Miss March on Who Pays?

So, I’m going on this date tomorrow and it got me thinking about the awkward moments on dates. Dates, especially first dates, are potential hot beds for ripe awkwardness; there’s just so many Murphy’s Law moments that could go wrong. Someone could spill something, you could get food in your teeth, you could slip, he could fall, it’s never ending. But, I think one of the most built-in awkward moments is reaching for the check. The simple act of reaching for the check seems to be full of historical, sociological, anthropological, feminist, and financial deeper meanings.

Who is supposed to pay for the dinner on a first date?

Personally, I think the man is supposed to pay; it’s traditional, it’s gentlemanly, and back to my anthropology, it shows he can “provide.” So, he picks up the check? Great. But, what do I do? Sit there and look pretty? Do I attempt to reach for the check? This may have an effect on his feelings of masculinity; “what, she doesn’t think I can afford to take her to dinner?” Some people say that every little thing on a date is a test in hiding; paying for the dinner is the ultimate test. If I offer to pay half it may also be a slap in the face to him, and sort of undercut the idea that it’s a “date.” But, I’d feel awkward, and slightly stupid, if I don’t offer to pay for something. Perhaps I’ll offer to pay the tip? Or for coffee afterwards?

Due to my confusion on this date-tiquette, I used my trusted friend Google and came across AskMen.com; while I’m not a huge fan of this website, for the most part, because they say some really chauvinist things sometimes (like their article on why virgins need help because they don’t know what they’re doing in the bedroom), I happened to actually like their stance on this first date conundrum:

Pass the first-date test: Go for compromise. Let her know that you’d love to treat her to dinner and make sure you pay, but joke that she can pay the next time the two of you go out. This makes it even — hypothetically. You can even make cheesy jokes about why you want to pay (think “the pleasure of your company is contribution enough” or something along those lines).”

I think that’s the best answer I’ve read. It combines paying for the date, without making her feel useless; flirting with her, and potentially, if you want, making her feel like there’s another date coming, and making her feel special. I’m a pretty low-maintenance woman (unless, I’m actually high-maintenance and I just think I’m low-maintenance, like Sally Albright), but the most important thing for me is that he gets that I’m not about the money thing, I’m down to earth, and just want to meet him and have a good time. I don’t want him to think “Oh, she’s just sitting there and didn’t offer to pay for dinner…” But, on the otherhand, hopefully a good guy wouldn’t think that.

I posed the “who pays” question to some of our Boys on the Stoop; Adama answered, “The man. I think there’s definitely some play in that, but I have to believe that culturally, across the country, the norm is still that the man pays for meal.” ColoradoBoy agreed with Adama. Interestingly enough though, my neighborhood friend A said, “The person who asks? Or you go dutch; I’m not very traditional with that.” While my sociological survey consists of a whopping three people, it’s still interesting to see that the woman I asked thought people should split the check, while the two men said that the man should pay.

Some other answers I got that were interesting (I love conducting sociological surveys through instant messenger early in the morning…how profesh of me):

“It depends somewhat on the circumstances; if it was me, i would usually offer to pay, but i think these things are somewhat less important now then they used to be. i kind of feel like some of the social traditions are somewhat outdated, now that doesn’t mean that i don’t follow them.” (From a male friend, 23, single)

I think single male friend is wrong; they are not any less important, but it is being discussed and analyzed more, so therefore, also suppressed and repressed more. We’re not supposed to discuss money or paying for things, but it’s still an issue on dates.

I enjoyed T’s answer, “i think there should be an appropriate amount of squabble and whoever puts up the best fight wins.” Sort of what AskMen.com said, but the man should win that battle. See, it doesn’t just take arm’s length to pick up a check, but wits and humor, too! You need to be quick on one’s feet to play the game of the dinner-paying-duel.

When asked, “Who pays for dinner on the first date?” male friend, 21, in a relationship responded “Since when has that been in question?” Nice answer, I dig it.

So, readers, what do YOU think, not only who should pay on the first date, but how should the mini-battle go down? What “fight” (God, this is so lady trapped in a castle, “save me, save me, no don’t save me, save me!”) should I put up in order to look willing to pay?

Have you ever had an awkward dinner-paying experience? Share!

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6 responses to “Miss March on Who Pays?

  1. Well in theory, the man should pay. But, I hate adhering to patriarchal norms. I think paying assumes the man is the breadwinner and the women is submissive, awaiting payment from the man. Plus, we live in economic times that are difficult, especially for young men and women trying to succeed in the market. That is why going dutch appeals to me! Everyone carries the burden that they are responsible for without assuming a role on the first date.

  2. i think he should pay for this reason: a man should always love his woman a little more than she loves him. he’s lucky to be with you. he’s lucky to take up your time.

  3. I think that the man paying all the time is outdated for sure. That was back in the day when the man’s job was to go out and earn money and the woman’s job to do work around the house. Now that men AND women are earning a paycheck it seems like it doesn’t matter so much WHO pays. I’d say either split the check, or if he pays for dinner, you pay for an after dinner drink or ice cream or whatever.

  4. The most awkward “who pays” situation was when JF hadn’t payed for 3 dates in a row and I was over it and had to gently ask that he take his turn. AWKWARRRDDD

  5. missmarchabouttown

    @A: You’re right about everything you say, especially the fact that it seems everyone is struggling with money now. I don’t mind offering to pay for my part of the meal–especially, like you said, if he thinks by paying for me I OWE him something, than I don’t want to be under someone’s hold because he paid for me (long winded, sorry). But, I do think he should offer, for sure.

    @Tenniec: I agree; a man should always give out a little more than the woman does.

    @Caitlin: I like the ice cream idea! Smart; and if I like him, it extends the date.

    @T: 3 times is a lot. I would have been pissed!

    Thanks for the amazing comments and foresight!

  6. The person who asked the other person on the date pays. You never hear someone say, “Hey, would you like to go to dinner with me, oh and also pay.”

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