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October 24, 2011 / Anna Louie Sussman

Money, food and sex: not the winningest of combinations

In “Predictably Irrational,” behavioral economist Dan Ariely writes about the two separate worlds we inhabit, “one where social norms prevail, and the other where market norms make the rules.” He describes a [purely hypothetical, I’m sure] guy who takes a girl out for dinner several times, and eventually mentions how much all these dates are costing him. She’s offended he expects sex in return for spending money.  Ariely writes, “He should have known that one can’t mix social and market norms – especially in this case – without implying that the lady is a tramp.”

I’m going to have to go ahead and agree with that. I was recently asked out by someone who mentioned “free coffee” in the subject line of the email. Free coffee? Oh go on, spoil me. We eventually wound up having dinner, after which he suggested convening again. When I told him my schedule did not permit, he wrote back suggesting a number of different meal options (breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch), insisting that surely I must have to eat at some point. Well yes, of course I need to eat, but I do not need to eat in his company, nor at his expense.

In fact, even without his assistance, I have been managing to eat (and procure my own coffee).  Three, four, five, heck, six times a day if I’m up late and need a midnight snack. Sometimes I cook for myself, sometimes I eat with a friend or my mom, and sometimes I get takeout. Lately, due to my school and work schedule, I’ve been relying heavily on takeout. But buddy, I’ve been eating all my life. That’s how I got to be 29 years old and still alive.

The implication was that somehow, until he came along with his credit card and Zagat’s 2011 edition in hand, I was dumpster diving and/or surviving off cat food and/or whoring myself out for coffee. The other, more insidious implication was that he is only good as a meal ticket, which is not only a misread of what I am after, but entirely unfair to himself. He’s a wildly smart, very interesting person who is selling himself short, in much the same way that women who trade in on their “erotic capital” (more on that load of horses**t later), instead of their intellectual or other forms of capital, are also ignoring what I would argue are more fundamental and authentic parts of themselves.

The gender pay gap still exists. Men still earn more than women, and sure, maybe some women like to go out with men who make more money than they do. Lots of people  – male and female – enjoy being treated to a meal by a friend or a partner, and lots of people enjoy treating others. But when courting, remember, you yourself are supposed to be the main event. Meals are supposed to facilitate the process of getting to know one another; they are not in themselves sufficient to sustain a relationship.

In other words, I’m not going to date a meal, so please don’t make that the best thing you have to offer. It’s not. You’re better than that.

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2 Comments

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  1. Ivellisse Morales (@Ivi_Mo) / Oct 24 2011 5:59 am

    Poor guy.

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