February 13, 2011 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Time for princess to come clean

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: My outlook on dating is very traditional – man courts lady and pays for dinner/drinks, etc. Then, after you figure out you truly want to continue to date, the woman offers to pay. The man I am dating seems a bit more on the equal end … I paid for last night, you pay for tonight.

It started very early on, maybe the eighth date or so. I kept getting the vibe that I should offer to pay, and then it got uncomfortable. We went on a vacation together and he wanted to split everything. The place was not my first choice of vacation spots, so the more he said, “OK, give me this much for the bill,” the more animosity I felt. He earns a good $30,000 more than I do and his rent is half of mine.

I approached him about this when I was frustrated beyond belief, and basically unloaded repressed anger and rambled on about how female and male roles in a relationship are not supposed to be equal. His response was “Well, I’m not prince charming, and don’t expect me to be.”

I have a very tight budget, with student loans and a huge rent check, yet I still manage to “split” everything. I don’t need expensive things, but it would be nice to be treated like a lady in terms of dinners and vacations!!

Growing up, my dad was amazing and I was his princess! He showed me the role a man is supposed to play: take the girl out, open her door, pull out her chair, etc. How do you suggest approaching this situation? – The princess and the finances

So, do men pay because they’re supposed to, or because this man out-earns you, or because you out-borrowed and out-rented him?

And, since when is a vacation not an “expensive thing” – and not proof that you “truly want to continue to date”?

You’ll help your cause if you scrutinize and solidify your beliefs on gender roles – and make sure you apply the resulting ideology consistently. If indeed “female and male roles in a relationship” are unequal, then do you believe the inequality is ceremonial (opening doors, etc.), or substantial (men are breadwinners)? And if you vote “substantial,” are you prepared to have less say than your someday husband in family matters? To accept less pay and lesser jobs because men are the ones with the greater social and familial expenses?

Yours may be an amazing dad who doted on you out of love. However, he may unwittingly have installed a fairy tale that’s now weak with dry rot. Consider dismantling it if only for your boyfriend’s sake.

The bigger and more important reason to dismantle the fairy tale lies between the lines of your letter: You struggle mightily to express how you feel, what you believe and what you want. As un-princessy as it feels to speak your mind, your inability to do so is more to blame for your unhappiness than your boyfriend’s bean-counting is.

I believe that being in the habit of directness yourself allows you to be more receptive to it in others. As it stands, you’re opting not to take him at his word, and asking me how to approach the issue. I.e., change his mind, right?

So that’s my suggested approach: Lock coyness in the tower. Tell him who you are, and why splitting everything rankles. Find out now whether princess and frog have a chance.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.


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