Friday, February 8, 2019

The Case of the Feminist Girlfriend

Another day, another casualty of women’s liberation. A young coed has involved herself in a relationship with a man who has much more money than she does. He comes from a wealthy family. She does not. In effect, this is fairly normal. Many women seek to marry up, to marry men who have more money, who can support them and their eventual children.

So far, not so bad.

To a mind addled on feminist theories about equality this causes a problem. Apparently, she cannot keep up with boyfriend’s spending habits. He likes to go places she cannot afford. His friends like to go places she cannot afford. Boyfriend is happy to pay for her, because that’s what boyfriends do. She does not like it because she believes that they should both contribute equally.

I don’t know which college they attend, but clearly she is not very bright. And she is undermining the relationship, making her boyfriend feel less like the man. Fair enough, he is spending his parents’ money, but the principle still pertains. He loves her and is happy to show that he can provide for her. She resents him for doing so and berates him for not being enough of a feminist.

We ought to notice a point that Carolyn Hax does not see. Said coed must have known that her boyfriend was a man of means before she got involved. If she did not understand what that entailed she should not have gotten involved in the first place. If she feels too much guilt because he takes her to nice places and does nice things for her, she should bail out on the relationship.

The notion that both man and woman should contribute equally to all dinners and vacations is simply idiotic. She is not acting like a member of a couple, but like an independent and autonomous individual… one who will most assuredly sabotage her relationship. After she does she will write to some feminist advice columnist who will tell her that it was all the man’s fault for not being sufficiently woke.

Anyway, she has written to Carolyn Hax for counsel. Here is the letter:

I'm a college student dating a very nice guy who happens to come from a wealthy family. I really like him, we get along great, we each contribute equally to the relationship and we see eye-to-eye on many things.

However, the financial differences between us have begun to take a toll on me. It is difficult for me to keep up with him and his friends — who have become mine — when it comes to eating out, going to concerts, Ubering long distances to bars, etc. I have addressed my financial situation with him bluntly in the past, and he offers to pay for me constantly.

I feel guilty for the normal reasons, but also because his money is really his parents' money, and I feel weird adding expenses to the credit card bill they pay off. This weighs much more heavily on me than it does on him, despite my subtle offers to cook at home or to not drink and be designated driver so I can drive instead of paying for rides.

Is there a different approach to take that would save my wallet? Do I accept his offers to pay? Or is this a wedge in my social life that must be accepted?

— Anonymous

Not to be too picky, but what does she mean when she says that they both contribute equally to the relationship. Is this merely a feminist shibboleth that women need to throw into the mix in order not to feel like they are not being bought? If she is that sensitive about being bought, then perhaps she lacks a certain amount of self-respect.

As her addressing her financial circumstances with him bluntly, whatever does that mean? It suggests that she is looking for a confrontation, a fight over feminist principles. If she persists, the relationship is obviously doomed.

She might reciprocate his largesse by cooking at home. She even suggests that she has made a subtle suggestion to that effect. Again, not to be too picky, but what prevents her from actually cooking at home. Why does she need to be subtle about it? She should just do it. Or, she can drink less and be the designated driver. She does not need to ask permission. She can also clean up his room or even do some laundry. I understand that she will throw up at such suggestions. But, there are more ways than one to reciprocate.

We do not know whether or not they live together, but what would happen if they do and if she cannot afford to pay half the rent. This level of feminist delirium is not unheard of. It almost always ruins the relationship.

Sorry to have to say it, but Hax sympathizes with the letter writer’s feminist guilt. And she offers counsel that tries to split the difference. I am all for splitting the difference and for finding a mean between the extremes. But, here the right way is for her to return favors with more domestic favors, not to involve herself in yet another argument about money. Because the argument in and of itself suggests that she sees herself as a sugar baby, being paid for sexual favors. Hax does not mention this point. She should have.

Anyway, Hax writes this:

There’s an approach that would save you aggravation, shame, awkwardness, misunderstandings and the toting around of weird-heavy feelings in general, not just for this one issue: saying what you mean.

You said you “addressed my financial situation with him bluntly,” which is great, but in the present you’ve gone “subtle” when putting the theory of your finances into practice.

There’s a time for subtlety, but this isn’t it:

“I know I’ve told you I’m not wealthy. It means I can’t afford places you and your friends can, but I am also not comfortable with someone always paying my way. I take pride in taking care of myself. So I’d like to do more things together that I can afford. And when I volunteer to drive, please let me drive.”

Or make other suggestions that would help you feel better.

A rare example of bad advice from Hax. The coed in question has said exactly what she means. Picking a fight over it will surely undermine the relationship. Leaning in, as Michelle Obama correctly noted, does not work. Being aggressive and assertive will cause him to wonder whether she is worth the trouble.

Hax continues, offering other ways to balance the power dynamic—which is what she and everyone else will think it is:

Assuming the whole process doesn’t break you up, each of you needs to give up a little something for the other without compromising yourselves. Will he skip the nice dinner out once a week? Twice? Always? Will he ask the friends to do the same? Will he embrace change or roll his eyes all the way to resentment? Will you let him treat you sometimes so he can still enjoy nice things, since he has every right to? Can you reconcile your comfort levels with spending parental money? Will you both be good sports about finding a balance that works?

Actually, this process is going to break them up. The man is certainly not going to explain to his friends that he cannot go out one night a week because his girlfriend has imposed this condition in order to assuage her guilt.

And Hax thinks that the man should embrace change, thus make himself look the fool in front of his friends, point which will lead to resentment. Anyone who knows anything about relations between the sexes knows that courtship behavior involves a man’s showing that he can protect and provide for a woman. In traditional courtship the resulting nuptials produce a situation where the woman in question bears and raises the man’s children… which is a nice way to reciprocate. And which balances things out.

One suspects that the woman who wrote to Carolyn Hax will never get to this point with her relationship. Laying down unrealistic and absurd conditions will surely doom it. The next time she should find a boyfriend whose means are roughly equal to hers. In this way, she can achieve the dubious goal of equality and will be complaining about the fact that she cannot stay home with her children because she is obliged to work outside of the home to help support the family. How does this compare to the indignity of having a husband with means?


Ares Olympus said...

It does seem like she is someone who is not comfortable with wealth, and that is a worthy point of consideration, and shouldn't be blamed on feminism.

I recall a friend from a well-to-do family, when he got his PhD he confided in me that he got into over $50,000 in credit card debt over 5 years, mostly from living expenses with his girlfriend. I couldn't understand that at all, seeing credit cards as exploitative, and asked if he could borrow from his parents, and he said they offered, but he refused, because he knew they'd never make him pay it back. The logic astounded me, but showed at least he wanted to be a "independent and autonomous individual" and he didn't trust himself yet.

Whatever else, that suggests some people of means gain confidence and pride by standing on their own, and not taking the easiest way to success. It makes sense to live the life of the rich and famous when you've made it on your own, but if you're living high off your parents, who knows what other immaturities also are left unexposed until later when things get harder. I think of the men who committed suicide after the 1929 market crash margin calls.

Anonymous said...

Just a and I, along with all educated people know that "woke" is something you DID -- the past tense of an action verb, so it cannot be used as a state of being: "I am woke." It should be "I am awake" (state of being) or "I woke up yesterday" (past tense of action verb.)

Since so many people do NOT know it, when we use it without quotes around it, people assume it is being used properly, not as a slang term. Can we perhaps use it with quotes, to show that it is not the actual English word, but instead, is ghetto misuse of the correct verb tense?

Don't mean to sound petty, but every time we accept the dragging down of the culture, it just makes it easier next time....and as a former English teacher in the inner city, I can tell you that when kids hear adults use it that way, they assume it is correct, and they'll argue to the death with anyone who tries to teach them Standard English when they hear and read this all the time.

Thanks. Enjoy your column a lot.

P.S. Michelle actually advised people not to be aggressive? hahahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that so-called feminism is a palliative behind which lies a deeper and painful problem. Once I saw a dress in a shop window - and the price tag. The amount on that price tag was the same as my monthly budget as a student. I also recognized the dress. A fellow student wore it the day before in a meeting.

There really are no words to describe what goes through you the moment you realize that one of someone's many dresses equals 30 days of your financial life. The same probably goes for the many dinners, concerts and drinks.

I feel for the girlfriend and Hax misses the point entirely. Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider would problably advise her better when it comes to Rules for practical behaviour, but understanding and accepting the role of money in one's life takes a lot more effort than that.