Why did the old sit-com Happy Days carve a permanent place in the hearts of so many Americans? Was it because the writing was hilarious or the acting brilliant? Or was it something else? My money’s on “something else.” I think we loved stepping back in time to a simpler, gentler day – an era in which crew-cut boys took girls in poodle skirts to malt shops, ordered burgers and shakes, and picked up the tab. Now, such scenes are the stuff of nostalgia; the rules of who pays for a date are not so clearly defined.
Chivalry may be dead, but chivalry had little to do with changing those rules. The blame, if we can call it that, lies with the emergence of the feminist movement and a much healthier economy than the one in which we’re currently wallowing. Under these circumstances, women entered the workforce in far greater numbers than their mothers and grandmothers. They generated disposable incomes. Decades later, despite a sinking economy, women retain their independence. This means, in part, that they are accustomed to sharing the expenses of dating.
The price of dinner for two in a fine dining establishment is costly, particularly if a bottle of wine accompanies the meal. And even casual dining can put the pinch on you. In Richie’s and Fonzie’s day, a great burger consisted of the usual suspects: a beef patty, a bun, lettuce, tomato, maybe a slice of onion and/or American cheese, and depending upon your preference, ketchup and/or mustard. Now, gourmet burgers have invaded the land. Replete with ingredients such as avocado, mushrooms, jalapenos, and wasabi, they carry higher price tags.
If you’re starting out in a relationship, the process of dating can break your bank. You can avoid this with a little common sense and imagination. You already knew something about the object of your affection before you asked him or her out; use that information. If, for instance, she likes art, take her to an exhibit; the entrance fees to museums are still do-able on most budgets. County fairs are usually inexpensive as are zoos, and a walk in a park or along a beach are free. Dates such as these allow you to spend quality time with the other person, and quality time means that you’ll get to know him or her better.
I fondly recall my parents speaking of their youthful dating experiences. My mom’s idea of a good time was to go to the Dairy Queen for a burger and fries, followed by a small vanilla cone. While she was thrilled to be out anywhere with my dad, he often teased her about trying something else on the menu. He never understood why she always ordered a burger and fries. To this day, he’s not sure if this truly was really her favorite dish, or if she was just being considerate of his budget. Whatever it was, these simple dates provided the stage upon which my parents fell in love, married, and had my siblings and me!
I think that most guys are probably pretty happy to meet sensible gals. Men have a tendency to overspend when attempting to impress a beautiful girl. Maybe this is a holdover from prehistoric times, when cavemen had to literally bring home the bacon. Or maybe men overspend on a date with the hope of “getting lucky.” But not everybody “gets lucky,” and I don’t just mean in bed. It can be disheartening to spend your hard earned money on a fancy date and not have a good time. By the sharing the expenses on a less than thrilling time, both parties can walk away feeling a little better.
The whole idea of paying your own way illustrates a great deal of maturity, including respect for the other person. Sharing the costs symbolizes an interest in sharing other things. But, like most things in life, the costs associated with dating are neither black nor white. If one person is caught short of cash a time or two, the other one can pitch in, and vice versa if the shoe ever turns up on the other foot. Freeloaders are rarely appreciated by either gender.
As the old saying goes, “Sharing is caring.”