Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who Pays on First Date?

I'm a sucker for websites that contain posts about dating disasters, as they are like car wrecks but at least no one gets grievously injured unless of course they're dating R&B artist Chris Brown. (Yeah, I went there, Chris Brown! And you can't smack me because I'm not dating you) There seem to be a lot of recurring themes with dating disasters--guys getting too drunk on the date, guys with serious anger issues, mothers tagging along on dates--but one seems to stand out a lot. The money issue! This story is a good example of that (and also see the controversy in the comments thread below the post)

See, in these modern times there's a lot of back and forth as to who should pay for what and how it should be done. Guys wonder if it's considered paternalistic to insist on paying for everything, women wonder if it's a turnoff if they insist on paying part or all of it, and no one is really sure that the other party is okay with it. One of my female friends who I knew both in D.C. and in Portland--a good looking woman with a lot going for her--told me she always insisted on paying her share on first dates; most of my guy friends tell me they'll never allow the woman to pay for anything, no matter what. It'd be interesting to set her up with one of them and see who wins!

Seems to me though that there is a basic rule--on the first date, the guy should be prepared to pay for everything.* There are two complications: (1) What if the woman was the one who suggested the place or invited him out? (2) What if the woman makes as much or more than he does? It might seem unfair for a guy who works as a waiter while in school to be paying for a fancy dinner and show when the settings were suggested by the wealthy corporate attorney he is going on the date with.

My take on that is he should still plan to pay, as of course if he truly can't afford those costs for one evening then he needs to suggest instead plans that he can afford. (And if you're being treated to a meal? Then you DON'T BITCH ABOUT GOING TO CRACKER BARREL. YOU EAT YOUR CHICKEN FRITTERS AND ENJOY THEM!!! Nothing's more annoying than the woman who posted her worst date being the guy who took her to Burger King after the concert that he paid for. Lady, did you offer to treat for a nicer more "acceptable" place? No? Then kindly enjoy a glass of Shut The F__K UP).

Now, when the guy takes the bill or pulls out his wallet, the woman has a duty to reach for her own cash--suggesting that she pay for her share. This is important, because it signals that she doesn't feel entitled to be treated. However, the guy must politely insist on paying, at most suggesting she can get them drinks later, or pay just the tip, if she's insistent. But at that point the woman should relent. Otherwise you have a long discussion about who should pay, social conventions, and at the end of the day it's really not that much money. If you never see each other again, it's a minor thing. If you do see each other again, you'll have plenty of time to make things even.

*(Of course, once you're in a relationship it can become more equitable, since there are many opportunities for each person to treat, and it can be based on who has more to spend, who insists on fancier places, all that stuff. These rules are more about initial dates)

12 comments:

  1. I'm a believer in the offering to pay/slow wallet reach/letting him pay, with one notable exception: if the man is a total creep, and I never ever want to think about, let alone see him again, I will demand to pay my share. I don't want him to feel like I 'owe him anything.'

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  2. Shannon--that's a good point, and of course if the woman absolutely insists on paying her share, the guy will usually take that as a sign that they won't be seeing each other again.

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  3. Men should always pay on the first date. Even if she asked him out. It's called chivalry. I'll always do the reach but... you should know enough not to let me pay.

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  4. Brett that's exactly right--the guy pays but the lady has to offer, and he needs to insist. When people break that rule it creates mixed signals--"was this really a date or a friends thing?" "Is this her way of saying she doesn't want to see me again?" "Is he cheap?"

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  5. A good rule of thumb that gets around all this silliness, and gets around the slightly embarrassing residual-1950s sexism of it too, is that the person who invited the other person out should pay. Most of the time that's still the guy, but if a woman asks a man out she should offer to pay.

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  6. Alex--fair point, though sometimes it's murky, particularly when the plans are sort of mutual (he asks for a suggestion and she suggests a certain restaurant, or she says they should get together sometime and he picks a place). The woman should always offer to pay at least her share, but the guy should still pay at least the first time.

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  7. Wow, this is the result of feminisim. Nancy boys worrying about upsetting uptight masculine women.

    Here is a better solution. Stop going on dates with guys who worry about being too paternalistic and who aren't man enough to handle a reject.

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  8. Anonymous--it's not about men "worrying" about being too paternalistic. As I noted, men should take initiative and pay. The key to why women should offer to pay is that it's considerate--demonstrates that there's no sense of entitlement when treated.

    Also, it's not "masculine" for a woman to want to pay her fair share on a date--from their standpoint it's only fair when they have similar incomes to share in the expense. Of course, chivalry should win out, but that's where they're coming from when they want to contribute. It would be "nancy boy" to fret about it and lose sleep over it--but that's not what I'm suggesting here.

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  9. Shannon-HA! I feel the opposite about creeps. If I had to endure a nightmare convo and dinner with your A, I'm getting something out of it. Maybe I do have sense of entitlement cause I don't feel like I owe anybody anything and I don't care if they feel like I do! Stupid creepy guys.

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  10. All good points. Women should make some attempt to at least move towards their purse or wallet. It's like the car situation. If a guy opens the door for you, women should move towards opening up the driver's side. Even if the guy gets there first, it demonstrates that you are considerate.

    However, when the guy is strange, I advocate paying for it like Shannon suggested. I've been in that situation with a creeptastic guy. Always trust your instincts. It's much better to end all chances of having to face a second date.

    While first impressions are important, if a guy feels pressured to spend a ton of money to impress a girl, she's probably not the right person. And if she complains, step away from that situation as quickly as possible. That should be a major warning sign.

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  11. The man should always pay on the first date.

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