Once upon a time, I went on a date with someone we’ll lovingly refer to as Mr. Jekyll. I met him while indoor rock climbing and somehow, I was mystified by his charm. After a few Facebook messages and some inappropriate sexting (though we never took it to the Weiner level), we met up for our first date.
It was casual and cool with semi-decent conversation and though I didn’t feel the “click” – I felt the need to see him again, if for anything but companionship. He however was so intrigued (or wanted to turn sexting into real-time, in-person sex) that he planned an elaborate dinner over candlelight at a semi-expensive Italian restaurant. He picked me up in his Jeep Cherokee circa-early 1990s, and even held my hand to help me step out in my tall heels.
After we shared an appetizer, an entrée a piece, and a bottle of wine, the server left the bill on the table. Going by the rule I have in the beginning of dating that “whoever asks who on the date should pay” – I left the check unattended and continued our conversation. After twenty minutes passed and he glanced at the bill and me a few times, I finally said, “Well, we should go if we’re going to catch that movie!” He groaned something inaudible under his breath and stammered, “I guess I’m paying,” and brought out a credit card. I thanked him and excused myself to the ladies room.
While pretending to relieve myself, I texted about six of my friends, asking if I was in the wrong by not offering to pay. They all excused me of financial responsibility for the date and I returned to the table to find Mr. Jekyll already in his coat, standing up, waiting to go. Mind you – he was doing this impatiently in a nice restaurant. Embarrassed, I hurried and he started walking before I had a chance to put my coat on.
On the way back to my apartment, he needed to stop for some beer but told me to stay in the car; he’d just be a second. When he returned (after not leaving the heat on for me in 20-degree weather), he literally threw a six pack (not bagged) in my lap and said, “Will you hold this?” Shocked he would so rudely throw something in my general direction, I gave him a hissing look and stared out the window, speechless. “Sure you want to go back to your apartment? We could have some free fun,” he coldly offered. I declined and he took me home.
Before I could step out, he asked, “Do you like rocks?” Confused, I asked him to clarify. He wouldn’t, just insisted I answer him. I replied with something along the lines of “Well, I like fossils and gemstones, but my favorite kind of rock is the one you can wear.”
I giggled. He wrinkled his forehead in disapproval and wishes me good night. I never heard from him again.
I hadn’t really thought of this dating story – maybe it was so awful I blocked it from my memory. Or because I never kissed the guy, he became quite unimportant on my roster of dates. It wasn’t until this weekend, as Mr. Possibility and I were walking around the Brooklyn Food Fair that the memory of that cold night returned to me.
Though Mr. Possibility brings in quite a bit more dough than I do, I always make an effort to offer to pay for things we do. When he joined me in North Carolina, I paid for our kayaking trip and for each visit to Dairy Queen that he insisted on. I’ll pay for lunch and he’ll pay for dinner if we go out. I usually take the inexpensive route, while he’ll cover the fancy things we do, and while it’s completely half and half, I think it’s important. He agrees – he claims he’s never (and would never) date a girl who didn’t at least go for her wallet.
So was I wrong with Mr. Jekyll? Should I have offered to pay, since he paid for our first date? Which, for the record, was at a little café and we split a pastry and two cups of coffee. Several years and boyfriends later, I still think I was in the right. My dollar rule is still true: if you intend to pay, you get to pick; if you don’t, you let them pick.
The reason I didn’t reach and the reason I didn’t pay with Mr. Jekyll was because not only did it catch me off guard, but he wanted a romantic meal, he wanted a bottle of wine, he wanted an appetizer – none of those items were my suggestions. I didn’t even pick the place! When I know I’ll be paying for two people instead of one or when it’s my event or my hometown, I’m in control of my finances. I’m in control of the bill and have the time to prepare and/or save for the occasion.
It’s not really a matter of who should pay or what’s acceptable or what’s supporting feminism – it’s about respect. Maybe with a little wisdom, I would have paid for half –but at that point in my life, that would have even been out of my budget. Mr. Jekyll may have been so annoyed at me that he never wanted to take me out again – or maybe he was doing what the majority of women do when they’re submerged in the dating circles: trying to get a free meal and a free ride.
Too bad his intentions were never met – at the table or in the bedroom. Let’s hope he’s found some rocks, wherever he is. In the meantime, I’m sporting a little one around my neck from Mr. Possibility and a littler one on my finger that I bought myself – now, that’s going dutch.
Daily gratitude: Today I’m thankful for the full-time job I have that allows me to have a fancy meal here and there, without running up a credit card.