For richer and poorer on June 22, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
My boyfriend is a very talented musician (a real musician — he even plays with the symphony sometimes) but alas, very poor. I, on the other hand, work in computers and am quite successful. He feels bad when I pay for him so often, but otherwise, we wouldn’t go out sometimes when we want to. My family says dump the guy because he’ll never be a breadwinner. My friends say it is cool for the modern feminist chick to be the breadwinner. Neither viewpoint appeals to me. What do you think?
It’s not either/or, or at least not either Boy=Breadwinner or Feminist=Breadwinner. This is about being the cool modern feminist chick only in the sense that you now have the means and freedom to even ask this question (yay!). But there is no feminist (or “cool”) imperative here. You do what you can/what works. That is the point. And in this case what you can/what works is that you pay. Within reason. I would not be saying this if you’d told me you were dating a mooching, slacking slug. But you’re not: he is evidently someone with (a) dedication and promise, and (b) a conscience. So if it bothers him (or you) that much, there are a few things you can do. One, pay less. Do more cheap stuff, more free stuff. It’s not a step down; arguably, free Shakespeare in the Park kicks Expensive Shakespeare’s ass. Two, figure out non-financial ways for him to feel like he’s contributing. Let him invent and plan cheap romantic dates. God forbid “who pays” should be the only index of “who’s contributing to the relationship” — or, for that matter, “who wears the pants.”