I’ll do it my way

On­line dat­ing eti­quette is a mine­field but why did I ob­ject to go­ing Dutch? By Ge­orgina Lawton

The Guardian - Family - - Family - @Ge­orginaLaw­ton

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?

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