So there I was, up at 2am, with Channel 4’s ‘First Dates’ and a duvet as my only company. If you haven’t watched ‘First Dates’ before: firstly, shame on you, and secondly, allow me to summarise. Each week the programme matches together lots of singles and films their blind dates within a London restaurant, partially as a quest to find people love – but mostly to give us viewers a bit of a giggle. Think cringing, cuteness, a bit of craziness and of course some cheesy chat-up lines with varying success.
Now as happy as I’d usually be with this catch-up TV sesh, with a socially awkward maths teacher and a returning Manchester geezer with terrible jokes, I was struck with irritation by one of the final couples: Marc and Elle.
“On a first date”, Elle states in her first interview, “I love a guy to be a gentleman for me.” Well, fair enough. It seems that the charming aesthetic of men is one that many women hold as a priority in the dating world. Holding the door for you, paying compliments, common decency, right? But then she leans closer to the camera, stating another of the man’s jobs for the night. “Pay the bill” she cheekily whispers, giggling. Hmm.
Elle, as all4 puts it, is a blonde ‘Marilyn-Monroe lookalike’. Upon meeting her date with a squeal, she seems the complete opposite of quiet fireman, Marc, who comically looks a little frightened. But initially the pair are perfectly innocent, ordering tequilas and appearing to get on well enough.
The first spark of tension builds as Elle asks about another tequila. “Haha,” awkwardly laughs Marc, “ does money grow on trees?!” Personally, as a skint student, I see his point. With his three kids as well as his own budget to worry about, whilst eating in a very fancy restaurant, what’s the shame in being careful with what you’re spending? He makes a joke out of it and no harm is done.
But it is the final snippet of dinner that really heats things up, as the couple are given the check. “Oh we need to pay the bill. We need to pay the bill,” Elle says, flinging the paper towards Marc. “Are you giving it to me,” says Marc, half-jokingly. “Of course I’m giving it to you; I never pay on dates. Why would I?”
Suddenly, the atmosphere drops.
Marc looks a little shell-shocked. And so would you, after being encouraged to drink tequilas all evening and then given a bill of £136.
“I’m gunna give you £35” says Elle. “I understand your situation; you have three babies. Of course I’m gunna – hesistant pause – go halves. Well, not halves”. Queue Marc’s awkward laughter as he puts £100 on the table.
Now traditionally, men earned more and therefore paid the bill- and fair enough, this is still the case for a lot of couples. It’s also seen as a courteous and chivalrous act; bound to create an irresistible allure of the gentleman sort. But it is becoming more and more out-dated as cultural attitudes begin to change.
Looking at other articles online, it seems a prominent no-no is ‘revealing you’re skint on the first date’. Lack of money to throw about is seen as something shameful, something unacceptable, particularly for men, as if it’s something that can’t be admitted.
“Usually on a date I get treated nicely,” states Elle in her final interview, “treated like a woman”. Followed by a deathly stare towards Marc and a glug of tequila.
But with the differing budgets, changing attitudes towards female independence and same sex of today’s couples, why are we still clinging onto this principle? All it causes is anxiety around the expectations of the first date. Men feel reluctant to offer to pay in case they offend the independence of their date, whilst women feel equally at unease to offer to pay in case they harm their date’s ego. And as for same-sex couples? It seems we are in need of a QI ‘nobody knows’ sign.
It is at this moment that I am relieved to be saved from the horrific world of dating. I shut my laptop, content that my social media venting is complete for the time being. Perhaps I should start sleeping earlier. Or simply get less angry with TV.