guys to foot every bill they're presented with, the sooner the heterosexual dating culture will become more equal and genuine. It would mean that the next time someone agreed to go out with you, it would probably be because he or she is genuinely interested in getting to know you, rather than just interested in getting some sex or some Nando's out of you.