I replied with: ‘On first date – yes! The woman should offer but the man should insist.’
A few days later, a male friend tweeted: ‘This morning I learn that an engagement ring should be worth twice the groom’s [monthly] salary. Never been told this before.’
I tweeted that it would have to be at least a carat (a clean well-cut one), that I was a size H and I liked Hearts on Fire in case he wanted to pick me something up too.
I realised that this made me seem much more high-maintenance than I am in ‘real life’, whether you’re talking about my beauty routine, spending habits or expectations in a relationship. I’ve said before that I would rather spend £400 on a holiday than a Mulberry bag. My ‘life to-do list‘ is relatively non-materialistic, and I have never expected a man to pay for anything other than the first date. This last point, however, has made me wonder if I’m being naive.
I remember how my first ex-boyfriend told me that he was amazed I paid for half our dates throughout our 4-year relationship and that he would have been more than happy to take care of everything. “You can pay for our dinners for the next 4 years,” I joked, but seriously I wondered if my feminist principles were somewhat misplaced.
I think singer Mariah Carey summed it up well when asked if it was true that she insisted on paying for half her first marital home (a sprawling mansion) out of principle. “Oh yeah,” she said drily. “Quite the silly little girl, I was.”
I guess my insistence on paying my way is linked to the Superwoman Complex (i.e. the aggressive fight to prove one’s independence), which makes me a silly little girl rather than an independent young woman.
Perhaps my expectations should be higher. I understand that this is selective feminism (we want equality but, hey, can you pay for dinner?) but if a man wants to pay, then why shouldn’t the woman let him? I know plenty of men that are traditional at heart. They encourage their wives to work but, ultimately, they see it as their responsibility to look after the family financially. I get that. Am I being regressive simply because I get that? Is it okay to expect the man to pay majority of the time or should I continue stamping my feet and crying independence like I have been all my adult life?
I do wonder if this debate is still relevant – whether couples don’t just fall into a natural rhythm anyway – but the polarised reactions to my friend’s original tweet proved that there is still a lot to be figured out.