Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine by a woman named Emily Gould, about the perils of blogging about personal matters. It's certainly a cautionary tale for any of us whose lives leak out into our internet musings, but what particularly caught my eye was an excerpt from one of Emily's blog posts for Gawker:


Last night I almost made a gossip columnist drop her drink in horror with a single sentence. Luckily we were on the roof of 60 Thompson, which is such a classy establishment that the drinks are served in plastic tumblers, so no harm would’ve been done, but my gossipy friend’s gasp drew the attention of another woman in our group, who asked me to repeat the shocking thing I’d said. She, too, did a double take. ‘‘You let a man allow you to pay for your own dinner on the first date, and you’re seeing him again?’’ ‘‘I just . . . I went for my wallet, and he didn’t stop me,’’ I told them. ‘‘I didn’t mind! I like paying for myself.’’ What time capsule are these women living in? Why on earth would you want to feel beholden to a dude for any reason? Sure, free things are nice, but not when they come wrapped in cultural assumptions that men are the wage earners and women are their cossetted [sic] pets. What makes women feel like being asked to pay their own way is an insult?

Gawker, Sept. 27, 2007

What, indeed? Sometimes it's not just about the money, and an unwillingness to buy dinner could be a sign of a larger lack of emotional generosity. But that is a two-way street, and if we all just got used to paying our own way, we wouldn't be looking for these subtexts anyway. It's silly to imagine that people should have to split things 50/50 100% of the time, but let's all be a little more flexible about this! Decide who pays based on factors that make sense, not just some antiquated notion that the man has to do it!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. All my female friends are smart, independent and at the beginning of their careers. But there are still a few who get offended when the man doesn't at least offer to pay for her on dates. I just don't get it. If we're working hard for our money and demanding equal wages and treatment, why are we still expecting the boys to put up the cash?

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend is an engineer and I work for a non-profit. On our first date, he bought the museum tickets (and gas since he drove)and I got lunch, which worked out to about 50/50. I let him pay most of the time but if we're spending the whole weekend together, I'll definitely pick up a meal or movie tickets or whatever. I'd say I shoot for about 70/30. For me it's more about the fact that I'm on a much tighter budget than he is. When I dated people with a similar income situation in the past, it was more consistantly 50/50.

Anonymous said...

Call me emotionally ungenerous then. I'm happy to pay half (or all) later on down the line...even on the second date. But the first is where the man pays. Granted it's usually the man doing the asking, and if you are the one asking you should be willing to pay.

I guess there is just something tacky about a man who doesn't offer to pay for the first date...even if it's just McDonald's. It's not that I'd think he was cheap, but to me it would be like he's testing me right off the bat.

Plus it's just a pain splitting bills in general, even 50/50, because you have to have the right amount of change and all. Is that really how you want to end your first impression of each other?

I think at the very least he should tell you he intends to go dutch beforehand.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Adrienne, it's about who asked who out. I see more as politeness and less about chivalry, men as wage earnings, and all that jazz. If I ask a buddy of mine to go out drinking, I'll buy the first round. It's not a date but I buy because I asked.

Anonymous said...

When I was 16, on my very first date ever, I made the "mistake" of picking up the tab for both of us while my date was in the restroom. When he came back to the table and figured out what I had done, he was pretty ticked off.

I did it because I didn't want to feel like I owed him anything (I was very innocent and naive and didn’t understand how wrong this move was). I also proved that I was an unconventional, independent woman (I didn't know what a feminist was at the time, and I still don't identify myself that way).

We dated for five years, and in later conversations he told me how much my paying the check on the first date bugged him, but he also admitted that it made him think of me differently – in a good way. It made me an equal, instead of someone who needed to be taken care of and provided for.

I have used this move on a lot of subsequent dates (and working lunches at the office), and I gotta tell you, it is a very effective way to shift the power differential.

In my current relationship, my fiance and I take turns paying (but since I may more, I tend to pick up the big ticket dinners and he gets the pizza and movies - it works well for us).

Anonymous said...

Twenty-six year ago I paid for our first date. It was an easy decision back then and culturally the correct thing to do. As we continued to date and appreciate each others financial position, it was natural to readjust the dating arrangement. Since we were both college students headed for the career path, it wasn't easy to share the expenses of dating. (not always the acceptable behavior) Personally speaking, this early sharing relationship helped to set the 'shared' relationship we currently enjoy as a married couple. We each work and make career decisions based on what benefits the "whole" ... not the parts. So before you frown on either to accept, expect or offer to pay for a date ... think big picture and how you want your future to be.

Anonymous said...

"It's not that I'd think he was cheap, but to me it would be like he's testing me right off the bat."

Aren't you just testing him off the bat?

Anonymous said...

If I would split the bill with a friend, I should split the bill with a prospective friend. If a man won't let me pay for myself, or split the bill, especially on a first date, I might not consider a long term relationship with him. It reveals conscious or unconscious beliefs about the importance of our work, the balance of power in a relationship, and many other preconceptions that make me uncomfortable.

That having been said, as a performer, I have some friends who have a lot more money than I; if they want to go somewhere expensive, I'm happy to let them pay. The next time, we'll do something that will allow me to treat. If I see a man again, and he has a lot more money than I do, I might let him pay the second time, and do something less expensive the third time, when it will be my turn.

These were difficult negotiations between middle aged couples who were brought up as expectations were changing. It seemed to me that this settled down many years ago, though, and now, in our more conservative times, expectations are going backward. I don't think this is a good thing. I can understand the attraction to a woman of knowing the evening will be free for her, but I can't see why a man would like it.

meara said...

Thank god I'm a lesbian, is all I have to say.

Though in a way, that can make this mess even more complex, it also removes a lot of the cultural baggage, and can just make it about the craziness of the individual people. :)

I generally prefer to split the first date check, so there's no expectations on anyone's part about a second date. If there IS a second date, I'm willing to have whoever pick up a tab, and let the agreement to have it be picked up (or the "no, let me pick it up") be an indication of "Oh yeah, I'm liking this second date a heck of a lot too, let's go make out"

So much better than straight people dating. :)

frugal zeitgeist said...

I always suggest splitting the check on the first few dates. More often than not, the date insists on paying - but if he agrees to split the check, then that's what we do.

As far as relationships go, my SO and I usually take turns paying. It works out over time.

MEG said...

There are many reasons why it's OK to accept a man's offer to pay on the first date - and even to expect him to pay - that have nothing to do with antiquated notions of female submissiveness.

First, I agree that whoever does the asking should plan on paying. I don't happen to ask guys out very often, so generally this means when a guy asks me out I expect him to at least offer to pay (I would still offer to go dutch, but I would be offended if he didn't at least offer to pay for his half).

Second, whoever pics the restuarant/locale should plan on paying, especially if it's anything other than very cheap. In this case, if a man asked me out but insisted I pick the restaurant, I would at LEAST offer to go dutch, if not insist on picking up the entire, even if he did ask me out. And I wouldn't be offended at all if he let me do it (though next time it would be his turn, of course, and then we'd go back and forth from there).

Third, you have to respect your companion's culture. It's not 100% about what makes YOU comfortable or empowered; it matters how the guy feels as well. Many men still feel obligated - and honored - to pick up the tab, especially on a first date, and it doesn't mean they see you as incapable, vulnerable, or because they expect you to sleep with them. If you come out of left field (in their view) insisting to pay, it can cause confusion, awkwardness, an irritation - all the things you want to avoid not only in social settings but especially on a date! You can always insist on paying for the next meal or picking up the movie tickets; but sometimes it's the only polite thing to allow him to pay if he's insisting (esp if he's from the South or basically any other culture outside the US).

These rules of etiquette apply whether you're going on a first date or out with a new friend or coworker. Once you know someone well of course the dynamic changes. Then it becomes a little more about who makes what, who paid last time, etc.

Anonymous said...

First, there's no such thing as a normal girl. Sorry, couldn't resist!

When I was back in the dating scene, I usually expected to pay on the first date. If she offered to pay half or pay all, that scored major points for her. I would say half of my dates back then did, but then again I had no interest in a kept-woman kind of girl. I also found a nice little trick that worked well if I was interested in her at the end of the meal, especially if there was any kind of discussion or awkwardness over the bill. I'd insist on paying and simply let her know that on our second date she could pick a place that she likes and thinks I would too and return the favor.

First, it nicely handled any discomfort over how/if to split. By implying a second date I could instantly tell by her reaction if this was going anywhere. If she was interested, the challenge usually made her more interested. By allowing her to pick the place, it gave her leeway to fit it into her budget. And finally, it usually resulted in her actively making plans for the second date and calling to ask me out.

I also like the idea of considering who did the asking. Obviously as someone else said further down the road it tends to be based more on trading off, combined with some factoring for who makes how much.

Anonymous said...

I generally prefer dutch, but I won't insist anymore.

Went on a couple dates with a guy, wasn't sure about what his specific financial situation was but I definitely made more money than him. Seemed like an evolved & intelligent guy (in reputable grad program). Long story short: I insisted, after he had paid for a couple dinners, to pay for one. He clearly was not a big fan of this move - the relationship, which seemed promising then, died.

In relaying the story to a male friend of mine, he also fixated on the fact that I had paid for the meal, and told me point blank that I had offended said-date. Friend is not some neanderthal guy - professional guy, sometimes-writer, NYC.

The moral I took from the story was yes, said-date is not the guy for me, but I also learned to not underestimate the male ego - especially when it comes to money. Also, it's really tricky to date when you have had some career success.

So now, I always offer, but if he wants to pay (and in my experience he usually does) I let him, and accept his generosity with graciousness. And, I use the money I save on dates that want to buy me dinner on being generous to others.

Anonymous said...

The moral I took from the story was yes, said-date is not the guy for me, but I also learned to not underestimate the male ego - especially when it comes to money. Also, it's really tricky to date when you have had some career success.

But why would you want to end up with a guy with ego issues, anyway?

All my female friends who are of the kept-woman, he-picks-up-the-tab mindset are alone, actually. Most guys are too evolved these days to be willing to put up with that sort of attitude.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of women, from their 20s to 40s, who believe men should always pay. My sister, for one; she is really of the opinion that her female presence needs to be rewarded. She's been seeing the same guy for a couple of years now and on his birthday when they went out to celebrate she did not treat him to dinner; he said this was the first time this has ever happened (i.e., significant other has not paid for birthday). Terrible.

Anonymous said...

Once I asked this guy out, so I offered to pay (I'm a big one for whoever asks pays), and he let me, BUT he begged me to hand him the money under the table so that he could make the appearance of paying for us both. Ha! I did it, but needless to say there were no more dates! I've told my SO this story, and he thinks it's hysterical. He and I still follow the pattern of whoever asks pays, and we've been together 10 yrs now.

Lady Madonna said...

My experience is that men assume that they will pay for the first date. My preferred policy is that the next time I pay, and then from then on we alternate. I have found that men older than me (I'm in my early 50's) are more likely to prefer to pay; men my age and younger like my policy. Women have careers these days; why not share the cost of entertainment?

Anonymous said...

I'm a guy. I usually will pay for the first date since thats expected. If she really really insists on paying 50/50 on first date, will let her, and in my mind that's a plus for her. Same thing for second date. But if I've paid for first 2 dates then I expect she will strongly insist on paying for third date, and I will let her. If by the third date I'm still paying 100% then the third = last date. Because that shows she may be viewing me as a just a meal ticket sucker who should be supergrateful he has the great privilege of dating someone so magnificent. In this day and age when women have equal job opportunities for the most part there is no reason to date a woman with that kind of spoilt princess attitude, there are other fish out there.