The Girl Never Pays

The story of my awkward moment at the cash register.

It was the first date. The night had gone really well. We had checked all the boxes: bowling, movies, drinks. All paid for by, me. Except the night took a strange turn. She asked if we could go to the store. She wanted to buy her little brother a calculator. Of course, why not? I thought. Except when we actually approached the line to pay rapid thoughts began to ramble in my head: Am I buying this? This night is getting really pricey. Does she even have her own credit card? It started to rock the standards of everything I had believed a first date should be. I mean I knew I wanted to pay for the entire night, but a calculator? Where does that even qualify on the romantic scale? There was no way I could possibly be required to pay for her brother’s school supplies right? So I just openly asked, “Am I paying for this?” She busted out laughing. I felt like an idiot.

I was reminded of this story when reading Michael Foucault’s writings on bodies and how their potential can be limited by gender as well as what we associate with that gender. A woman for instance is limited by the patriarchal systems in power today, where it is believed that women need to “stay in their lane.” This limits their potential to being caretakers that belong in the kitchen. They are not to work, they are to make sure the home is stable which in turn gives the man access to the work force and income. This make’s the woman’s body what he calls docile.

To better understand this concept of a docile body I think it is helpful to look at Bell Hook’s writings in her book, Theory as Liberatory Practice, where she claims that:

“The person who is most powerful has the privilege of denying their body”.

This would qualify as men. Most women, on the other hand, do not have the ability to deny the limits of their body. They don’t have options. They don’t have power. This theory co-insides with a concept that I was raised to believe since I was young.

“The girl never pays. That’s embarrassing.”

This was not just in my home either. A survey released in 2014 revealed that about 77 percent of people in straight relationships believe men should pay the bill on a first date. This is because, as as my dad would say, I had to be a gentleman. And to a certain extent I believe that’s true. I do want to use my hard earned money to show my girl a good time. That’s a matter of gratification for me. But she should be able to feel that same gratification as well. Because the belief that a woman purchasing food is a negative reflection on a man implies that a woman having money to begin with isn’t supposed to happen. This is what needs to change. My girlfriend works hard for her paycheck.

Today, I am working on doing what Bell Hooks argues is putting theory into practice. For so long I’ve wondered what I could do to prove that I’m not limited to my gender. Mooching off my girlfriend is not the answer but removing the negative connotation with her paying for me is a good start. So when the cash register employee gives us our total and my girlfriend pulls out her card I kind of giggle inside. It’s not that I don’t see their perplexed eyes anymore. It’s just that I no longer put my girlfriend on a pedestal below me. She has every right to financially support the relationship and I am honored to be treated to the movies or dinner by her. I respect her enough for that.