Once upon a time, my date decided the best way to wrap up drinks was to scold me for reaching for my wallet. When the check came, his credit card beat mine to the table. I offered to split the $52 tab, and he said, "I love when girls reach for their wallet like they're actually going to pay for anything." As if the hour he had spent waxing poetic about Dave Matthews hadn't turned me off already, his very mature handling of the "who will pay for the date" dilemma sealed the deal. No, thank you. Hard pass.
I know some of you are thinking, "Maybe he meant it in a chivalrous, flirtatious way?" He. Did. Not. Trust me, I do not mind being taken care of on a date, but this guy's tone was explicit. One-too-many women had faux-reached for their wallets in his lifetime, and he was not about it. Here's the thing: I was reaching for my wallet. As a woman going on an after-work date, I had a giant bag to dig through, not a pants pocket to reach into. While I don't mind being treated to drinks, I also don't mind paying for things — even on dates. I actually feel sort of fancy slapping my plastic down to cover an entire bill.
What confounded me about this particular dude was that he seemed triggered by my attempt to pay. He dragged me for my wallet reach, while also being frustrated that he was going to pay for the entire tab — but he refused to let me pay when I tried. Typically, when someone insists you don't pay on a date, they do it in a really sweet, genuine way. This man was trolling me. It was as though one woman took advantage of him, and now, we were all gold-digging monsters.
Luckily, this date was a complete outlier in my dating experience, but I can't deny that the moment the check is dropped off is always awkward. So what's the best way to handle paying for a date in 2018? I love when it's secretly taken care of when I am in the bathroom (pro move). But does being a feminist mean that the check should always be split down the middle? (No.) Is it OK to let a guy pay for you? (Yes.) Should hetero couples look to same-sex couples for some clarity? (Definitely.) I broke down three "rules" to consider when dating in 2018. Here they are.
1. The "Asker" Should Pay
I like this rule because it's equitable: If you ask someone out, you should be the one to pay... or you should at least offer to pay. I had never asked a man out until 2017, but over the past few months, I've been doing it. Women are powerful creatures, and I want to finally embody that at the ripe old age of 29. I always offer to pay when I am the "asker," but I would say only about one out of 10 of those men let me pay — and that one time, we split the bill.
There are simply some people — men and women — who are intent on paying. Let them! It's poor etiquette to start a disagreement over whose card the bartender should grab, so take the "asker" rule with a grain of salt.
2. The Person Who Makes More Money Should Pay
As someone who is usually the less financially stable person in whatever half-relationship she is engaging in at the moment, I obviously love this rule. If you're a starving artist and your partner is an investment banker, it's OK for them to take care of you a little more often than you take care of them. I like this "rule" because it's not gendered. However, it does come with a caveat — it only applies to more established relationships.
On a first date, it's rude to assume you know how much money your date makes or does not make simply based on their job. (Sometimes, that vague "entrepreneur" on their dating app profile really does mean "entrepreneur.") If your date insists on whipping out their black AmEx, let them. They might just really want to make you feel special! And vice versa: If you feel like plopping your card down, do so!
3. The Man Should Pay Because Women Are Paid Less In The U.S.
This "rule" goes for hetero couples only, and this rule is not a rule to follow for all dates for all of eternity. This is a wild card that I am throwing out there to justify why men often pay for dates, so don't take me too seriously. (@ me, trolls, because I know you're coming.)
When people suggest that, in order to be equal, women must be willing to assume some of the responsibilities men have — like paying for a date or an engagement ring — I say, "Sure, absolutely, once we're paid equally!" Even if you don't particularly spend a lot of money grooming your hair or nails before a date, you might spend money on birth control that your male partner does not. Additionally, down the road, we're the ones to carry babies and suffer all of that physical pain alone. There are simply some parts of life in which men and women are not yet equal.
The gender pay gap is real: Women make less money than their male counterparts (and I am not even taking race into account). So while this third "rule" is a little sassy, I think it's worth thinking about. Maybe, just maybe, it's OK for men to pay on a first date, because women in the United States make less money.
Again, these are not hard or fast rules. They are considerations to make, mostly when it comes to a first date. Offer to pay if you want to! Insist on paying if you want to! We're all adults, and we should be able to handle taking care of a check at the end of an evening together.
As a heterosexual woman, if I go on a date, and my date pays for dinner, and we grab drinks afterward, I make sure to take care of that second tab. Or, I switch off dates with someone I'm seeing regularly, because Venmo and splitting the tab always feel a little bit cheap to me. We all have different preferences, so do what you feel. Money is power, and power dynamics are tricky, but if you mind your manners when settling up a check, you'll be fine.
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