Akie, Howard and I discussed calling after a first date in this week’s Perpetual Post.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Lately it seems as though a lot of women I love and respect have been prefacing statements with, “I’m not a feminist, but—“. This tends to make me mad, because the statements they’ve prefacing are usually about how women deserve to be treated equally, which, to me, is what feminism is essentially about. And yet they don’t want to be labeled as feminists, which I guess I understand, except I don’t. I am unequivocally a feminist, and I see nothing wrong with telling anyone who asks as much, because I don’t think there is any reason to not want to be seen as a feminist.
But I digress. There are still certain scenarios when my entire feminist perspective gets thrown out the window, where it is charged more at the dry cleaners and forced to do equal work for less pay. One example of such a scenario is when a friend of mine asks for advice after a first date. Generally, she’ll say something like, “We had a great time! He hasn’t called yet though. Should I call him?” To my astonishment and shame, I always find myself saying, “Hmm… better not.”
Why is this? At this point men and women take turns staying home with the kids, we achieve the same levels of education, we are both allowed to be doctors and nurses and flight attendants. Equality between the sexes is not there yet, but things are moving closer. And yet, when it comes to courtship, to a certain extent we may as well be back in the turn of the century, when a woman who wanted to snare a man had best not let him know of her interest until he couldn’t stand her avoiding him anymore and proposed marriage.
Much of it is the chase; I know it is. We still think that men want to chase us, and I guess a lot of them do, or think they do. But the problem is that technology has rendered the chase mostly obsolete. At this point it often consists of pressing the ‘Send’ button on a cell phone, or typing out a text message, or an email, or submitting an online friend request …basically, it’s almost harder NOT to be constantly in touch with other people. The chase is pretty sad these days. So if the chase has been lost, why are the other old customs still in place, like the one that says A Women Can Never Call a Man After a First Date, He Must Call Her (And if He Doesn’t, Oh Well, She’s Clearly Better Off)?
I think that part of this is due to tradition that is difficult to move past, and a lot of it is fear. A first date is such a tricky situation to begin with; you both bumble around, sweating, trying to be suave and to impress each other. At the end of the night, you are each pretty sure that the other had a good time, but at the same time you wouldn’t be surprised if they hate your guts. So it’s easiest for both parties to simply fall into the roles that are expected of them. It means neither has to rock the boat, which, if the date was a good one and each party is hoping for a second date, is comforting and provides some structure. Why not follow the rules, if that’s usually the way these things work? After all, if you don’t this time, what if you screw everything up? For a less stellar date, there might be more room for experimentation—a woman might feel more comfortable just picking up the phone to say hey if the date was just so-so—but in that case, why would she even bother?
The problem with tradition is, as 99.99% of us can attest from personal experience, waiting around for someone to call puts you in a foul mood. It is in fact Hell. So why does this have to be the woman’s job? Why does the man get the power to decide whether a second date is in the cards or not?
I don’t have an answer to this. And, as I’ve stated before, although I consider myself to be a feminist, when I first met my fiancé, I NEVER EVER called him. Even months after we’d been dating fairly seriously, I always waited for him to call me. So don’t look to me for answers, because I’m clearly screwed up. Still, let’s at least start to think about these gender roles and expectations, because if we don’t, centuries from now our great-great-great granddaughters will be sitting there after a good first date, waiting impatiently by the hologram machine. Let’s help them avoid that, shall we?