I just bashed Tinder in the last post, but because I’m a flawed human, I still use it to get dates. Also, I’d be kidding myself if I thought I’d come here and not once try to put my intermediate-level Spanish to good use in a high-stakes environment.
Which brings us to my first date with a Colombian woman…
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This evening we were supposed to meet at seven, but it’s now nine and still no sign of la senorita. Traffic in Bogota is bad, but I would expect someone who lives in the city to know that and plan accordingly.
“I don’t have any money for my cab,” the mystery woman texts me, adding to my frustrations regarding her suspect planning.
When she finally arrives, and after a small tip for the driver, it’s 40,000 pesos for the taxi, which equates to roughly $12 USD. Not the end of the world, and when we go on our date, it’s a good time.
I love the newness of going out with someone who doesn’t share the same language as me, the pressure to perform linguistically presenting a challenge I’ve never before encountered.
The date concludes and the woman and I walk back to my apartment before she hails another cab.
She doesn’t have any money to pay for this cab either, so I give her another 50,000 pesos because I’m overly nice and to give her nothing puts her in a bind. This is simply a financial “L” that will have to be eaten and digested later.
We hug and go our separate ways, the date in many ways a success, but as soon as I shut the door to my apartment, I let out a sigh, frustrated with the lack of shared expenses. I don’t mind paying for the meal, but then covering her transportation costs irritates me, perhaps because it riles an insecurity of mine that I’m not financially successful enough, and this gets exposed when I’m on dates, a fact that the older I get becomes more embarrassing.
“I was reading that’s how the culture is,” my irritatingly honest friend tells me when I recap how things went.
Having lived in Beijing, China for one year, I can attest that some cultures do operate under the pretense that dating costs and arrangements fall on the shoulders of men. But, in my experience, that is a more antiquated version of dating in China, at least when it comes to dating Chinese women who are more “westernized.”
In America, I’ve split the bill for almost every date I’ve been on. My belief is that this is a fair method of transaction. No one feels taken advantage of and if things go poorly, neither party is responsible for a bill they may or may not want to pay.
People have different takes on this. More traditional people argue paying for a date is the man’s way of showing he has the ability to provide, while younger generations whose women are active and successful in the job market find splitting a bill to be perfectly normal.
I don’t feel there is any one way to go about it. To me, context is everything. If the man is a millionaire, it’s not asking him too much to pay for a dinner.
But if the woman is a $90,000/year type, and the man makes $45,000, what then?
I’ve been on a number of dates where the woman is willing to pay for the entire meal/date, but much like with men, she usually does so because she has ulterior motives, and the paying of the bill isn’t solely out of her goodwill.
Abiding by my emotional principles, I later tell the woman about my frustrations regarding the costs on our date. She responds favorably, apologizing for the distress it has caused.
I accept her goodwill and agree to another date. We settle on a Japanese restaurant that she claims is much cheaper than the last place. She also agrees that she will pay for her own transportation.
All this makes me excited because the financial burden has seemingly been alleviated, which leaves more time to get to know this woman without worrying about what it all means, or if I’m hemorrhaging my budget to find out.
The night of the second date, she is once again two hours late. I’m trying to be as sympathetic as possible even though her lack of punctuality irritates me to the depths of my core.
As a guy who prides himself on being ten minutes early to everything, I take offense to the situation. I’m trying to keep in mind that being here is a luxury and expecting people to view the world the same way as I do is a futile pursuit that will only cause further annoyance and agony if I let my brain run wild with various ways of justifying my stance.
She eventually arrives, and because life is too damn short to worry about the mistakes of the past, I forgive her tardiness and we proceed to the Japanese restaurant.
As expected, we have a good time, but when the bill comes, my eyes do a double take. The bill is four times as much as the last bill.
“Um, so we have a problem,” I tell her as nicely as possible. “We have to share this bill,” I insist, now on the offensive because this isn’t right.
“Well, how much do you need?” she asks.
I quickly look at the bill and come up with a number that seems fair. She agrees but before we leave she wants me to take photos of her in front of a Buddha-looking statue.
I can tell by the wrinkle in her nose that she dislikes the way the photos have turned out. Turned off by the events of the evening, I tell her I’m tired and begin walking away. Perhaps not the most gentlemanly move in the world, but with the tenor of our date losing more steam by the second, all I want to do is go home and crawl into bed.
She still hasn’t paid me her agreed upon portion of the bill, and when I ask a third time for the money, she hands over a little more than half of what she said she would.
“That’s all I can give you,” she says, but the wallet she has just removed the money from is full of other bills.
I look at the ceiling, convincing myself that this will all be over within the hour. We get in the taxi to go back to my place because it is cheaper for her to order a ride from there, and also safer than waiting outside after midnight.
As soon as we get in the Uber, she tries to hijack my ride, attempting to convince the driver to bring her home. It takes every fiber of my flesh not to freak out and begin cursing in broken Spanish, and then, after the Uber driver declines her request, she gets out in the middle of the road without saying goodbye.
A few fallouts from the night’s events, as explained to me by the woman in our exchange the following morning:
1. Spending that amount of money on dinner was, by her definition, cheap, despite the price being way higher than what she propped it up to be. She explained that many dinners often run in the 500,000 pesos range ($150), a number I couldn’t accept as commonplace.
2. I was at fault for not ensuring a safe mode of transportation for her to get home.
3. According to her, the way the night turned out wasn’t my fault. She was willing to work with me until I got my finances in order.
What did I learn from this, apart from the reminder that I’m not loaded?
Dating is tough, and this fact transcends language, culture, or even similarities that might remain between two people.
If I had to do it different, I don’t think I would. As a guy who craves new experiences, this takes the cake for the worst date I’ve ever been on, which trumps two notable flops in my dating oeuvre:
1. The Chipotle worker who showed up at Five Guys and preceded to talk for 45 minutes straight without allowing me to get a word in. We didn’t even say goodbye. She just stopped talking and then we left before walking out separate doors and then crisscrossing right before we got to our respective cars.
2. The Caribou Coffee gal who weighed 30 pounds more than any of her photos intimated and couldn’t stop telling me how horrible Donald Trump was (side note: not a huge politics guy, so regardless of affiliation, a discourse on the flaws of Trump’s diction is not something I want to be a part of)
Last thing: my experiences are not a reflection on Colombian women as a general population. This experience should be considered an isolated event and not a prohibitive factor to anyone who wishes to come to Colombia in the future.
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