Monday, February 29, 2016

Girls Weekend

There are happy happenings in my world. A couple of weeks ago my daughter and my niece texted me in our group inbox and said, "We're thinking it's time for a girls weekend. You in?" Like Flynn, I texted back, cliches be damned. This past weekend, both girls traveled to the city from their respective schools, meeting up here on Friday afternoon. We had such a wonderful time, doing little more than eating out at places we've been wanting to try, getting mani pedis, binge watching Shondaland shows and Survivor, and hanging out with my husband and son, my son's girlfriend and niece's boyfriend, all of us sipping red wine (Saturday night) and chatting and laughing riotously while my baker child made pineapple upside down cupcakes as a treat because she knows her grandmother's pineapple upside down cake was my favorite thing she used to bake (closely followed by her banana bread). Apparently, I drink socially with my children now. I didn't know I'd be that mother, but it seems okay. They seem okay.

At one point my kids and my niece had a deep conversation about gender role messages they absorbed from their parents. My husband and I were stunned to discover that my son had internalized the idea that the man should always pay. Whaat? How, I asked him. "Because when we take cabs you always give Daddy the money to pay, even when it's your money." He thought this meant I wanted the appearance of the man paying my way. Oh Lord. I then explained to him that the only reason I gave his dad the money was because I didn't feel like fooling with tipping and making change. It was sheer laziness, I explained, and his dad simply indulged me. Fortunately for my son, his girlfriend refuses to indulge his well-meaning chauvinism.

My niece laughingly shared that growing up, whenever she asked her dad for money to go out with friends, he joked by asking why were her friends so broke. I told her don't believe her dad's jokes, because my brother, like my dad, always counseled me to pay my own way. My daughter then asked her dad whether he thought that when she went on a date the man should pay for her. "No," her father told her. "Always offer to pay your own way. You don't want people feeling you're beholden because they've done all the paying."

At the same time, we all admitted to the double standard that the man should at least offer to pay the bill, especially when the relationship is new. Picking up the tab, we decided, could be an important clue as to whether a prospective partner was generous or a cheapskate. While we recognized this dynamic plays out differently in same gender dating, we confessed that when it came to straight couples, we didn't feel nearly as strongly about the woman offering the pay the whole bill, though we agreed it was fine for her to also sometimes pick up the tab once she knew who she was dealing with. This whole exchange made me really aware of how hard it is to thread the gender role needle exactly. It also made me wonder what other messages I might have unwittingly passed on to my kids, the ones I don't even know about and so cannot address.


  1. I have been thinking a great deal lately about gender roles and how gender affects relationships and social encounters. One would think that by now, it wouldn't be such a big deal but it is. Just as your discussions about who pays- well, in an ideal world, it would definitely come out even at the end but in a male-female dating relationship, there is something about the man offering to pay which makes me feel better. I know it's wrong, but I can't help it. And what have we passed onto our children, subconsciously or not, and what is just animal behavior? The Bower Bird male is not going to ever stop creating beautiful bowers to attract a mate. I think there is just something in us that makes many males want to display an ability to take care of a family, even if it's completely subconscious and entirely symbolic.
    I used to believe that EVERYTHING was determined by culture but the older I get, the less firm I am in this belief. Of course culture is important but...evolution is stronger.
    Sorry for the ramble.

  2. A very interesting post. I would love to meet your family! X

  3. It is interesting and enlightening to be able to have such discussions with your grown kids...something that could never have happened in my house since my mother would have gotten her back up, as she did at several key intervals...Like Mary, I once believed such things were totally tied to culture, but things have changed over time and now there is the clash of old and new and people don't know what to do...I always offer to pay if I invite, otherwise I ask politely if we can split the bill...Both are appreciated.

  4. I think it should depend on who initiates the date. If the man initiates, he pays. If the woman initiates, she pays. (At least in the early stages.) Of course, it's been a long time since I've been on a straight date. :)

  5. I enjoyed reading your post today! it made me smile when I read about the girls weekend together and all thought about who should pay what!

  6. Before we were a couple, we each paid our own way. After we were a couple but before we were married, we paid based on our incomes because there was a huge disparity. After we were married and having kids, we divided jobs between us - my husband earned the income and did heavier tasks around the house. I did most of the child rearing and housekeeping. Our money was always a single pot, in a single account. Still is, even though I'm back to work part-time. Everything we buy comes out of the pot. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But it works for us.

    Just one more way to look at things!

  7. Wow, this made me stop and think what sort of messages that my husband and I may be sending to our kids unwittingly. What a beautiful thing to have a girls weekend like that.