Janet Jackson released a song in 1986 that changed my life, “Control.” As a tween, I wasn’t grooving to the power of her emancipation proclamation — I just loved her fabulous look, sharp attitude and funky moves. But as I blossomed into womanhood it became the words in her declaration of independence that moved me. I was completely mesmerized by lyrics such as “got my own mind, want to make my own decisions.” Yes, I was a believer.
As I got older, hits by rappers such as Queen Latifah and Mc Lyte always made me feel empowered. Still it was Salt-N-Pepa’s “Independent,” a hit off Black Magic (1990) that made me a believer in the strength of women. I wanted my own money. I needed my own career. I refused to be controlled by any man. Ironically, it’s not like I was being oppressed at home. In fact, the exact opposite was true. The five key men in my life (my maternal grandfather and four uncles) doted on me different ways. Between the bunch, I had providers, protectors, educators and entertainers — all told me I could do and be what I wanted. Still, the threat of oppression loomed… and I was prepared.
As a teen, I was the chick who paid her own way. You know this girl, the one who thinks that any sign of submission, weakness and vulnerability will have a disastrously oppressive end. Luckily, I shook off the stupidity midway through my sophomore year of college after an awkward date — it was very “A Different World.” Here’s the scene: an upper classman tries to woo the new girl with a fancy restaurant, and then sticks her with the bill! So I adopted a modified attitude: Let him pay.
My new mantra wasn’t about being cheap. It was about letting go of control. Over the years, I learned that subtle emasculation — such as always paying or having to be right — is more common and catastrophic than any blonde beauty clicking her heels in front of our men. I even tell my dates about my three-outing rule: Don’t expect me to pick up a check until the third time. Instead, I let them take the lead on the selection of venue and budget. It’s my way of saying, “I know you got this.” But of course, as soon as we master one level of the game, we’re bumped to a new challenge.
My recent single girl chatter has focused on the new bred of Negro: professional Black men who think career women should pay their way — at all times. Sisters, we must rebuke and banish this evil spirit. Sadly, as the length of time spent in bachelorhood, exposure to birds, and lackluster attitude about the sanctity of marriage increases among the men in our dating pool, traditional dating styles are being thrown a major curve ball. I offer a resounding hell-to-the-no.
Isn’t the purpose of courting to allow a man to show you the lifestyle he can offer under his guidance and love? Then lead, my brother! I am not a woman who wants a man to go bankrupt trying to impress. Still, despite my 9-5, I am expected to nurture and support any man who has me on his arm. The least he can do is feed me. I don’t pay for the first few dates and I don’t plan to. Most of all, I don’t expect to be punished for the poor treatment he received from a woman who was out of his league, or even worse, beneath him.
As women continue to balance managing our roles as professionals, providers, partners and mothers, men must remember the importance of their role. It is their job to handle business by making good women feel protected and provided for. After all, even the most independent woman needs to be treated like a queen to help her king reign supreme.
Please share your thoughts. Should men be expected to pay for dates?