This Is What Love In The Age Of Venmo Looks Like

by Emily Smith

This is what love in the age of Venmo looks like — me dutifully sitting through a friend's wedding thinking, It’s a wedding, you’re supposed to get laid. At the last wedding I attended, I repeated this mantra (along with the fact that I hadn’t had sex in months) to myself as I curled closer to the suited man beside me. He was a fun dancer with a neurotic wit that could only have developed from East Coast living. (A welcome relief from the sea of Bay Area smiles I found myself in.) Plus, he was the Best Man. Really, what more could I have asked for in a one-night-wedding-stand?

A condom, to start. I realized far too late that we were unprepared. After six hours at an open bar, our decision-making skills had disappeared right along with our sobriety. By the time we got our common sense back it was too late to undo the many risks we'd already taken. But we still had one safety net at our disposal.

“I’m going to get the morning after pill tomorrow,” I told him. At 3 a.m. I wasn’t about to rush to CVS like a sad Masters of None reenactment. But, precautions were in order.

“I’ll pay for it, if you get it” he offered. Then stumbled, “How much does it cost?”

I knew the generic version was around $50, but I didn’t feel the need to claim a Price-Is-Right style expertise with Plan B, so I withheld my intel. Regardless, this wasn't the kind of decision I was going to make based on price point.

“It’s cool, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to get it either way.”

But like any millennial, he wasn’t listening, he was Googling.

“It’s only $39.99!” he shouted, with a level of excitement that made me double over with regret. He restated his offer to buy it, now with a renewed sense of confidence, clearly enjoying his own chivalry.

“Do you have Venmo?” he asked.

At this point, I should note that the Best Man was five years my junior, a fact I'd almost forgotten until that moment. From a physical standpoint, late twenties and early thirties blur together in an old-but-not-yet-aging kind of way. A person's use of mobile apps, however, is always revealing. I didn't have Venmo, but I was quite intimate with the old eBay fave, PayPal. He was fine with either, but the details were making me sleepy, and a little uncomfortable.

“I’ll deal with it,” I said before drifting off.

My younger self was urging me not to accept, or more accurately request, payment for anything related to sex. Handling it myself seemed like the feminist thing to do ... But then again, he did offer, and adamantly, so why not take him up on it?

I've always been adamant about paying for my portions of dates. I draw my credit card faster than Rick Grimes draws a pistol, because I'm in constant fear of being indebted to a man. Raised by a single mother, I'm forever trying to prove my independence. Plus, reducing a night of fun into a simple transaction didn't seem right.

The next morning, we said goodbye as he rushed to catch a flight back to his corner of the world and I prepared to do the same. After stopping at Walgreens, of course. After checking out, I was about to crumple the one-item, two-foot long receipt into my bag when I thought of his eagerness to pay.

My younger self was urging me not to accept, or more accurately request, payment for anything related to sex. Handling it myself seemed like the feminist thing to do. Not to mention the mere logistics of asking for money were humiliating enough to forfeit the thought entirely. But then again, he did offer, and adamantly, so why not take him up on it?

Many women, more confident than I, understand that there's a certain kind of self respect in letting someone treat you. It takes confidence to believe that you're not necessarily being manipulated by an act of kindness, but that you simply deserve it. I realized this as I swallowed the tiny pill wrapped in shoe-box-size packaging with a paragraph of side effects. I didn't need his payment, but the truth was, I would certainly appreciate it. And so, like submitting a company expense report, I shot him the bill with my PayPal address in tow (plus a few emojis for millennial cred).

Within minutes, my PayPal account was credited $44.00 and a text from the Best Man popped up on my phone. Suddenly our few strained texts from the morning turned into a playful ping pong of emojis. It felt good, for both of us, that I was not bearing the full cost — physical and financial — of something that was clearly both of our responsibilities.

Back home in Brooklyn, I was scheduled to meet an old flame a few days later. We hadn’t seen each other in over a decade, so what started off as an innocent reunion turned into a night of beers, burgers, and bourbon.

Five hours later, he slammed his golden American Express card down on the bar. The bill was large. Out of feminism, nervousness, and habit, I offered to split it and began reaching for my wallet — but he insisted. And this time, I decided not to resist. He wanted to treat, and I would let him.

The waitress swung by and shook her head.

“We don’t take Amex,” she told him, shooting me an apologetic glance as she left us to sort it out.

He fumbled around with his wallet. “Sh*t, I don’t have any other card.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” I jumped in with a kind of generosity that only presents itself in moments of extreme stress. “I’ll get this, not a problem.”

And why not? He had been ready to do the same. Plus, after five hours of effortless conversation, of course we would see each other again. We made out on the sidewalk like teenagers before parting ways. He texted me the next morning apologizing, saying he would pay next time.

Weeks went by, then months. I was $200 in the hole, and there was no next time.

I thought about my previous receipt-text. The playfulness, the ease, the emojis. So simple, so gratifying. I thought about doing it again, but then I remembered a bad-date story from a girlfriend. She went out for a sandwich on a first date, he paid. When she politely rejected a second date, he asked her to Venmo him the exact cost of the sandwich.

This was far more money, but still. I couldn't be that guy.

It’s important to let someone treat you every now and then. Demanding it however, is rarely worth the effort. Even in the age of Venmo.

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Image: Matt Peyton/Comedy Central