There’s no reason (except for convention) that men should pay for women on a first date. And for me, convention is not enough.
The bill arrives. My date reaches for his wallet. “Let’s split it,” I say, reaching for mine.
“Nope, it’s on me,” he replies, waving me off.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep,” he says, and I don’t push further.
As unlikely as it may seem, I actually prefer to split the check. The first date is a very early stage in what could, if the stars align, become a relationship, and I prefer to enter it as equal stakeholders. We don’t need to count pennies or split hairs, but I always appreciate establishing a baseline of egalitarianism early in the game.
If you’re on a date with me, I promise you won’t be penalized for accepting my offer to split. I won’t think you’re less of a gentleman, and I won’t think it means you don’t like me. I will deduce only that you are a reasonable guy who is comfortable with my confidence and the fact that I also earn a decent paycheck. In fact, I might just find you more attractive.
I’ve been doing the wallet-shuffle on a regular basis these days, as I’ve taken up online dating. Most guys offer to pay on the first date, and some feel that it’s an important display of chivalry, courtesy, or traditionalism. You are all taught that you need to offer, and that not doing so will result in accusations of cheapskatery. I wish I could tell you that your fears were idle, but unfortunately a contingent of my peers with some antiquated assumptions would quickly prove me wrong.
A coworker recently described to me her love of online dating. Was it the fascinating people? The quirky new bars and restaurants? The stimulating conversation? The fleeting and easily demolished potential for new romance? No. No, no, and no. She loves online dating because “I get so many free meals!” She tries to schedule at least two online dates a week, strictly to balance her budget. Yikes.
That is exactly the attitude that would infuriate me, were I an online-dating dude. Ladies, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you’re not interested in the gentleman across the table enough to halve the bill, you should not have accepted the date in the first place. Taking the “consolation prize” of a free dinner is a pretty abusive use of your feminine wiles.
I’m not attempting to undermine one of the foundational tenets of the dating code (okay, yes I am), but give me a break. It’s manipulative and fake to accept online dates for the free food. The very fact that you found each other on the internet implies an equal footing that you’re ruining with your shallow, money-grubbing ways.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh. It feels good to treat someone and it feels good to be treated. What’s wrong with that? Objectively, nothing. I only bristle at the concept when the treaters and the treatees split cleanly down gender lines. In this day and age, there is no reason except convention that men should pay for women on a first date. And to my mind, convention is not enough.
So what to do? Here I am, a 23-year-old modern lady telling you I prefer to split the check, and yet I’m also telling you that doing so may land you in hot water with some of my peers. I suppose it depends on what you want out of your first date. If you’re looking to get laid, for some women, a free dinner just might push them over the edge. As for me, by the time dessert arrives, I’ve decided whether I want to sleep with you, and whose credit card covers the bill isn’t going to change my decision one way or the other. And if you’re looking to start something that might become a relationship, wouldn’t you rather someone who prefers to contribute to it equally?
And ladies, please, please, please stop relying on a crutch of chivalry to get your free dinners. Demanding he foot the bill for your pumpkin ravioli in exchange for your company is a watered down version of the sugar-daddy syndrome. Instead, offer to share the cost of your shared experience, and set yourself up for equality down the line. By splitting the expense of your evening, you are creating the basic understanding that you are both self-sufficient adults, voluntarily participating in the now antiquated ritual of conversing over food before deciding whether to get it on.