WEB EXCLUSIVE! Dating rituals

by Jessica Savage and Jasmynne Sloan

Ladies, looking for something new to do this weekend? Why not treat your significant other to a fun filled night on the town?

First of all, come prepared. You’re going to need some extra cash. While you’re at it, pump some iron instead of primping because you’ll be in charge of all doors for the evening. Oh, and just for fun, empty your bladder before you leave because the goal is to use the restroom only once.

The most important thing is to leave all your inhibitions at home because your main goal is to reverse the stereotypical gender roles for the night.

Gender roles are prescribed behaviors for women and men. These roles are especially noticed in dating rituals, where the men take the dominant attitude and the women go along with it. So, this is what we did-we started with a detailed list of male stereotypes we needed to master during our date. Then we took out our boyfriends for a typical evening with one carefully plotted twist. We acted like men. We held the popcorn, we didn’t talk, and we paid for everything.

Here are our personal stories of breaking through the stereotypes and taking on new roles.

Jessica’s Story

My boyfriend and I are both very busy, active people who squeeze in bits of time here and there to hang out. I admit that I generally fit the mold when it comes to female dating rituals while my boyfriend fits into the male role pretty comfortably.

However, it’s not uncommon for me to pick up the tab or hold a door open. So, my boyfriend didn’t notice anything unusual when I requested we go to dinner and a movie.

Overall, I did a pretty good job. But there were just a few things I, and probably many women, couldn’t accomplish.

I picked up my boyfriend and drove everywhere for the entire evening. Now, this might be a little unusual for me, considering I never do the night time, out of town driving. My boyfriend and I both feel more comfortable when he drives out of town at night. Even though I think it’s just easier for him to be in control of that, on this particular night, I dominated the driving. I would give myself an A for mastering this male role.

During our evening adventure, I also took all the necessary steps to open and close car doors, restaurant doors, and any other door that was in our path. Mission accomplished-A.

I always complain about not having any money but never realize how much my boyfriend spends until I spent the night paying for this and that. I bought two Mexican dinners–$15, left the tip–$2, and paid for two movie tickets–$10. I went home with almost no money. And, just think how often your boyfriends do this ladies? I did give, however, at the movies. My boyfriend, however, bought the pop and Milk Duds. We also went out for hot chocolate later in the evening and he again paid. I couldn’t resist because I really didn’t have the money. I didn’t come prepared as my boyfriend always does. I gave up too easily-B+.

My dominance during our date came and went often. I did make my boyfriend sit on the inside of the booth at the coffee shop despite his resistance. I also had the final say in our restaurant and movie choice. During the movie, I controlled the food and drink. I held onto the candy and offered him drinks after I took a drink. Also, I was the spokesperson for our date, by speaking to the waiter, cashier, and ticket taker. Despite my efforts, I failed at dominating body language. I did not put my arm around him during the movie. Instead, I snuggled. My performance in dominating was a B.

Now, I took the typical and easy male roles and broke them apart fine. It’s the harder, more masculine roles that I failed to break. It’s typically not a male thing to say please and thank you and sorry. I only said these three tiny words about 20 times each during our date. It could be that I’m too used to saying these words or that I’m really a robot with a few preset sayings. I’m the like the Energizer bunny, I keep going and going and going. I couldn’t stop thanking my boyfriend for going out on this date with me or apologize for driving too fast or too slow. Overall, F.

There were other words, most women could relate to, that I couldn’t stop using-all of them! Men are usually quiet species, using one answers and saying “what?” after every woman’s sentence. I absolutely couldn’t control this stereotype because I am the epitome of this one. Big, fat F.

My gender role breakdown date experience-C+.

However, my grading many be different than those who were involved directly or indirectly with the date. The reactions of the people around use affect the overall impact of my actions.

When my boyfriend and I first entered the restaurant, I immediately stepped forward and said table for two, non smoking. There wasn’t any reaction from the hostess, unless she was thinking I was “just another overly obsessive girlfriend who has to be in charge and won’t let her boyfriend talk, much less look at another girl.” This reputation has been attached to many girls because of their domineering attitude. I do think this is a good example of a stereotype that women struggle with. When they want to be in control, they might be afraid to do so because society says that is wrong.

I just wished the girl had smiled at my efforts to break down gender stereotypes. What can I expect though?

Our waiter for the evening always looked at my boyfriend first even though I was always the first to speak. He didn’t say anything but his actions said enough. He also set the bill closer to my date, assuming he was paying.

The cashier at the restaurant was the only person to noticeably react to my male role. My boyfriend stood back by the door while I went to the counter to pay. The cashier looked at me and then my date. He mocked my male role with his smart-alecky grin and over exaggerated speech, as if I were 12.

Nobody else we encountered seemed to notice my struggle to break down gender stereotypes. I think overall, besides the cashier, other people would have given me a D+ for breaking down the gender roles because they didn’t even notice.

My boyfriend, however, did notice something different in my actions by later in the date. I don’t think that he necessarily thought I was doing a good job filling his role but he was appreciative of my actions.

He kindly thanked me for treating him to dinner. He also thanked me for driving and for the movie. But by the time we were going to buy movie refreshments, he refused to let me pay. Maybe he felt bad for not making his usual money contribution to the date.

I explained to him what was going on after our date and asked him for his reactions. He said that it was nice to take a night off and not have to worry about everything-the driving, the money, the decision making. But he also described how he felt guilty having my pay for almost everything. Where did he get the idea that men are supposed to pay everything?

Overall, I think he would grade my efforts to break down the male dating ritual with a B+.

Do I think women or men can break down dating rituals? Yes, but it might take some time and practice. Some roles were easier to break than others but I don’t think anyone can completely change them in one date. Also, I think communication between the couple would help break down society’s gender roles in dating.

Jasmynne’s Story

Reversing the gender roles for a date with my boyfriend didn’t seem like too big of a challenge for me. I just planned to do everything he usually did, from his actions to his conversational style. It turned out not to be that easy.

Our date didn’t start on a successful note for me. I couldn’t pick my boyfriend up because his vehicle is a lot more trustworthy than mine, but I did manage to get my hands on the keys. I decided that whoever has the keys gets to drive, and whoever drives is in control of the date. I never drive when we’re together, probably because we always take his truck. So, of course, my boyfriend immediately asked why I wanted to drive. I responded with an evasive answer, “Why not?” This seemed to placate him for a while, and he let me drive without any further explanations.

I was thrilled, one of the biggest gender roles had been successfully reversed! However, I soon realized that if I was going to act like him, I’d have to drive like him. After being patient one too many times while waiting for other cars, he said, “You can go…. now!” I stayed put. Hey, he never listens to me when I tell him how to drive! For driving, I give myself an A, for driving aggressively, a D.

Doors presented another problem in my carefully laid plan. I usually wait for my boyfriend to open doors for me, but there was no way I could expect him to do the same. This caused some amusing mad dashes for various doors, as well as a sore ankle from when I made it to a door before him but forgot to watch where I was going. I failed to open all doors, but I didn’t let him hold them for me either – B.

Money was an interesting aspect of our date. I paid for everything my boyfriend usually does, so I bought gas, dinner, movie tickets and refreshments. I did let him leave the tip like I usually do, but that was his only contribution. I went home penniless because the cost of our date added up to almost $50! It made me wonder if my boyfriend ever has to steal purses or sell drugs so he can afford to take me out on a weekly basis. Paying for everything deserves an A+.

Conversation was a more challenging gender role to disrupt. At first, I failed miserably. I talked too much, I apologized for my driving and I asked a lot of questions to initiate conversation. We were in the middle of a spirited debate during dinner when I realized what I was doing. So I stopped. I used one-word answers, and I refused to volunteer any information without being asked. This had a fascinating effect on my boyfriend – he took on my role! He talked more, especially whenever we were in his truck. Sitting in the passenger seat gives a person nothing better to do than talk to the driver, and when the driver isn’t talking it can get frustrating. My boyfriend ended up complaining because I wasn’t talking enough. Changing the gender roles in conversation – B+.

Jessica and I thought, just for fun, we’d see if our bladders could compete with our dates’. Mine absolutely could not! I had to go at the restaurant, but I decided I’d wait until my boyfriend admitted he needed to use the restroom. I waited a full hour, a full, agonizing hour before I had to speak up. I vow never to do this again, it isn’t healthy – F.

Overall, I did a decent job of taking on the dominant role during our date. I drove, I opened doors, but there were a few things I wanted to do and just couldn’t. I couldn’t pull out my boyfriend’s chair because he sat down too fast, but I did act as the spokesperson for both of us throughout the evening. I told the hostess where to seat us, and I was the one who spoke most to our waitress. However, I could not bring myself to put my arm around my date in the movie theater. I did try it in the truck on the way home. My arm cramped up in under a minute, and I will never understand how they can do that for hours on end! So I missed a few little things, hey, I did a good job on most of it. My overall grade for the evening – B-.

I was successful enough in changing the gender roles in dating to make my boyfriend pretty suspicious. He asked a lot of questions, the most common being “What’s wrong?” and “What’s the special occasion?” On our way home, I finally admitted what I had been doing and my boyfriend’s main reaction was relief. I had hoped that he would realize that the way we act on a typical date forces us into prescribed gender roles, but he didn’t seem to pick up on that. I do think that if I were to ask to drive again, or hold open a few doors, my boyfriend would be less likely to question my actions. I think when he understood what was going on, he recognized some of my behavior that evening. He would give me at least a B+ for noticeably taking on the male gender role.

One of the most interesting aspects of my “male” gender role was the reaction I got from anyone I came in contact with. No one who noticed my attitude acted positively toward me. When I paid for gas, the cashier felt compelled to explain my purchase by telling my boyfriend, “I never argue with a blonde.” Our waitress gave me a dirty look when I ordered first, she had obviously asked my boyfriend first. She put the bill down in front of him and I caught another quick stare when I scooped it up before he could look at it. When I opened and held the door at the movie theater, a row of teenaged boys snickered and pointed. The cashier at the refreshment counter told my date how much our snacks cost even though I had ordered them. For being able to recognize my behavior, people would have given me an A, but for acting the way I did, they would have given me a big, fat, F.

I am sure if any of these people had stopped and thought before they acted or reacted to something I had done, they wouldn’t have behaved the same way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything I did except for the fact that society thinks it is abnormal.

Gender roles are not gender requirements, even though others may see them that way. If equality is truly a goal of our society, gender roles need to be stretched. They can be broken, heck, they can be smashed into itty bitty pieces.