Thursday, 3 October 2013

Dating in an Age of Austerity Part 1

The price of a woman in my town is two drinks.

Not all the women, of course. Not the blonde middle-aged advocate getting into a cab, or the friendly, pudgy cashier at the supermarket. Probably not the willowy Polish girl waiting at the bus stop, and definitely not the bevy of old ladies tidying the Cathedral. And not even the invisible occupants of the warrens of Tollcross who, I assume, are paid in cash.

No, I am thinking of the flocks of the dyed-orange girls in micro-minis teetering on stilettos down George Street to the expensive bar or dance club of their choice, each and every one of them with parents, a life story and an immortal soul. And the price of some of those girls--again, not all--is two drinks. The task of the men who frequent these bars and clubs is to figure out which girls will go that cheap and to whom.

The girls would vigorously deny that they are for sale. They are modern, responsible women with jobs and maybe even children (currently at home with Mam) or with excellent transcripts or fledgling careers. They just want to have fun, to blow off some steam, to have some adventures, and it's none of our ***** business. If men offer them drinks, well, why shouldn't they take them, if the men look like they are good for a blether and a laugh? And if the men offer them a second drink, well, maybe they shouldn't, but maybe they will just this once because these are good guys, not like some of those other blokes in the bar, and their conversation is exciting, and actually they rather fancy them.

The men are pleased. The air is electric with male competition, but they have done very well for themselves. This is an expensive bar, and these are carefully groomed girls who put a lot of thought into their clothes, make-up and carefully messed up hair. They look clean. Chances are they are clean. And although these attractive girls could have said no to their drinks, definitely to the second drinks, and accepted someone else's drinks instead, they didn't, so chances are that the girls have chosen them, and if they went home with them in an hour that would be flattering.

Two cocktails on George Street = £3.95-£12.00 x 2 = £6.90 - £24.00

What a deal.

"If modern, responsible women with jobs and lives and an interest in grooming go for £24 a night, what is the point of dating?" think our lads about town. Going to a bar, even an expensive bar on George Street, is relatively cheap, especially as the most desirable women, i.e. young and small, cannot drink all that much before they fall down. Dating, however, is ruddy expensive.

Two dinners on George Street with wine = £36 minimum That's just risotto cakes and a glass of wine for both. Hmm. Not a lot to eat or drink, so not really an impressive date. Really, we're looking at £50 for a dinner for two. (Incidentally, minimum wage in the U.K. is £6.31/hr. Monthly rent of a central Edinburgh flat is £600/m before utilities and council tax.)

Two tickets to films in Edinburgh (Art cinema): £16.40
Two tickets to film in Edinburgh (Multiplex): £20.00 (approx)

And as they say, candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. And unlike expensive, jaded and possibly diseased prostitutes, lots of ordinary, pretty, young women are available for £24. So why, I was asked by a cheerful realist, should men date?

After I picked my jaw off the pavement and carefully hinged it back into my skull, I made vague protests about "nice girls" and marriage and immortal souls. And then, when at last I figured out how I felt, I felt really mad. Maybe there's a reason why "respectable women" were so terrible to "tramps" and shunned them like crazy. Until the sexual revolution, the most potent factor influencing young men to get married, even more potent than parental nagging, was sexual desire coupled with distaste for prostitutes. Prostitutes could be fun, and provided variety, but ick. Fun girls in bars, though, are not icky, and to suggest that they are is very judgmental, bigoted and anti-feminist. How dare you. But now the number one problem for men that only scary marriage was supposed to solve can be solved without it. Which means "respectable women" (i.e. women who would have been considered respectable before 1970; we're all respectable now, on paper) have a much, much harder time getting married.

In English-speaking countries, it is indeed traditional for men to pay on dates. But unfortunately there is sometimes some confusion as to what they are actually paying for. How do you impress upon men that you are not "that kind of girl" when thousands of girls who look and dress like you ARE "that kind of girl" and think nothing of it? And to make all this more confusing, real, professional, prostitutes call their appointments dates. "Wanna date?" is apparently the phrase with which prostitutes solicit in Ontario, and one advert offering legal advice to battered prostitutes asked "Had a bad date?"

In some European countries, women actually resist the idea that men should pay on dates. I was told this was true of Germany: apparently German women become instantly suspicious of a man's intentions if he buys her food or drink. I don't know what that is, although I wonder if the last World War might have had something to do with it.

And now that I have thoroughly depressed you, I promise to write something more cheerful about paying on dates tomorrow. But if you have any great arguments for young men of no (or little) religious faith why they should date properly instead of taking home cute drunk girls from bars, feel free to write them in the combox. Keep it clean.


Stellamaris said...

Well, you could argue that even these drunk girls probably attach a lot more emotional importance to the encounter than the men do, so men should perhaps not take any of them home to avoid the risk of breaking hearts. But the kind of men who behave this way don't seem to care.

Bee said...

Why's it so silent?!? Are there really no ideas? Let me take a crack at it:

I believe we are all born with the innate desire to seek the Good. Even the not-so-religious men. So I would reassure them that if what they secretly want is a loving relationship (but are pressured by society that to "be a man" they must take home women from bars) that they will be thought of more manly if they behave properly. And I would praise the men who are upright in the presence of the potential "bad" boy.

Or I could point out that dating properly allows them to get to know the women, rather than risking bad experiences, and they can avoid the unpleasantness they surely may have had before with at least one woman (like...she turned into a stalker or something).

If all else failed, I might pull the "would you want some guy doing this to your sister?" Worth a shot, at least. If only have "sister" on their mind the next time they flirt...

Of course, there will be the guys who stubbornly won't be reached by most of our appeals. I don't know what to tell them; only to pray that there is more male mentoring, as advice coming from men they respect goes farther than a female's protestations.

And one more thing...good guys who are worried about cost of dating: yes certain stereotypical dates can get expensive, but consider that many nice young women are more impressed by initiative and creativity. So if you research free concerts or museum evenings or find tasty, yet inexpensive foods or plan an activity based on a e-coupon deal or something, you should get bonus points in her estimation. If men start doing this, then I don't have to feel like I'm "leading" or "chasing" or "doing all the work" when my dates say "let's get together" but leave the planning to me.

Ally said...

Honestly, why should anyone who is not a Christian act like one? Yes we can give reasons that are very valid that what the human soul really wants is more than that, regardless of one's religious affiliation, but I honestly don't know that one can. I get really annoyed with fundamentalists and the like in the southeast USA expecting non-believers to act like believers.... I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but for the non-believer whom has had several failed marriages, and whom doesn't see the problem with sex outside of marriage, what possible reason do they have to get married again, at least now that society doesn't expect it of them? (I use that example because of my Protestant background - I realize in the Catholic Church they shouldn't be getting married again if they don't have an annulment...)

Jackie said...

So many thoughts... If these women can be really "bought" for a couple of drinks, does it occur to men that you get what you pay for? I mean, this kind of consumption "disposable" mentality never leads to anything substantive.

(Are they "buying" sex or do they think something more is going to come of it? If so, wouldn't that mean it can only last until the next guy who can buy more expensive drinks comes along? This seems a rather torturous way for a human heart and soul to live.)

Most men, I think, are looking for marriage and a family. Maybe they like the idea of being some kind of Don Juan/lothario type, but it's ultimately a dead end.

Meanwhile, I'd be interested to know that, if they do intend to marry, what kind of girl they think would be a good match? Men seem to judge the heck out of promiscuous women, yet appear unconcerned that these women will accept promiscuousness in men.

In addition to asking that, I'd gladly point out the CDC stats on STIs as well as the studies shown that correlate number of sexual partners with divorce. Additionally, the ONLY way to guarantee no pregnancy is abstinence. To some men, money talks louder than any amount of words, so I would point out the long-term financial implications of their current actions.

Lastly, I would simply state that "like attracts like." If they are going to be out there having sex "on the cheap" then it cuts both ways. They are not some figure of romantic intrigue or desirability. Dissolution knows no gender.

Jackie said...

Ally, from my POV:

When you bring children into the picture, it's not just about you (the understood you, not you personally Ally! ;-) ).

I have a LOT of friends who think that, It's my choice and I can do whatever I want. But choices aren't made in a vacuum, they all contribute to a culture. When a woman becomes pregnant, either she is going to bring human life into the world, or she is going to extinguish it. That is HUGE.

I asked a friend, who is of another faith but wants to be able to have sex whenever she wants: How do you feel about bringing a child into the world with X? Because that is a potential consequence. Or, how do you feel about taking a chance on HPV which can't be tested for? (She told me the odds are in her favor, but how can anyone know that?!) And, how do you feel about living a double life between what your parents think you are and what you are actually doing?

There are a LOT of hypocrites and disingenuous elected official in the South. Believe me, I know! But actions have consequences for everyone, even if they can't be seen immediately.

Jackie said...

Sorry for being a comment hog, Seraphic! There is just one thing your question brought to mind:

What do you say to women who claim Catholicism and who are old enough to be your mother telling you that if you don't have premarital sex with boyfriends, you are being "unrealistic" in waiting for marriage?


Urszula said...

I'm not sure how I would tell a man this directly, but I think that deep inside, most humans (that includes men...) want a deeper connection and only settle for casual hookups because they don't believe they will get anything better.

Also, more men than we would believe (even among the so-called "Don Juans") are either insecure or shy (I differentiate between the two) and so it actually takes them a lot (sometimes, a lot of alcohol)to work up to asking a girl out as opposed to hooking up after meeting at a bar. Because dating and getting to know someone essentially means they have to let themselves be vulnerable.

So I don't think it's only a financial calculation - it's just the easiest thing to do, sometimes. But men - for the most part - like challenges, so I don't think they'll find these hookups ultimately satisfying.

A secular blog that speaks to this perspective very well is "Hooking up Smart" (hopefully it doesn't offend most conservative readers, but it does address commitment issues from a secular perspective quite well).

Honestly, I have never had a problem with guys paying for dates. I've dated both in Europe (france, belgium) and in the US and if anything, Europeans seemed to object more to 'going Dutch' than Americans did. I've also never come across the brand of traditionalist that gets horrified at having to pay for a girl's dinner, so I'll admit I'm a bit stupefied...

Anonymous said...

This is depressing. Most men only married in the past because that was the only way they could get non-icky sex? Man. I know marriage is scary, and I know the sexual revolution was really screwed things up, but I don't think that it's true that most men really just want sex.

I think most guys do really want more than that (all except the evil ones)- even if they might also want sex sooner than would actually be good for the relationship.

I tutored at the state college's athletic department for awhile. That was eye-opening. Many of the men (especially the nfl-bound men) were genuinely leary of most of the women they knew, as said women wanted to use them for their future pay checks. These women acted pretty crazy. Some would use their daddy's money to buy the poor but soon to be rich football player nice things. Many would do obscene things with one guy, then ask if it was okay with him to do the same obscene things with one of his teammates... of course he says yes, you can do whatever you want with my teammates (and doesn't say to her but does say to me: but then I won't respect her or date her like she says she wants). And of course she is hoping he'll say no, I don't want you to do that with my teammates because I really like you. It's all a big dysfunctional mess, where women use sex to try to get to the man's heart and the men take it because they don't have self-control (and, clearly, were not taught any virtues at all except bravery on the proverbial battlefield) but then have zero respect for the women and complain that no/few women will actually stick by them or love them- they just want the status/money.

I could probably write a short book on all the shocking things I learned at the athletic department, but one thing that was clear was that these stereotypical tough guys really do want someone to love them. They just have no idea how to go about getting that and very little faith that it's even possible. Of course it doesn't help that almost none of their parents were ever married to each other.

I don't know if these Scottish guys are the same, but the human heart does have an infinite desire for love.

All of this is to say nothing of the women who pressure good men into sex/sexual activity. They are definitely out there.


TRS said...

This is interesting. I too, haven't had too much trouble having men pay for dates. Probably if I wasn't too interested I would offer to go Dutch. And often, once a dating pattern is established, I offer to treat now and then, or offer to buy popcorn if he's buying the movie tickets sort of thing.

The last few guys I dated insisted on paying for everything. It was terribly charming on one hand and a little uncomfortable on the other. But once I realize how very much more money they have than me, I get over it.
One guy comically fought me on paying for popcorn.... and the first time I offered he stared at me with wild confusion, "what are you talking about? No way!"
Another man was out of small bills when we were out downtown, and parked at one of those lots where you shove folded dollar bills into a slot to pay for your space. I had three ones in lieu of his 20.... And shoved it into the slot. After dinner, when he got some cash, he insisted on paying me back the three dollars!

There are other men who make a bit of a stink about the expectation of a man to pay on dates. The one I can think of is a lapsed catholic who is impacted by the economy right now. But I think his chief complaint is that in the days he was flush, the women he wined and dined didn't appreciate it.
So my advice to ladies, always say thank you for dinner. Efuse a bit of appreciation. It makes a difference even/especially if you don't end up together.

On the other side, I had a good friend whose husband, when dating her, always went Dutch. He never ever treated her once... Until they were married. She always thought it was shocking that my dates always paid. He did, however, buy her gifts, including a bicycle.
That said, her husband is cheap. He won't cool the house in the summer nor heat it in the winter, I mean it's heated... But just enough to keep pipes from freezing.
Everyone knows this about him. If your going to their house to visit, wear your warmest sweater!
When I told her about a date who changed plans to a fancy restaurant when he thought I looked dressed up ( I was actually wearing old work pants, but they must have looked special to him) and splurged on a pricey dinner... She made comments about how that won't last once you're married.... Or how her husband never took her to those kinds of places. Well honey, your husband is cheap, and you knew that before you married him.

No offense, but I won't marry a man who is cheap. Frugal, sure. I respect frugal. But if you can't splurge on dinner once in a while, or treat your friends, if you have no spirit of generosity or charity... Then we are going to fight a lot.
I can barely tolerate my girlfriends who have to split our bill to the penny.

Seraphic said...

@Jackie. I've been at Polish class, and now it is late, but those ladies are wrong. It is not unrealistic, and anyway, that's not the point. I'm not sure what you say to them beyond, "Gosh, I'm sorry you feel that way." If you know decent guys, you can say, "I know lots of decent guys who would never want women to go to bed with them before they were ready." Because, from one point of view, that's what we're talking about here. If a woman isn't ready to go to bed with a guy until he's married to her, and he doesn't respect that and wants her to go to bed with him before she really wants to, then he's a jerk.

Lots of devout Catholic guys wait to meet the right girl and then just get married real quick.

Julia said...

Jackie, I'd tell those ladies to go and read their Bibles and Catechisms. Far out. And I'd tell them that not having premarital sex is not about finding a husband, but about following the will of God. Crikey. If a Catholic or Christian woman my mother's age told me that not having premarital sex is "unrealistic", I'd have to try really hard to control my eye-roll reflex.

"But if you have any great arguments for young men of no (or little) religious faith why they should date properly instead of taking home cute drunk girls from bars, feel free to write them in the combox."

STDs/STIs. That alone should be reason enough to not be promiscuous.

Julia said...

"Catholic or other Christian woman" is what I meant.

Jackie said...

Seraphic and Julia:

Thank you for bringing the awesomeness and common-sense! I truly appreciate it. :-)

It feels so strange to think that for millenium that the standards for morality and marriage have been one way -- 50 years ago these women would have been on the fringe!

And yet, they speak as the presumptive voice of experience and tell me that if I don't "snap a guy up" ASAP and do this to keep him that I will "miss out." (And go full-on Havisham, presumably.) Trying to motivate someone to sin (by using fear) really frosts my cookies. :/

Thank you again, ladies, and I will look forward to tomorrow's more upbeat column! :-)

Julia said...

Jackie, no worries. What really gets me though is that the ladies you mention are Catholics. Those sort of remarks coming from someone who's an atheist or who doesn't claim to be part of any religion - well, that might be a little less surprising. But from Catholic women of your mum's age? That's just annoying.

Seraphic said...

Back in theology school we had an expression: "They were badly catechized."

Depending on their age, this may actually be true. If they were catechized during or after Vatican II, chances are they really were badly catechized.

They might even be trying to justify their own premarital sexual sins. Dear, dear, dear. And trying to discourage another Catholic woman so that she will do the same thing just compounds them horribly!

Julia said...

It crossed my mind that they might have been badly catechised, and that is indeed the most charitable assumption, but I find it a tad hard to believe. The Catholic teachings on chastity are widely mocked in our culture, so I think that most people are aware of them on a basic level (basic being "no premarital sex"). However, I attended a Catholic girls' school that did a pretty shocking job of teaching the faith, and I can imagine RE teachers justifying just about anything, so these ladies might indeed be ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Seraphic, what do you tell a guy you're getting serious with that you don't want to sleep with anyone besides your husband, if you are not a virgin? If you tell him that you're only comfortable sleeping with your husband, the assumption on his part could be that you're a virgin.


Seraphic said...

Oh dear. You sound stressed. Well, having to give The Speech is always stressful, whether you are a virgin or not.

I wish I knew what you meant by serious. It could mean talking about what to name your future children or it could mean you're spending hours making out on the couch. Spending hours making out on the couch does not make it a serious relationship although it does exponentially increase the chances that you will have to make The Speech.

Well, listen. If he's not a Catholic, he's probably a feminist of some kind, or at least been taught by them. And therefore he should know that "No" means "No." "I don't want to have sex outside of a seriously committed relationship" means No, which I was going to offer as a solution, but it is probably better to be honest.

"I don't want to have sex with a man with whom I am not married" could lead directly to the question, "Are you a virgin" which, as far as I know from what you tell me, is none of his beeswax. And if he asks, tell him you are not comfortable answering that question. ("Why not?" "Because I don't know you well enough yet to talk about the most personal aspects of my life.")

The important thing is that you don't want to have sex with him, so you don't have to have sex with him, and if he asks you to have sex with him, you should say No. Even a complete marxist-atheist-feminist would agree with me on that.

I hope this guy is your friend, not just your boyfriend.

Jackie said...

@Seraphic, I hope to be as generous as you someday! I am pretty sure it is the second option, since it "worked" for her. She has children with the same beliefs (even after they completed RCIA).

This woman also tends to look down on unmarried/childless women as "lesser than." Which I guess is what hurts. It's probably best for me to steer clear of the lot!

Jackie said...

Is it just me? Or is it crazy that we are living in a world where most people would be more offended being asked about their bank account and the debts they owe than about their most personal details of virginity status/sexual partners?

Ugh! How do people have the effrontery to even imagine they are entitled to know this, if not their doctor, priest of fiance?

Seraphic said...

@Jackie, well that's you and me together, then, since I am childless myself.

Jackie said...

Lucky for us we know our true worth is beyond comprehension in God's eyes. :-)

Sheila said...

It's funny. If you suggest that men are all sex fiends who only want one thing, you're not expected to offer any proof. But if I say "a lot of men really aren't that desperate for sex," I feel like I ought to offer proof -- and if I know this fact about any man, it's in confidence, you know? No man wants to be "outed" as not really that libidinous. I do know that most men of my acquaintance would be heartbroken if they slept with a woman and then that woman never called them again. They want relationships, real, serious ones. They want romance.

Failing that, if he's the sort of man who really IS a natural Don Juan, one might mention that if he sleeps with a stranger, and she gets pregnant, she has the power to either kill his child without even telling him, or to sue him to support that child financially.

That, and the nice girl they imagine to marry someday is probably not going to like it when she finds out he has herpes. That would probably trigger some unpleasant conversation, because the fact is women do not like knowing their man has slept with other women. It gives even the paganest woman an inferiority complex ("surely he's comparing me to his past conquests, and surely they are all prettier than me").

And that's selfish reasons only. A halfway decent guy should forbear just because it's bad for the girls.