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November 15, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I have been seeing someone for quite some time, and things have generally been pretty good, but there are a few issues that are starting to make me think twice about my involvement with this lady. First of all, and I know this might sound like a luxury problem to some guys, this woman does not like the fact that I always pay for dates. I, however, am from the school of thought that it's the man's job to initiate dates: we get to do the asking, the planning, and the paying. Most dating literature out there spells this out as the way it is. And I like it like that. I like making a woman feel special, and I enjoy arranging the minute details of what can turn an ordinary evening into an adventure. She says that it makes her feel unequal. This is beginning to piss me off a little, and I feel that it could cause problems down the road if I don't iron this out now. I find it highly unusual to find a woman who is interested in dutch treat dates, and I wonder if it is a subtle way of telling me that she might not be interested in me, though other signals indicate otherwise.

Now for another scenario. Today is her birthday, and I wanted to do something special for her, but she pre-empted my even asking her and said she was planning an evening at a jazz club with her family, friends, and me. But then she proceeded to say, "But I decided to keep it simple and keep it to family." This perplexes me. We have had some good communication, and now I feel totally blocked. We had the talk about dating exclusively, so what gives? I would have thought that a woman would want to spend her birthday with her boyfriend, but I guess not in this case. I seethed about this for a few days and even mulled breaking up with her about these issues (of course, not on her birthday, that would be tacky). I think she is utterly clueless about how I feel on these issues. I sent her a nice gift basket with flowers and chocolate, but now I am wondering if I am going to get a lecture about spending too much. Am I being a jerk here? I just want to have fun and show this woman a good time. I am not that extravagant, but I do like to take care of things. Enlighten me: has dating protocol changed, and do I have to change my style? Any words of wisdom would be appreciated. I do like this person a whole lot and would hate for these issues to stand in the way of an otherwise happy, intimate relationship... or so I think.


Dear Scott,

Used to be that the man paid and planned because women had no money or, um, thoughts. Now we have both. But that doesn't mean that we have to throw out the courtesy with the patriarchy. Guy wants to pay, I got no problem with that. Doesn't mean I'm some sort of failed feminist. Point is now, we -- men and women -- can let the other one pay not because it's necessary, but because it's nice.

So I could argue that it's unnecessary for your little lady to feel "unequal." But hey, it's how she feels. Not to mention: this one's bigger than Ben Franklin. I mean, why has it morphed from difference to near-deal-breaker in the first place? There are some simple solutions here that no one's bucking up and taking. I mean, you could both be a little flexible and accept/enjoy or split/alternate (you don't change according to "dating protocol," Scott, you change according to what works); also, if she feels unequal or passive, well, she can make some plans, can't she?

Oh wait, she did make a plan. And left you off the guest list. Ooof. I hate to tell you, but this does not bode well at all. Weddings, funerals, and combustible Thanksgivings are the -- not birthday parties in public places -- are events you "keep to family." Not 100% fair of me to say, but for someone who's all about feeling equal and involved, she's certainly not so strong-voiced and liberated about sending messages. All of which is to say: the money thing may be a symptom, not a cause. A measure of her interest rate.

So Scott, plan this: a conversation. Look, money doesn't even have fixed value in its own market; you've certainly got to define its terms in your relationship. I know it's uncomfortable, but you need some totals here. What's the dilly with the b-day? If she wants to pay and plan, why doesn't she? Is she fixing to cash out? See where it goes. If you revalue this one -- or next time -- consider this: you "like making a woman feel special." Yay. But how do you do that? One gold card does not fit all. Before you flash it, ask her.

Breakup Girl



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