This weekend I had a conversation with two good friends of mine who are married and have been with their husbands for five-plus years. They were peppering me with questions about my oh-so-exciting dating life, and I mentioned that all the dinners and drinks were getting expensive. “Wait, what do you mean?” they asked. “Aren’t the guys paying?”
“Oh, no,” I responded. “Men don’t seem to be doing that anymore. Every date I’ve gone on, the check has been split.” They were aghast. What had happened to the tradition of men paying for dates since they were single? Was it the economy? Were men cheaper? Women more insistent on paying their share?
I’m a modern woman. I don’t think it’s fair for a guy to always pick up the check, especially if the date was initiated by the woman. I don’t think feminism is about picking and choosing which traditions benefit you. If you want equal pay for equal work, you’d better be OK with paying your half of the check some of the time. Who pays has become complicated by online dating, where two people mutually seek out each other. Catherine has done her share of online dating and found herself splitting the check or switching off paying for rounds. The latter seems preferable.
The economy does come into play. On my date with Mr. Plaid Glasses — who had said he was planning on wooing me — he told me he worked as a student teacher (for no money) and then in administration at a hospital (for a little bit of money). When the check came, I reached for my wallet, half-expecting him to say, “I’ve got it.” But he didn’t. I threw down my credit card and took the cash he put down, which added up to less than half, because he didn’t have as many drinks as I did. Is it shallow to say the first step in wooing is picking up the check for the dinner date you asked me out on? Because I knew he was hard up financially, I would have felt kind of guilty having him pay for the whole shebang, but I don’t think he should have made a stink about wooing me. I might have brought cash, instead.
The Doodler and I split the check entirely, which was fair, as we were set up by a mutual friend. Of course, going dutch might have been the first indication that he had no interest in seeing me again. Chicken Parm has taken me out a few times, and made me dinner too, but, frankly, I’ve done the later infinitely more and buying groceries for two gets expensive. It’s not that I think two people who are dating should keep a balance sheet of who has paid for what, but if you’re going to go dutch most of the time, or trade off who pays, at least try and keep it even. But how do you say to someone, “It’s your turn to buy the whole chicken if I’m going to roast it”?
After I had recounted all these various scenarios to my married friends, they called over their husbands and told them that I was paying for my own dinner and drinks on dates. “Are you serious?” they both said. “That’s crazy! I would always pay the check, especially on a first date,” said one. “I would never have the balls not to,” said the other. This was regardless of how they met the woman or how broke they were. For them, paying the check, especially early on in a dating relationship, was their responsibility, and they were happy to do it. So, what’s changed? Perhaps we’ll find out tomorrow, when I ask the guys on my IM. Stay tuned!