I’ll do it my way
Online dating etiquette is a minefield but why did I object to going Dutch? By Georgina Lawton
Digitised dating is muddying gendered norms – but it is not always a bad thing. Dating apps are helping to eradicate old rules and it is now far easier for women to orchestrate our own sexual destiny. We can avoid unwanted attention all with the flick of a finger or a painful “slow fade”. We initiate the contact and we are in control. So why did I still find myself seriously irked after going Dutch on a recent Tinder date?
It started successfully enough. The conversation was flowing in the semi- swanky restaurant my date had invited me to. We talked jobs, family and travelling. He wanted nibbles, I picked at them and, when the bill came, I offered to split as I always do. But later, when he got uncomfortably touchyfeely on the dance-floor and asked me back to his (I politely declined), I was weirded out – but not all that surprised.
As my 24-year-old friend who met her boyfriend on the app three years ago pointed out, the fact I was irritated with being asked back to his after he didn’t pay, highlights that I am more in-tune with the power dynamics at play on a date than I initially thought. Would I have been less offended at his suggestive behaviour if he had whacked out a wad of £50 notes? Admitting “yes” suggests that I’m prepared to let dating turn into a “buy and sell service” placing myself as the “commodity”, she warned. Yikes.
Itold her it’s less of that and more the fact that this guy was a working professional who had asked me to meet him. Plus, he was the one to order food and pick the place. Taken in isolation, going Dutch and being asked for sex are two semi-expected outcomes of a mad, mad, Tinder-tinted world. But combined with all of the above, they create a cringeworthy hybrid of poor dating etiquette that is worthy of ghosting, where you simply disappear (don’t ever ghost – it’s brutal).
Of course, the notion of the man covering the bill harks back to a time when women were less able to pay their own way, but as societal and economic equality are as mythical as the KFC secret menu, I don’t think that accepting a man’s offer to cover a date really diminishes my feminism. We live in a society of growing gender chasms after all: pay gaps, orgasm gaps and sleep gaps all hit women the hardest. If we are occasionally able to benefit slightly from the last few bastions of chivalry while dating, that’s fine by me. I’ll always offer to split on the first date but I won’t object much if I’m rebuffed – especially if I wasn’t the one to initiate the date in the first place.
Ultimately, the modern-day bill problem comes down to how both parties perceive meeting up. A Tinder date these days constitutes anything from a countryside pint in the pub, to a 45-minute round trip for a threesome in Hackney, so it is pretty difficult to work out who owes what. “I’m taking you out” should denote that I am indeed the one being taken out for food; the same rule applies for work lunches and networking events. But apps such as Tinder are blurring the lines. And with more freedom comes less etiquette, I guess.
Would I have been less offended at his suggestive behaviour if he’d whacked out a wad of £50 notes?