Monday, April 12, 2010

The Rules

posted Wed, 27 Sep 2006

This outfit is what I am wearing to the interview I have next week in the place where SH lives. Unlike the interview I had in June, I would actually want this job – if it were in Memphis. And if they offer it to me, I will probably take it because the thrill of poverty and anxiety that go with unemployment has long worn off for me. But I’d much rather stay in Memphis than move someplace cold.

This is the suit and coat I wore for the first date I had with SH. Only he didn’t think it was a date. I don’t know what you would call it if you wouldn’t call it a date. He completely rearranged his flight schedule so he could have a five-hour layover in Memphis on his way from [the place where he lives] to Florida just to see me. This was a couple of weeks after we had met at our class reunion and he tracked me down via a mutual friend.

Wouldn’t you hire me? I hope it still fits.

But no, it wasn’t a date.

I picked him up at the airport and we went to lunch at The Cupboard, one of the best places in the world to eat.

He didn’t pay.

That’s right. When the check came, it lay on the table as if it had cement shoes, manacles and anthrax. It was ringing a bell and shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!” I finally realized that he wasn’t going to pick it up. Those darn California women had ruined him. Good grief. Write this guy off. No second date, that’s for sure. California women might have ruined him, but southern men had ruined me. Even on blind dates in Memphis, The Man Pays. Period.

Yes, there was a time when I was a righteously indignant feminist who paid my own way and chased men. (“Why should I wait for a man to ask me out? I can ask him out. I’m empowered!”) But then I wised up. Men I trusted to tell me the truth told me the truth: men value that for which they have to work. Hard to get works.

Sure, a guy will let himself be chased and he’ll even date a woman who initiates things, but it’s rare for a lasting strong relationship to emerge from such a start. My mama was right – let the boy call you. If he doesn’t call, it’s not because he was hit by a bus, he was hurt by a previous relationship or he’s at his grandmother’s funeral. It’s because he’s not interested.

After we both looked at the check for what seemed like hours, I finally flipped it over with my index finger. I did the math, pulled my wallet out of my purse and said coldly, “We pay up front.”

SH has more than made up for that initial mistake, of course, but claims that he thought I should be treating him, as he was the out of town guest.

“When someone visits me, I take them out,” he protested months later when I told him how he almost didn’t make it to date two.

“When I stay with someone, I feel that I should take them out,” I said. “I’m staying in their house, eating their food, inconveniencing them! I hardly expect my hosts to take me out to dinner! That’s why you take a hostess gift when you visit someone – because she has had to clean the bathroom and put sheets on the guest bed and do all sorts of extra work to have a houseguest. Hosts are certainly not expected to take guests out to eat.” (But thank you, Ilene, for that wonderful meal you treated me to when I visited you!)

“Besides,” I continued, secure in the knowledge I had right on my side, “this was a date! And on a date, the man pays.”

He insists on pointing out inconsequential details like I still sort of had another boyfriend at the time, but really – does a Gomez in Morocco really count? And if SH’s mission was to convince me to ditch Gomez and fall in love with him, was making me pay for my own lunch (and expecting me to pay for his) the right strategy? If you want to steal a girl from another guy, you have to be bold. You have to buy the lunch.

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