As millennials, we all like to pretend that we’re an evolved species. I believe the kids called it “woke” but if I’m being completely honest, I’m far too white to ever feel comfortable saying that out loud.
In a lot of ways, I actually think we have come a long way especially in regards to being a woman in these modern times. There’s still room for improvement, no doubt. But this isn’t a column dedicated to calling out the social, economical, and political shortcomings we still need to tackle. You’re welcome.
Regardless of your political affiliation, and regardless of your level of “woke,” I think there’s still an area that we all hush up about when it comes to gender norms.
And that is the social pressure for men to be the bread winners. The wallet. The one bringing home the bacon. The one who, in terms of the relationship, makes and has more money.
I’m not shy in admitting that I do pretty well for myself. I was extremely lucky and grew up in a family where education was a possibility for me that didn’t simultaneously saddle me with a ridiculous amount debt. I got to spend a summer interning. I spent time abroad. I’ve been able to afford living in a big city for most of my time post-grad. My company where I work now started me at a salary that was more than reasonable with a healthy bonus. So with that coupled on top of two promotions and raises in under a year, then another at my one year, I’m sitting in a financial position that a lot of 20-somethings are not.
I don’t say all of that to brag, I promise. So if it comes across that way, know that it’s not my intent. It’s simply to set the scene.
I work in upper-level management at a tech company along the West Coast. My boyfriend is currently getting his Master’s in Education. He’s planning on being an English teacher, ideally at a school in the city. It’s all very Dead Poet’s Society and romantic and swoon-worthy and whatnot. We’ve read the Modern Love column out loud to each other. Yes, that is to brag. And yes, I hate us too.
But all of that aside, the difference in our incomes is pretty noticeable. Until he’s out of school, I’m making over double what he does. After he’s settled in his career, I’ll likely still out earn him by 40% at the very least. And that’s not taking into account what he’ll be paying off in student loans for X amount of years if we’re still together after he’s out of grad school.
I really like this guy (despite his affection for vastly inferior technology). And I will not lie to you, internet. It does not bother me one bit that we’re in different tax brackets. I don’t mind picking up the tab and grabbing a couple of nice bottles of wine before he comes over or booking plane tickets because I have miles to use. I sincerely, really, honestly do not give it a second thought.
What bothers me, is that it clearly bothers him.
He never wants to spend time at his apartment, because I live alone while he still has a roommate. He gets visibly shifty when I reach for my wallet after suggesting that we got to a restaurant on my dime. He tries to justify walking whenever I offer to get an Uber. Always blushes when I get him something “just because” because in his mind “I really, really shouldn’t have.”
I’m not irresponsible with my money (much). I’m not spending outside of my means. I like spending money on and doing things for the people in my life that are important to me – him 100% included.
But I can’t help but wonder, is this going to be a continual problem? Are we woke, but not woke enough, to truly deal with it when the gender norms take a drastic switch, and the girl is the one with the bank account and the guy is the one letting her foot the bill?
Admittedly, I haven’t really brought this up yet. Because, similar to how it came with a disclaimer above, I’m not sure how to approach it without it seeming belittling or worse, braggy. I know communication is key and whatever, but hey! I admitted I’m not as woke as I’d like to be. Talking dollar signs is still awkward for me too. Even when I’m the one who has them.
True Life: I make more money than my boyfriend.
And I really hope it’s not why we end up breaking up. .
Image via YouTube