I recently went on my first real date. It went really well but, being inexperienced as I am, it was hard to tell if it was an official date or just a hangout. It didn’t have any of the obvious signifiers that I’ve been taught from movies and TV but it didn’t feel like a regular hangout between friends.
First off, I asked him out. Sort of. Earlier in the week we had talked about seeing this movie in hypothetical terms but hadn’t made any definite plans. Then, on the day we talked about seeing the movie, I texted him asking if he still wanted to see the movie. With me. And not anyone else.
We made plans over text and finalized what time we were seeing the movie and what we would eat for dinner. It was a conversation and no one person decided all of it. I did initiate it, however. So technically I asked him out.
Another confusing bit was that he didn’t pick me up. I live on the other side of town and it made no sense for him to drive south 15 minutes just to go north again to where we were going for dinner. He was already waiting for me when I got there. In ordering, I went first to make sure he didn’t pay for my food. That’s one dating rule I will always break. We went to the Relish on University Ave. which is in a plaza with strict parking rules. There was a guy monitoring who left the plaza and would tow their cars almost immediately so we drove to the movie separately.
Watching the movie I was totally sure it was a date. He had his arm around me and pulled me close to him. It also helped that we were watching a semi-romantic movie (La La Land) so this might not have happened if we had seen Rogue One.
We saw a late showing so by the time we got out of the movie it was almost midnight. It was a Sunday and we both had class in the morning so we agreed to end the night there. He walked me to my car but the goodbye was incredibly awkward. There was a large group of people standing next to my car and I felt a little weird with them talking so loud. There was no goodnight kiss, more than partially due to my awkwardness. We hugged and said bye and went home.
This is not how the first date in La La Land ended. Most first dates in movies end with a kiss, or if the date went really well, sex. I wasn’t going to have sex with him that night but I still wanted to kiss him. Was it a date if he didn’t pick me up, pay for my food, or kiss me goodnight?
I found myself measuring a fun night with a guy I really like up to dated dating conventions that I always had a problem with. The feminist in me was annoyed and upset with myself for wanting to conform to these institutionally sexist customs but the little girl in me that grew up watching romcoms struggled to fight against these traditions.
Dating and romance is the one world that feminists battle with the most. All the key tropes are from a time when the gender pay gap was 50 cents on the man’s dollar instead of 79 cents (for white women). Everything else has evolved, so why hasn’t dating?