I’ve been talking about money a lot lately. This wasn’t intended to be a money blog but we usually gravitate to what we know. As someone whose goal is to make a comfortable, financially independent life for herself, and who works in the banking industry at a more macro level, money happens to be one of the things I know best. However, an opportunity came my way to talk about relationships after I stumbled across a Facebook post on a newly launched app. Now, it would be just my luck that this also ties into money somehow. However, this is mostly about the social aspects of money and its link to romantic relationships.
Three black women from Chicago launched an app that matches people who want to go on dates but want to split the bill in half. The idea is that the woman gets to show that she’s self-sufficient & the man will know that she’s not just looking for a free meal. Sound noble right? It depends on whom you ask.
I hope you have some time on your hands because this could get long. However it’s a complex issue that has both gender and racial implications and it would barely scratch the surface and do it justice if I were to only summarize it.
I’ve been on dates where I’ve split the check both ways as well as dates where the man has paid. I never do the check dance. If I reach for my wallet, my credit card is coming out. However, those dates usually meant different things and my purpose was to send a specific message in each situation. Usually a guy who I don’t want to see again for any reason of my choosing, will not be allowed to pay for my half of the dinner. The generally accepted practice in our society is that friends split checks on a fun night out. If you’ve proven yourself to not be worthy of any other type of relationship beyond a friendship, it’s only fair that I pay for my share of the meal. There’s no sense in making you invest in me when I know very well that I have no intention in giving you anymore of my time.
However, when it comes to a man who I think has the potential to be a real life partner, I firmly believe that he should demonstrate both his willingness and his ability to provide for provide for a family. Regardless of the advancements that women have made in the workforce, it does not change the fact that 1) we still do not have true pay equality and 2) women remain the child bearers. Childbearing and childbirth leave women physically and emotionally vulnerable for up to a year. Women can be bed ridden during their pregnancy and may even die in childbirth. Is it really absurd to want a man who is a good provider? How can a man be trusted to provide for a wife who is forced to stay home until she gives birth if he can’t afford a meal? Should she work until her water breaks? What if she dies during childbirth? How will he take care of the child if he can’t pay for movie tickets?
Now, everyone’s definition of a date is different. A woman dating a man making minimum wage shouldn’t expect regular Smith and Wollensky dinners. The nature of the date should reflect the socio-economic profiles as well as the tastes of the involved parties. Where the date happens or how much is spent is not relevant. A man could take you to the neighborhood pizza place and still show you a good time. But if he can’t pay for 2 slices and 2 cans of Coke on his own, he might not be ready to be in a relationship.
Due to this, I am particularly distressed that the founders were black women. It’s an accomplishment to see women, particularly women of color, in the technology sector (even if they didn’t code the app themselves–they might have, but I’m not sure). But at the same time, it is bittersweet. It’s hard to see that black women have once again lowered their standards. We are raised to “give a brother a chance”. Don’t get another brother locked up even if he hit you because there are enough of them in jail. Don’t ask too much of a man because he may still be working on himself. To give a more visible example, I’m sure you’ve seen this picture of the POTUS and the FLOTUS, pushing this idea that Michelle “gave a brother on the come-up a chance” and in return he made her First Lady.
These memes are everywhere and the simple minded folks who like, share and comment “YAAASSS!!!” on these posts completely ignore the fact that the Prez was a Harvard Law student who was already on a path to success when they met. Instead, they want to promote the practice of taking on a damaged man with no goals or plans, and sticking around until he figures it out. A man shouldn’t be a project. If I want a fixer upper, I’ll get myself some real estate. After years of saying: “Who cares if he lives with his mother? So what if he drives your car around and plays video games all day? So what if you have to pay his bills?” why wouldn’t 3 beautiful and accomplished black women think they don’t even deserve for a guy to give them a meal? No other cultural group teaches their women to aim this low. This is a case where being pro-black is more about doing what’s good for the men rather than the community as a whole. This post here talks about how pro-blackness often excludes women.
Paying for a date is more symbolic than anything. If we go out once a week, I’m clearly feeding myself just fine during the other 20 meals I’m going to have when we aren’t together. Evidently, I’m not looking for a handout. I’m looking for a man to demonstrate that he absolutely wants to provide for me even if he doesn’t have to. Does he have to pay for every date until we get married? No, because I’m certainly not going to wear stilettos and little black dresses until then. But there is a courtship phase that we must both prove ourselves. No amount of progressive literature can ever erase the aforementioned biological differences (pregnancy) and our country’s refusal to becoming more family friendly by refusing to pay for maternity leave.
I’ve always maintained that some of the concepts of third-wave feminism have done little to improve the social standing of black women. And I’m being generous with this description. The launch of Go Dutch is a materialization of my assessment. With the out of wedlock birth rate of black children being higher than 70%, we already have generations of black men who don’t marry at the same rate as their non-black counterparts, normalizing the fact that black women have a permanent baby mama status, to the point where this has become a racially coded term. We are now going to normalize the fact that black women can’t even get a meal out of a guy who wants her to entertain him. This is not progress, it is not empowerment. This is damaging.
While I am fully aware of the fact that not every woman wants to be married, it doesn’t change the fact that people who are married live longer healthier lives (source 1 and source 2), and have better economic standing. With SINGLE black women having a median net worth of nearly nothing, why would the average black woman be discouraged from positioning herself in a way that would likely improve her socio-economic standing and life expectancy? It’s bad and worsening as you can see here and here. I am not standing on some morality soap box attempting to regulate people’s sex lives. I am, however, tired of pretending that people raising kids alone are not emotionally, financially and physically stretched to the limit. The seemingly small incidents that we dismiss as outliers can quickly become pervasive social issues that erode our communities from the inside out, and do nothing to improve our lives.
Before I wrote this, I talked to my husband about what was going through my mind and he said: “But if I care about you, it’s not a big deal if I pay for something. I want to buy you a meal.” If you have a man like that in your life, hug him. If you don’t, find one. Because soon enough, you’ll end up with a guy who doesn’t think he should have to do anything for you. Because rather than it being a small gesture of care, paying for a date will soon be considered something that suckers do.
When it comes to the notion of standing by a man who does not demonstrate the characteristics of caring for the woman in his life, my advice to women is as follows: your loyalty should be to your children and ensuring they have the best possible lives. If dating, marrying and procreating with a man who can and wants to do things for you hurts another man’s ego, that’s fine. You have no duty to cater to any adult male you did not bring into this world. I wish someone would have given that advice to these ladies. Maybe they could have channeled their greatness into doing something that improves the overall quality of black women’s lives, rather than something that will only lowers the standards of what my beautiful sisters should hope to get.