Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the Mailbag: To Pay or Not to Pay?

I've been on hiatus here, but since it's Pride, I've been entertaining a lot of conversations about date etiquette and queer perv etiquette in general. Let's start with the simplest question. Who pays for drinks?

"Dear Ivy,

I never have i gone on a real date, well, i just never gave a fuck before.So these days, do i pay for drinks? Only if i think there will be another date, or a chance of me getting laid? Or, do I just pay?

I hate playing a 'guy' role. What are the fucking rules??
Each girl for their own?

Usually I do something lowbaggerish; chicks dug it. But i dont wanna do it this time around.I trust your queer judgements, thats why I ask.”

Firstly, I understand the attraction to lowbaggerish things. The dates we remember the most sometimes include romantical things like a walk along a river at night with a paper bag of cherries and a warm PBR, or a bike ride to a secret picnic spot with a shared baguette, or climbing around train cars on the d-rail in an under-used train yard. Chicks do dig that kind of thing; who doesn’t love something that feels dangerous, nostalgic, and secret? To be taken somewhere interesting with someone makes one feel special and imaginative.

But, I get what you’re saying about this upcoming date. For whatever reason, you’re going on a “real” date, and thus, you’re interfacing with societal rules and expectations. I think it’s interesting that your immediate anxiety is prompted by the expectations around “the guy role.” Why do you think she would be looking for you to fulfill the guy role? Do you think that she may be reading you as the guy because she's reading your presentation as butch, and thus placing herself within an accepted gender framework?

We could unpack the butch stereotype (and I do love to unpack butches), but I think it’s telling that a “real date”-- defined as such by some kind of capitalist transaction in a sanctioned venue -- raises gender questions based on your appearance.

Whether or not we agree with gender stereotypes, some people can be incredibly motivated based on outdated and heldover ideas about who pays for what on a date, and if this girl operates through that gender lens, she indeed could be reading you as guy/butch/masculine -- or anything on that spectrum -- and if she reads herself as a happy participant in those gender roles, then she may be looking for you to buy her a drink.

But let's be absolutely clear: there is nothing inherently about a butch identity that has to lead directly to "the guy role," and there is also nothing about a masculine identity that leads you directly to being butch. Letting someone else dictate our presentation and behaviors based on that perceived presentation can be very tempting when people read us from our presentation, but a lot of the anxiety and questioning we do about what people want from us turns out to be unfounded fear about how society reads us.

Let's also be clear that, for many people, there's nothing wrong with these kinds of gender roles. Some femmes want a butch to buy them a drink, some butches want to hold doors open for femmes, and everyone else for that matter. But let's also be clear that some fags want femmes to buy them a drink, and some people don't want to overanalyze whose paying for what and just want to get in bed. It's easy to get ouselves worked up over the gender presentation issue on a first date when we don't know anything about how the other person sees themselves in the world.

That said, what does it mean to pick up the tab? We are, of course, talking about gallantry. Being gallant is about being confident and gracious. this does not have to be about being a guy, or tapping into an oppressive gender scenario. Paying on a date expresses generosity, confidence, niceness, and – precisely because it is a tradition that has gotten tangled up with these antiquated ideas -- can be as surprisingly romantic as taking someone to a secret, abandoned warehouse to look at the moon. Queers can be so stingy, and after so many dates of burritos in the park or joining a group of friends to go to a queer dance party, a full-service date can be impressive and newsworthy. It doesn’t have to be about being “butch,” it’s about making someone else feel special.

One tactic you can smoothly employ in an effort to be gallant is to offer to buy the first round, or the drinks “this time.” This implies immediately that you’d like to see her for longer than an hour, or again at another time. If you're not sure how much you want to see her again, you can say, “Let me get this” with a smile and see where the evening goes. If you place the cash on the bar, leave your palm there, and make confident eye contact while saying, "Let me get this" with a slight smile on your face, she will probably slide off the barstool with delight. Or, at least, I would.

You’ll know if she wants you to buy all of her drinks if she refuses to buy the second round, if she disappears into the bathroom when the check comes, if she leaves her wallet in the coat check, or if she smiles demurely and suggestively at you as you pull out your wallet for another round. And, this may not have anything to do with you being in a guy role, with you being butch, with you being read as butch, or with what a great date you are. Some girls want someone else to buy their drinks, and there are people in this world who are happy to do so. All you have to decide is whether or not you want to.

She may try to pay her own way, to express her own independence or equality to you, in which case you may want to consider playful fighting or perhaps arm-wrestling in order to settle the score. Whatever the outcome, I think going dutch on a date is tacky. Someone needs to pay for both people, otherwise, what is there to pay back, either on a second date, or in between hot and sweaty sheets?

1 comment:

VWC said...

Love this! Your sense of humor is one of the many wonderful things about you.