Cardi B’s “Money” as Dating Manifesto

At the end of the capitalist day, a dude spending money on or with a lady is signaling investment in the relationship.

Amanda Bloom
Feb 26, 2019 · 6 min read
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A still from Cardi B’s “Money” music video, which had nearly 52 million views on YouTube as of February 26, 2019.

I am a millennial woman who has dated many millennial men. The first few weeks of these relationships have usually gone like this: Man pays for first date. I offer to pay for second date. If my offer is refused, I suggest going Dutch. Man often accepts. Thus begins a sometimes more and sometimes less equal rhythm of one treating the other to dinner, movies, shows, etc.

I have a self-made income. I don’t need a man to pay for me, and I like to do nice things for my partner. But here’s a snapshot of my last few years of dating: Too much time (and too many dollars) spent on a relationship with a financially and generally irresponsible art bro; followed by a near-ghosting (followed by long-term orbiting); followed by Cardi B releasing the Billboard chart-topper “Money;” followed by a surprise breakup New Year’s morning after paying my way for an expensive New Year’s Eve dinner with said dumper. So I’m reconsidering my practice around money and romance.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time, salary-earning women were making 82 percent of what their male counterparts made in 2017. An improvement from 62 percent in 1979 when these statistics were first recorded, but still a B- if equal pay got a report card. If you are a woman dating men, it seems only right this extra 18 percent cover the pizzas, the popcorns, the pricey tickets. Especially if he’s going to ghost/lie/run away/be a fuckboy anyway, the least he can do is spare you an economic setback.

No, it’s not 1950. But it is 2019, and there are but five women on Business Insider’s list of the world’s 50 richest people. The source of these five women’s wealth? Fortunes inherited from their families, or their late husbands.

But this isn’t really about money, not in the dollars-and-cents sense. It’s about contribution. It’s about power. It’s about effort, creativity, and consideration. Even if you’re dating a broke-ass app developer or budding entrepreneur, he can stash away a fiver, balance you on the handlebars of his single-speed, and pedal extra hard as he shouts into the wind:

“Hold on tight baby! We’re going to the hot dog cart.”

Be as progressive as you like, but at the end of the capitalist day a dude spending money on or with a lady is investing in her and the relationship. Women who no longer want to fuck around might find a man’s generosity an indicator as to whether he also no longer wants to fuck around—or a reflection of his true feelings. Talk is cheap, and some men will say anything in order to sleep with a woman.

He’ll say he’s ready for a serious relationship and you seem like just the lady he’s been looking for, but what he really means — or perhaps what he isn’t yet aware of — is he wants to be ready for a serious relationship with someone as rad and put-together as yourself…but there’s the inner work he hasn’t tended to yet, or that other relationship he hasn’t quite ended. Or maybe he is ready, but he’s not 100 percent sure about you yet. Fair enough. He did clarify “just the lady I’ve been looking for” with “you seem like.”

Maybe he’s trying you on for size, charming (lying) your pants off, or he simply lacks the self-awareness that accompanies telling (knowing) the truth about what he wants or is capable of. Whatever the case may be, allowing a man to wine and dine you in this exploratory phase may not save you from lost time or a broken heart, but it will leave more money in your pocket after all is said and done. You will have been compensated for your time and your labor.

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Women supporting women in Cardi B’s “Money” music video.

Enter Cardi B, the Grammy Award-winning rapper whose stripper sensibility remains as both artistic theme and business tactic. Before taking off on social media, reality TV, and then as a musician, Cardi spent four years dancing for cash in various New York City strip clubs. With $200,000 in the bank, she retired to pursue a music career.

“I feel like it matured me,” Cardi said of her stripping days in a recent CBS Sunday Morning interview. “My biggest ambition was money. Because that's what these women put in my head: ‘Nothing is important but the money.’"

Money is power, and here in the U.S., men have access to the majority of it. Sex, or even the suggestion of sex, is money’s sister currency. Women have something men don’t, something men want badly. What more brilliant, simple, or radical way for a woman to secure more power (money) for herself than by capitalizing on her je ne sais quoi? Why should a man ever have a woman’s time, attention, or skill without earning it?

“Caretaking and sex should be offered freely, we’re told, with genuine affection and out of love,” writes Melissa Gira Grant in her revered 2014 title Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work. “A housewife maintains her legitimacy by not seeking a wage, and a hooker breaks with convention by demanding one. They are both diminished and confined by the same system that would keep women dependent on men for survival.”

Scene change from strip club to the restaurant down the street. A millennial man and a millennial woman are on their third date. They’ve had great sex, and they're going to have more of it after dinner. She really likes him. He thinks he might really like her. The bill arrives.

“Wanna split it?” he asks.

“Sure,” she says, reaching for her wallet. She files this “equal” transaction in her mind. Thinks of Cardi.

Six weeks and twice as many you-treat-me-then-I-treat-you dates later, she’s hurt but somehow prepared when he turns her loose.

A few months later our woman meets a new guy. They go to dinner. She thinks she might like him.

“I’m kinda ready to settle down, you know?” he says, eyes shining over a plate of linguini.

“Oh yeah, I know,” she replies, reaching for the salt.

He pays for their meal, and the next one. A month later he’s taking her to a play. Then a weekend ball game. On Sunday he treats to brunch. She gets drinks, makes dinner. He surprises her with hard-to-get concert tickets and a pint of her favorite ice cream. The next month he’s not only still returning her texts, he’s made her his girlfriend. He’s made reservations for a fall camping trip. He wants her to meet his parents. The dude has put his money where his mouth is.

Yes, there are other ways to invest in a relationship than with dollars, and the early dating days are a time for both parties to get to know each other and figure out how they feel. But in the era of the mixed-up millennial male, examining the financial flow of a relationship could unearth some useful information for the oft-jilted female. Why not don a practical, economically-focused monocle beneath those rose-tinted glasses?

And if you’re wondering: Did I have the aforementioned New Year’s Day dumper Venmo me the $150 I threw down on New Year’s Eve dinner with him and all his friends?

Damn right I did.

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