Passing the ‘under 20 years’ slot suddenly greatly expanded the pool of suitable men for me. It’s not that I was never attracted to someone older than 20 when I was still 18 or 19 but generally only pervs and losers would have any more or less serious interest in me.
The moment the little word ‘teen’ disappeared from initial small talk conversations, date invitations from young professionals in their mid-twenties or (part-time) masters students poured in. These invitations differ from below A–level or university student dates in the way that they evolve around restaurants, chic bars or theatre performances rather than ice-cream in the park or a pint in the cheapest pub around.
I am all for equality and certainly not a traditionalist when it comes to dates (yes, I have asked men out before). Generally I am convinced that paying your share of the bill is the best way to avoid feeling guilty when leaving him unkissed, or as one of my friends puts it: “If you don’t like him, you don’t have to feel guilty and if you do, you don’t have to feel like a prostitute for food.”
Dating columnists are usually in favour of that practice and men, according to studies, expect that she tries to pay half at least. I can’t even justify letting him invite me on the grounds that I spent more money on pre-date shopping, as my student budget is too tight and my morals too high (he has to like me, not my low-cut dress). However, as a student if invited to a restaurant, my share of the bill can add up to be what I normally spend on food for an entire week.
So, what do you do? Not accept the invitation and be honest and tell him you can’t afford it, and then insist on that even when he offers to pay (what most men will do)? Keep quiet, fork out the money and survive on pasta and bread for the next week for the sake of feminism?
My friend J. thinks men should consider your financial situation when inviting you for the date and choose something you can afford. Something I’ve never encountered in real life before. In one case, my date even ordered another dish while I went to the bathroom without asking me. Doubtlessly, some men enjoy treating their date to dinner or drinks and wouldn’t it be unfair to expect her to spend a night’s wage from her student job in a bar while he makes the same amount of money in an hour in his office?
Going against all romance gurus out there I would say: if there is an obvious income gap, money should be a topic on the first date. Maybe just casually mention your weekly budget for going-out and invite him for an affordable drink after dinner somewhere.