Incurably Curious

Dating Etiquette: Who Pays for Dinner?

PayingOnDatesI feel sorry for straight men sometimes, the ones on dates. Nowadays it must be hard to know exactly what you’re supposed to do when the bill arrives. Not long ago it was very straightforward. Women always got their dinner paid for because they weren’t really allowed to earn their own brass. Men went out to work, women did not, so the solution was obvious. A lot of couples – my parents included – still work like this. And that’s fine. Each to their own.

But what happens now that many women are out earning the same money as men? All my twenty-something year old girl friends go to work, pay their own rent and buy their own drinks. Overall, they’re earning the same as my guy friends. Some earn more than others, of course, but gender has nothing to do with the size of their pay packets.

So is it right that men are still expected to pick up the cheque? These days, anyone who thinks that a bird can’t look after herself just because she’s female is universally regarded as an arsehole, so why are men still paying for everything? It’s a thorny issue. It makes me uncomfortable to be paid for, but at the same time, there’s nothing more unsexy than a bloke who snatches up the bill and immediately announces to the waitress that you’ll be splitting it, just in case you think for a second you’re getting a free lunch. (In an ideal world, I think it’s nice when a bloke offers to pay and then doesn’t look too relieved when you insist on splitting it. Don’t ask me how they’re supposed to know that.)

Some boys feel the need to pay. While some women lose their shit completely at the sight of a gurgling baby, some men get all caught up in their supposed role of Great Provider and throw a bitch fit if you insist on splitting the bill. In the spirit of investigation, I asked the manliest person I know what he thought of it all. Not that there’s a universal unit of manliness, but this dude makes the majority of my male friends look like trembling pussywillows. This is because he:

a) is a professional sniper;
b) is known by all as ‘Tree Trunk';
c) once ate so much pizza at an all-you-can-eat buffet he had to get his stomach pumped. True story.

Anyway, according to TT, there are three kinds of blokes when it comes to man-on-man cheque-paying action. “Firstly, there are the ones with deep pockets and short arms,” he said. “These are the guys that that will count up to the fucking penny exactly how much they ordered and to said penny is exactly how much they’ll leave on the table. Next you’ve got your ‘fair-sharers’. And this seems to be your most socially acceptable way of going about things after a meal as a group of guys, which is to just split the bill equally with any change being left for a tip; and as a general rule no one cares about the pisshead that had a couple of extra beers or the fatty that ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and had a second starter. Finally there are your gambling alpha dogs. These guys lose more money than they make 90% of the time betting on sports, but when they win they like to show it, usually by putting money behind a bar in town or by paying for a slap-up scoff for the lads.

“That’s the general norm when it comes to a meal between lads, but when asked about taking a girl out the opinion was unanimous: unless she’s ‘rollin’ in dollar’, the guy pays. Food, drinks, the works. Not necessarily in a relationship, as it isn’t really expected of you, but definitely in the early rounds of the dating game.”

Interesting insight there, Tree Trunk. But it explains a lot.

In my experience, most men on dates will try to pay for me. Some have even been a bit put out when I pull my card out or go to get a round in. (Exceptions: Clam Boy, who did nothing to hide his supreme disinterest, and one guy who spent an entire meal explaining why he couldn’t afford the whole bill, even before I’d had a chance to get my purse out. It was awful and awkward and I screened his calls afterwards, not because I didn’t want to go out with a guttersnipe, but because the whole situation made me cringe so hard I damn near gave myself a hernia.)

I don’t care what a guy earns. For some reason, people find this hard to believe. I was talking to someone recently who thought I was kidding myself. “You do care about money,” he said, “even if you think you don’t, you do. At the back of your mind.”

But as a fully-functioning adult with a job, I don’t need to date a bloke to pay for my dinner. Bank balances aren’t important. But you know what is? Ambition, responsibility, confidence and competence. Money isn’t the key, but it is often a by-product of other qualities that are undeniably hot. Who is more attractive, the man who lives at his mother’s knee and spends his life idly frittering his parents’ millions, or the man with a plan? People who sets goals are attractive, and men who set goals and then smash them are irresistible. The second guy could be a prince or a pauper – ambitions don’t have to be money-makers – but he’ll have a mind of his own and some stories to tell.

And that’s what women want.

Ladies, what do you like blokes to do on dates? Do you offer to go Dutch, or do you let them pay?

And gentlemen, do you like to pay or do you prefer to split? How would you feel if a girl tried to foot the bill? Offended? Flattered? Aroused? I’d love to know!

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15 comments on “Dating Etiquette: Who Pays for Dinner?

  1. loveandothercrap
    March 17, 2014

    I’ve offered to pay on first, second and third days until told to stop offering. I don’t expect to freeload. However, I always paid with my ex boyfriend and that did get tiresome, especially went he made way more than me and had less bills to pay.

  2. girlseule
    March 17, 2014

    I Prefer to go halves in everything. My thing is, I hate cleaning the bathroom and I figure I will eventually live with guy and he is going to have to clean the bathroom 50% of the time, so I figure I can’t cling to one gender stereotype that benefits me while demanding others that don’t come crashing down.
    I don’t divide it down to the last cent. Sometimes I pay, sometimes the guy does sometimes we go halves, it all evens out.

  3. Daile
    March 17, 2014

    I always offer to pay and secretly like when the guy won’t let you pay for anything. HOWEVER, if I like the guy and there is a second/third date I will usually organise it and pay for both of us. I think that’s fair.

  4. Jenni
    March 17, 2014

    When I dated I worked on the basis of if I asked a guy to dinner I paid, if he asked he paid. That’s for first dates, after if you start ‘dating’ unless it’s a special occasion it’s split the bill in half (not who had what but half). If it is a special occasion whoever is springing the surprise obviously pays.

    It seemed to work and never offended anyone really except my mum once who said the man should pay and I said but I asked him out why should he pay? That led to a long and volatile discussion of the things ladies did or did not do.

    When I pointed out that I wasn’t a lady unless mum was hiding an aristocratic background and was really the heir to some hunting/fishing style estate she seemed to change colour (most impressive feat) and stormed off muttering imprecations about breeding, sacrifice etc… Still think it was just a tad of an over reaction about asking a boy out but hell half the time they get so nervous you would be winding your shroud before they ask.

  5. Blossom Brouillard
    March 17, 2014

    I hate splitting the tab, unless with a close . And even then I’m not a fan. I prefer to alternate, you but tonight, I’ll buy next time or visa versa. If I’m running late, I always offer to buy, to ease my concious. However…I once heard Patty Spangler say whatever happens I never the first date, sets the tone for the relationship! ” I’ve discovered that the guys I paid for? Want to come to my place for dinner on the next date! Nope. Not cool.

  6. TYTG
    March 17, 2014

    Can you set me up with Tree Trunk?

  7. gingerfightback
    March 17, 2014

    Surely as you say a person’s character and wit are more important. When I am skint we chip in when I am flush I like to pay.

  8. leoseta
    March 17, 2014

    I always try to pay, I don’t know if its because I’ve been socially conditioned or what but I always feel bad if I’m not paying. Even when it comes to my female friends, I feel bad if I don’t pay (when I don’t with my guy friends, it makes no sense)! Still, if the girl is sure then I’ll split and if I’m in a long term relationship then I don’t mind them paying at all.

    The bigger issue for me is people who don’t show other aspects of what constitutes being a gentlemen. Like opening doors, or going out of your way to help with something. If a guy insists on paying but doesn’t do the rest then he’s just trying to show off.

  9. Airu-chan
    March 18, 2014

    Well, personally I am more than happy to split the check if I know he doesn’t have the capacity knowing I went on a date not for a free lunch and so is he. A guy who “just doesn’t want to pay for the girl” is the exception. But I don’t discount the fact that it really *flaterring” if a guy treats the date. My point is, I’d be happy to receive if he’s equally happy to give. I won’t insist on paying my share just because I “can”, if he wants to treat me and if I know it’d make him happy, then I won’t mind. Win-win.

  10. inkonthebrink
    March 18, 2014

    Personally I don’t like a woman who doesn’t offer to pay. I will always pay on a first date but if she doesn’t at least offer, or offer to pay for something for the duration of the night then thats a no no.
    I’m an Englishman living in New Zealand and what I’ve found with most women here is, they expect to be paid for on a date, first date especially. I find English women are a bit more laid back in regards to going Dutch, go Brit girls.
    In short, if a woman offers to pay on the first date, I will always offer to pay for everything after that. If she doesn’t, I won’t.

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  12. jk1440
    March 20, 2014

    It’s tricky. I’m aware it’s old fashioned, but at the same time I feel it’s good manners to offer to pay, especially if I’m the one who asked the lady on a date.

    The conversation nearly always goes like this:

    Me: “Would you let me cover this?”
    Her: “Oh no, let’s split it.”
    Me: “Okay, no problem.”

    On one occasion, I went on a first date with a lady who offered to pay for the meal by way of an apology for being a little late meeting me. I was really quite charmed, and accepted after asking whether she was sure. I didn’t feel “threatened” or anything childish like that. I thought it was a very kind and considerate gesture.

    • Erin
      December 20, 2014

      And I bet you never saw her again. The fact that you asked if she was sure… Seriously? You sound like a puss. Be a man.

  13. mollytopia
    April 4, 2014

    Who is more attractive, the man who lives at his mother’s knee and spends his life idly frittering his parents’ millions, or the man with a plan? People who sets goals are attractive, and men who set goals and then smash them are irresistible.

    Amen!

  14. sisyphusjns
    April 4, 2014

    I always plan on paying. I’ve never had a woman object to me paying for the first date. Some will offer to contribute, but I’ve never had a woman insist on contributing to the first date.
    I’ve only dated professional women for the last several years so it’s not really about resources, just custom I guess.
    I have dated women who will say. “You paid last time and I would like to buy you dinner tonight,” which is fine with me.
    I totally don’t get the guy who went out on a date with you he clearly could not afford. Either a) plan a date you can afford, or b) wait until you have the necessary resources. He really set himself up for failure there. I hope he was really young.

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2014 by in Big Thoughts, Dating & Sex, Feminism, Lifestyle, Money and tagged , , , , , , , .

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