I have a female friend who refuses to let men pay for dinner on dates, no matter how much they insist on picking up the tab. She’s not alone: many women feel that if they want equality and agency, they have to hand over their credit card at the end of a romantic meal. I, on the other hand, feel surprised and a little affronted on the rare occasion when a man expects me to go Dutch, for one simple reason: women spend such a disproportionate amount of time and money getting ready for dates, we shouldn’t be expected to pay extra for dinner.
This week, a Twitter hashtag called #HowToGetReadyForADate started trending. Most of the tweets were jokes, but many also referenced the amount of time women take to prepare for a date versus men. From a man: 'Showering is overrated. Just lather on the cologne and spray your underarms with Febreze.' Contrast this with a tweet from journalist Holly Brockwell: 'Four hours choosing outfit, two hours bathing, one hour preparing anecdotes, ten seconds writing apology text, eight hours of Netflix.' While men just need to shower, shave, dress and possibly faff about with their hair, women typically spend an average of two hours and four minutes getting ready.
I once worked out that I shelled out an average of £54 before a date. This could include paying to have my white roots tinted (because, like most women with very dark hair, I’d rather not resemble a badger); having the halo of frizz around my head blow dried; getting my eyebrows shaped into neat arches rather than bushy caterpillars; buying make-up; having a manicure; buying hair lightener to bleach the hair on my upper lip, chin, arms and other areas of my body that shall remain classified; and buying razor blades (for shaving, not in case the date goes badly).
You can argue that this is my decision, and that men shouldn’t have to compensate me for it. But I’d contest that it’s not my choice: it’s just the way life works. Most men are more attracted to women who don’t have grey roots, a beard or moustache, a unibrow, ragged or discoloured nails or an uneven skin tone -- and part of the purpose of a date is to appear attractive to the other person. If they don’t fancy you physically, they won’t want to carry on seeing you on a romantic level, so it makes sense to try and look your best -- and when you’re a woman, this means getting ready takes several times longer than when you’re a man.
Whether this is the fault of nature, the media or society, it is an incontrovertible fact. There's little doubt that women would be wealthier and have more time if we didn't feel the need to beautify ourselves -- but we do, and I suspect that we always will. There's little point in railing at the unfairness, but being reimbursed for it instead? Now that's true equality.