Who pays for dinner on a date is a sticky one. I still haven’t come up with a concrete set of guidelines for my own self.
I’m a feminist. Do I hold to the notion that the man always pays on dates? Because almost all of my women friends do. And when I talk to my men friends, they tell me all the women they go out with expect them to pick up the tab. Some are annoyed by that, but most seem to accept that’s just the way it is.
There are things I evaluate about my date which guide my decision on how to act when the server sets the check on the table.
Sometimes at the point we’re planning the date, I’ll say, “Let’s split the check. I don’t want you to think I automatically expect you to pay because you’re the man.” He might say, “OK”, or he might say, “Well, let’s just see.” In either of those scenarios, when the check comes, I wait to see how things play out and act accordingly.
If there’s no pre-meet discussion, I assess who is in the stronger financial position. If he’s a lawyer and I work at a convenience store, I’m going to let the check sit until he goes for his wallet and lays down a credit card.
If I’ve run up a big bar bill, and my date automatically picks up the check with the clear intent to pay, I always say, “Let me pay for my drinks, I don’t expect you to do that.” I’ve never had a man take me up on that offer. I might throw a $20 down on top of his credit card and say, “I want to help with the tip.” If he hands me back the $20, I take it and thank him.
If we’re pretty well matched financially, I’ll offer to split the check. He’ll usually decline, or he might say, “No, but you can put in a tip if you like.” So that’s very cool.
If I’ve just inherited from my aunt, when the check comes, I’ll grab it and say, “I’ve come into a windfall! My treat!” If he still wants to pay, I’ll say, “No, this one’s on me. But you can put in a tip if you like.” If he continues to argue, I just hand him the check.
If the date was a bust, and I’m frustrated or angry, when the check comes, I’ll sit quietly, looking around the room, deliberately avoiding eye contact, until he gets so uncomfortable, he pays. That’s what you call passive aggressive! Conversely, if the date was so awful, I just want it all to be over, as soon as the check comes, I’ll pick it up and say, “I’ve got this. BYE!” I’ll swiftly walk to the counter, pay, and leave. Luckily neither of those scenarios happen often.
You decide how you want to handle who pays when you’re first dating. There is no right or wrong.
If your match isn’t pleased with your expectations, he doesn’t have to ask you out again. If that’s the case: Thanks for dinner! BYE! Once you decide to date exclusively, a more serious conversation about money may ensue.
Now, there’s this whole other sticky thing I need to talk about. Sometimes, a man thinks paying for the date obligates you to have sex with him.
What if I do have sex with him?! Does he think I slept with him because he paid for dinner? Probably not, because being the upfront out in front woman I am, I will tell him flat out that is NOT why I want to have sex.
What if I don’t sleep with him? Does he think I took advantage of him? If that’s the case: Thanks for dinner! BYE!
An excerpt from my book How To Do Single With Dignity and Grace.