I hear the espresso's really cheap in this joint
September 13, 2012 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Paying for first dates: who should do it?

This is an age-old question, but I'm curious about what MeFites think: if a fella asks a lady out on a first date, ought he pay for it? (or if a lady asks a fella/lady out on a date, etc etc...the question here is really "should the asker pay for the askee?").

This happened to me recently: guy explicitly asks me out for a coffee date, then just doesn't offer to get me anything. At all. There was a protracted silence wherein he nursed the coffee he'd bought for himself not thirty seconds before I arrived, me finally saying, "Should I get something?" and him offering up something like, "I hear the espresso's great here." The conversation was friendly, he was fine and normally I'd give a guy like him another date to see how things go, but I cut out after about an hour, citing errands, and not feeling overly jazzed about him because of, well, his asking me across the city and not even offering to pay $1.50 for my drink.

Today he sent me an email asking for another date.

Is this a jerk move on his part, or is this sort of thing totally okay, in your view? I'm disinclined to agree to meet this guy again, and sort of feel like I ought to tell him why. What are your thoughts?

TL;DR: Is it rude for the asker to not even offer to pay for the askee on a first date? Are there generally held beliefs about etiquette in this regard?
posted by Miss T.Horn to Human Relations (86 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Offering to pay is nice but shouldn't be expected.
posted by smorange at 8:31 PM on September 13, 2012 [16 favorites]

The person who asks pays.
posted by lalex at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [29 favorites]

In principle, asker pays.

In practice, if the girl asked but the guy offers to pay, and he seems like the kind of guy who Really Wants To Pay, then sure, let him pay.

Re this guy in particular - either clueless or obnoxious, I'm not really sure. Probably depends on age.

If you really like him and are sure that he is good people, why not ask him out and buy him a coffee? It's just a coffee after all.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd take it as a red flag. When someone shows you who they are, you should believe them.
posted by bonehead at 8:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

I would also be disinclined to go out again but I don't think it would be worth the effort to explain To him why.
posted by teamnap at 8:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this someone you met online and this was a "first-meet" coffee date? Because those aren't really dates in the traditional sense, they're just a first opportunity to suss another person out in person. I wouldn't expect the person who first suggested meeting in person to have to pay for the other person. Also if it is a big hassle to go across town for dates then you can always suggest someplace closer to home, it kind of sounds like you feel this guy "owed" you for going across town.
posted by headnsouth at 8:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

Maybe I'm old school, but as a guy, I feel compelled to pay on first dates, especially if it's cheap date like coffee.

On the other hand, I don't feel like it should be expected. I do it because I think it's nice and I feel like if I'm asking you to come out with me, you shouldn't have to financially commit anything, even if it's a small amount.

With respect to this guy? I dunno the specific circumstances. But I guess if you were on the fence to begin with, this isn't a terrible excuse (combined with the other fence reasons) to reject the second date. I wouldn't tell him why though, you may come off as stuck up or something.
posted by Geppp at 8:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

A guy who is chivalrous is super attractive. But some guys are stingy and reason themselves into thinking they shouldn't have to pay for anything instead of knowing how charming it can be if he's nice, warm, and generous.

If you didn't find him physically attractive, I wouldn't go out with him again. I've always liked guys who are sweet and caring, and, you know, are willing to part with three bucks for a coffee date. I also don't mind the opening of the door and being gentlemanly, but some guys think they shouldn't have to try.

In short, if you're attracted to him, go ahead. If not, don't waste your time and money.
posted by discopolo at 8:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Coffee dates are weird. I always feel sort of awkward if I get there first - do I wait to get a drink? - and then if I get there second, and the other person has a drink, why would I make them get up and go to the counter again? So I just sort of assume that the first round is a free-for-all, and then if it goes tolerably well and we want more drinks I'll offer to pay. (The "who asked who" question gets sticky, too, in online dating, so I just figure I can afford it, I'll offer, no sweat either way.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm a woman who strongly believes that women and men should pay for things equally on dates or have a "you get this one, I'll get the next one" kind of arrangement. If a date insists on paying for something I usually let him, but I like to try to suggest that if he gets the tickets, I get the beers, you get the picture.

It sounds like this guy handled things somewhat awkwardly, regardless of what etiquette says about his obligation to pay or not. Just looking at you while he drinks his drink seems odd to me. Maybe he was just nervous, though.

This wouldn't necessarily be a dealbreaker for me if everything else went well, but sounds like the exchange turned you off. I wouldn't bother to explain, just say that you didn't feel a connection.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't see any reason to expect one person or the other to pay.

If you're the sort of person this matters to, by all means don't feel obligated to go on a second date with this guy. But not buying your coffee absolutely does not make him a jerk, stingy, or rude.
posted by 168 at 8:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Here's my theory: it doesn't matter whether he was being rude or not. People find the type of people they want to be with.

He's probably looking for the kind of girl who will buy herself a coffee and doesn't think too much about date etiquette. There are lots of those out there.

It sounds like you're looking for a guy who's a bit more chivalrous. There's lots of them out there too.

If you're disinclined to go on another date, politely decline. Please don't tell him why. Let the man be his crazy self.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 8:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [55 favorites]

Asker usually pays, but there are exceptions. This isn't one.
posted by Sphinx at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I (straight guy) always pay, even if it's a few drinks and the tab isn't cheap.

It would be a huge turn-off if my date made it obvious that she expected me to pay.

A friend of mine who does a lot of (online) dating never pays on the first date. He's a great, great guy, but he's finishing school and paying for two would be difficult. I think someone passing him up would be making a mistake.

(To be honest, though, I'm thinking of something more expensive than a coffee.)
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 9:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, when the situation is that you're going out for coffee -- which costs about $2 even at a really nice place -- there really should not be all this awkwardness about paying or not. It is stingy to invite someone out for coffee and not pay. Not because of sexual politics and the Who Pays question, but because, seriously, unless you're college students, IT'S A FUCKING COFFEE.
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

I always offer to pay on a date, not because I'm a guy, but because I'm...not the other person (this came dangerously close to sounding like one of those solipsistic everybody-else-is-just-a-robot things). If for whatever reason I found myself on a date with a gentleman, I would offer the same. I do get irked, though, if the woman doesn't seem at all to mind letting me pay for many dates in a row. It's not the 1700s, and she probably makes more money than I do anyhow-- most people do.
posted by threeants at 9:04 PM on September 13, 2012

Coffee dates are weird because, hey, it's only a buck for a cup of coffee, which also reduces the amount you are paying for yourself. And you can't open up a tab or order your coffee when a server comes to your table and then pay when you are leaving. And it's kind of awkward, on an internet first date, to sit there by yourself without getting anything. And it's even more awkward to be like, hey, I already have my coffee but let me get up there and pay $2 for yours (and there are, I suspect, women who would be put off by that). So, yeah, for all these reasons, what he did is not a breach of normal human behavior.

But. It's interesting that you're trying to overintellectualize this. The fact that you're telling us that the question here is "really" whether the asker pays, regardless of gender, when in practice gender plays a significant role in those scenarios. And I think, you know, this turned you off and you weren't that into him. You don't want to date him again. That's fine. Don't see him again.

But no, you should not tell him why. He did not do anything wrong -- you two just apparently don't match up in this area (or, likely, other areas). Telling someone the minute details of why you are declining a second date (when it's not because they were an asshole or because you are moving to Malaysia) would be far, far more of a "jerk" move than his breach of etiquette (or failure to live up to your expectations, or whatever). C'mon. You know that.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [16 favorites]

Here's the deal. Things are complicated in the modern age. If a guy pays, it means he's either interested, or he's not interested but extremely polite. If a guy doesn't pay, he's either not interested, or being extremely equitable.

So if this guy asked you out on another date, I'd say go for it. See what happens. If he asks you out to dinner, and there is another hiccup and you end up paying for your meal, toss him in the wastebasket. He's probably a wanker.
posted by phaedon at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's my take as a gal who used to go on blind coffee dates. (No more, thank goodness.) For some reason, having people buy me things always makes me really awkward and uncomfortable. It stems from growing up poor. I have a mental freakout that I will now owe this person something, no matter how small the purchase. I would prefer to buy my own coffee, but if I insist it just ends up seeming brusque and rude.

So here's how it typically would go down. The guy will offer, I will say "no thanks," he will say "No I insist," I really don't care but never know how many times I should refuse before I accept, which makes me feel totally neurotic, and here we've just wasted the first five minutes of the date on this awkward dance of politeness over something that costs $3. I mean it's $3, we can both afford it, this is obviously totally just symbolic and therefore seems to carry a weight far beyond what it really should. The fact that I just wrote an entire paragraph about this should convey to you how neurotic this interchange make me feel.

So, if I showed up and the person was already drinking a cup of coffee, I would be so relieved. Now I can go up to the counter and get my drink with no fuss, and we can get into the part of the date I care about: actually talking.

But that's me! And it stems not out of objective right or wrong behavior on my part or my hypothetical date, but from my own neuroses. You have a different set of preferences and expectations and that's perfectly OK. Just like I should be with the person who allows me to minimize my awkward behavior, you should be with the person who makes you feel charmed and cared for. If this guy isn't him, that's okay. Essentially, I don't think it's about "etiquette" so much as it is "good fit."

Talk about analyzing a cup of beans...
posted by crackingdes at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Thanks for this! And, yes, it would be a jerk move to explain to him exact reasons for turning down a second date. Rest assured this gentleman will continue to treat no ladies to coffee, uncriticized.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Straight guy here. I've been on my fair share of first dates and I almost always pay. The routine usually goes something like this: Check comes, girl reaches for purse, I take check and start to take out credit card, girl offers to pay something, I tell her not to worry about it, she either thanks me or offers one more time (I decline again) and then thanks me.

I've only accepted the offer to split the check a few times when I felt absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.

Coffee dates or dates that start at a bar can be a little odd. If I get there first, I usually wait until the girl arrives before ordering a drink and then I offer to pay for both of us when she arrives. If the girl is super late I'll generally order a drink and then play it by ear when she arrives. She'll either wind up ordering and paying for her first drink or wait for me to finish mine and then I pick up the tab from there.

In this specific instance, it doesn't seem like a big deal to me if the guy didn't pay for your drink but it sounds like it was a big deal for you and that's fine. He clearly didn't do enough to wow you in other areas. Let this one go.

TL;DR: I always pay on the first date unless there's zero chemistry and I have no interest in a second date.
posted by Diskeater at 9:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll just say that many guys are confused these days about whether or not they should pay, as there aren't clear cut rules for this kind of things any more. Some women like it when men pay, some despise it, some follow the "whoever asks, pays" rule, some assume that everyone pays for themselves, some are not sure what constitutes a "real date" such that you even need to consider these rules. I'm not saying that he couldn't have been better about this, but perhaps consider that he felt a little bit socially awkward trying to figure the whole thing out and defaulted to something that didn't jive with your expectations. This doesn't mean that you need to cut him some slack in this area, but on behalf of other men who have been confused by this kind of thing before, it might be a nice thing to consider.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

It sounds from your description like he had already bought his coffee when you arrived. In his place, I would have done something similar - not because I'm stingy but because 95% of the time the girl says she'll pay anyway, and getting up to go to the counter with you would be too over-the-top and seem more ridiculous than chivalrous. Then again, I favor very logical women (who would generally consider it weird to insist on paying for $3 coffee - and attempting to do so might be awkward). On the other hand, if we were both already standing right at the counter (so that I could make the offer look less forced) I would do so.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

What is his cultural background? Not every culture thinks it standard that the man pay for the first date.

I don’t have a ton of dating experience, but one thing I’ve noticed as a single guy living in Japan is that girls (well, people in general) are usually very sensitive about who pays for what, even on dates. Culturally, gifts, favors, etc. must be acknowledged and paid back appropriately. They call it giri, or one’s sense of social obligation toward another. People who do not pay something back in a socially appropriate way are considered ungrateful or socially inept.

When it comes to dating, this often means that if the guy pays for the entire first date, the girl feels a sense of pressure (or even anxiety, as I’ve heard some people describe it) to make things even by paying the next time around. That this guy she doesn’t know all that well yet just dropped 500 yen on a coffee (or 4000 yen on dinner and a movie) creates an open anxiety loop for her that will remain until she’s done something to pay it back. Dating is stressful enough as it is, so you can see why it’s pretty standard to go dutch on dates in Japanese culture.

The funny is, in Japan, people usually do social activities in groups. The implications of one single person asking another out on a date alone implies the intentions of the asker and the askee. Who pays for what is never even part of the equation.

To bring it back, what I’m trying to say is that people (even people of the same nationality in culturally diverse countries) have very different cultural expectations for dating. I wouldn’t be too quick to judge this guy over a $1.50 cup of coffee. If you’re remotely interested in this guy at all, why not give him another shot?
posted by Kevtaro at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Proofreading fail. “Implications” = “act.”
posted by Kevtaro at 10:06 PM on September 13, 2012

I usually expect to pay (I am female). I do realize that social etiquette states that the asker should pay, but I don't think a lot of people realize this. (Same goes for being asked over for dinner, one should not ask people to bring things, but people always do. I don't ask people to bring things, but I am usually asked to bring something.)
posted by wandering_not_lost at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I hear the espresso's great here."


As a man, I almost always paid on a first date, no matter who initiated (I'm with wandering_not_lost on traditional etiquette). Most women were happy about this although some were incredibly aggressive about paying for themselves. The time this was most memorable was over a $1 cup of tea on a first date. It wasn't even $2 and she seemed really put out that I would try to buy it for her.

If I were already sitting down with a cup I would find it somewhat awkward to go up and buy another cup for the date while… what? She watches my drink? I take it back up to the counter with us? Clearly the strategic thing to avoid this awkwardness is to not buy a drink until your date gets there. Maybe because not everyone feels the same way about these things you should forgive this guy a tiny breach of dating etiquette.

Or maybe you shouldn't. You don't have to go out with him again and you don't need a reason not to.
posted by grouse at 10:13 PM on September 13, 2012

I prefer to pay for my own coffee, so I have no expectation that he should buy me coffee just because he asked me out.

But that is me personally. If you think he's a jerk for not offering, then you think he's a jerk, and he's not for you.
posted by heyjude at 10:20 PM on September 13, 2012

I think a guy should buy your coffee, BUT, in this situation, it's a little different because there wasn't really an easy or gracious way for him to do it. He could have... what? Asked you what you wanted to drink and gone up and gotten it for you while you watched his stuff? I guess, but that seems a little over the top.

It's a unique situation, because if you'd gone to a bar or restaurant, there'd be a tab. (And then you could do the "take out purse / he says I'll get it / you say oh are you sure? Let me at least get the wine / no definitely, I got it." thing.)

I see from the answers you've gotten so far that this feeling is far from universal, so everyone's mileage may vary. Personally, I am the opposite of a gold digger, but always found it very off putting if a man didn't pay for a date.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The person who asks, pays. Not doing so is pretty tone-deaf and is probably a warning sign for a lack of social graces (or at least experience) in other areas; whether or not that's a deal-breaker to you is a personal decision, and I could imagine for some it is and for some it isn't.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:12 PM on September 13, 2012

I would definitely not have offered to buy you coffee if I was already seated (even if I'd *just* arrived), and I probably would not have attempted to pay if we'd been standing in line at the same time. (Barista asks me what I want, I order, I pay, I wait for my drink to come while you order and pay.)

I'm a mid-twenties guy who dates both men and women, and I do hang out in pretty consciously gender-equitable circles. It might be an age thing. But it doesn't even cross my mind to make this decision as a feminist or not-chivalrous thing; it's friggin' coffee. Things might be different if there were a larger bill (say, dinner, or even lunch), especially if it's obvious that one of us has more financial stability than the other. But it's friggin' coffee, man.

I've had women tell me that in not offering to pay, I'm failing to express interest. One of the women who has told me this is someone I dated for a while, and she told me that this assumption that we'd be splitting the bill for our dinner dates - or not making more of a fuss about it, or something - was part of why it took us so long to be a couple. Because she didn't know whether I was attempting to date her, or just have a friendly dinner. She also told me that I shouldn't expect that gesture to be responded to with anything other than, "no, I insist, let's split it" or an offer to return the favor next time.

I maintain that even if this is the dominant expectation, it is a silly and archaic tradition, and that it amounts to game-playing. And game-playing is just dumb. I like you; you hopefully like me; let's just be clear about that rather than counting on these weird subtle hints like we're still in high school. Especially when it's something like coffee where I've already paid. (Where even the woman mentioned above would, I think, agree that the appropriate exchange is, "Hey! Good to see you/glad to meet you in person." "I'm gonna go order something, I'll be right back." "Okay!")

Yes, I am slightly fed up with this whole thing. Not because I'm cheap; because it's confusing and feels like it's setting up this weird power dynamic where one person is expected to pay for things and the other person is gracing them with the courtesy of their time. Traditionally, these roles are played by a man and a woman, respectively. Fuck that shit.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

The person who invites, pays.

I do not understand the debate.

I own vintage copies of, "The Vogue Book of Etiquette," and, "Emily Post's Etiquette The Blue Book of Social Usage."

That said, it is not an antiquainted idea the when entertaining at a cafe or restaurant, you are the HOST if you do the inviting, and therefore you pay the tab. That's just common sense and common manners, unless going Dutch was part of the invitation.

(to borrow a phrase from my new fav stand up comedian, Greg Proops)

Kittens McTavish! I can't believe we are even debating this!
posted by jbenben at 12:57 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

The complete guide to dealing with coffee date payments:

First person to arrive waits for second person before ordering
Inviter orders first, then says to cashier "they're with me" and pays, possibly with a "do you mind if I get this" to the invitee.


Now, if one of the people forgets the protocol, you get into the weird situation where one person has coffee, and the other does not, and of course it would be weird to leave the table / go with them to the register / whatever, and also, it's just a buck so dear god the screaming inside my head what do I do?

You get your own coffee and have a nice date anyway.
posted by zippy at 1:10 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

i think a big part of why you're disgruntled is because you went across town for the date- I once had a friend, who was JUST A FRIEND (but male, while I''m female, for however that changes things) who made a point to tell me he wasn't going to pay for lunch, when I had spent 50 bucks on a cab ride to meet him exactly where he worked for his convenience. I had come in from out of town and was making the extra effort to see him. I wouldn't have minded paying for myself much, but the fact that he made a point of it upset me, especially as he clearly made TONS more money than me. So at some point I politely explained to him that it had surprised me, and why, and then he saw where I was coming from and from then on always paid for lunch when I came in from out of town and had to spend gobs of money just to come to where he worked for his convenience.

I suggest that instead of dealing with this now, which is sort of a detail to flush out maybe later in the relationship if one develops, that you accept a second date at a place very convenient to you. that might smack more of equality in resources spent on the date.
posted by saraindc at 3:00 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

not that equality in resources is a necessary thing but it seems like you're seeking it as a minimum.
posted by saraindc at 3:02 AM on September 14, 2012

I've never really got the asker pays paradigm, if I ask a friend out for a platonic drink that doesn't seem to come into play so why should dating be any different, you have the option of refusing (or suggesting a cheaper option) so perhaps it's better to reframe it as the asker and the acceptor rather then the asker and the asked.
posted by purplemonkeydishwasher at 3:26 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would just point out that a lot of people in this thread as ascribing motive to this man's actions, but all of it is just guesses. It's very possible that he's not cheap, not post-post-post feminist, not a jerk, not rude but rather, simply doesn't know the "s/he who asks, pays" rule or was afraid of offending you or causing the anxiety above poster's have described. I think if you liked him well enough to get another cup of coffee, you should.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:35 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like it was a bit of a non-standard date situation. So its in a 'order at the counter' cafe with no table service. And it sounds like he had already ordered, paid and was seated drinking a coffee when you arrived.

If I was in that situation I might offer to get you a coffee - but what if you had arrived first? Would you have ordered yourself a coffee?

I think in this situation the its just $2 cuts both ways. He was probably happy to have paid for your coffee if you arrived at the same time. But since you are there separately it would be weird to make a point of ordering your coffee for you when you arrive since its only $2.

I don't think that this can be read as a definite snub to chivalry based on the situation.

If you thought he was otherwise ok. then perhaps aim for a second date where there is table service to confirm or deny his non-chivalrous nature.
posted by mary8nne at 4:53 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if I arrived at a place first and had already sat down down, I wouldn't jump up the moment you arrived saying, "As a man I must do your queueing and paying for you!" I dunno, I might offer, I might not, but anyway I'd assume you'd probably turn me down cos you're standing up already or something and if you didn't that'd be fine too. It's just not a big deal.

I find it totally bizarre that you're even bothering about this, or that several people agree that he did something wrong. What this tells me is that you're just not suited to each other (and I'm not suited to you or some of the posters above!). That this is such an issue for you would be, if he only knew, a good reason for him to not want a second date either! You're both best kept apart, not because anyone's wrong or right but because you've got totally different approaches to life.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

The person who asks, pays. Not doing so is pretty tone-deaf and is probably a warning sign for a lack of social graces 


Also, when you arrive he should get up and greet you and as he's pulling in your chair after you're seated he should say "What can I get you? The espresso is quite good here." then he should go to the counter and get it and pay for it.

So it's not just about paying.
posted by Dragonness at 5:14 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

My experience (as an early-30s lady) has been that men almost always offer to pay, even if I've asked them out. But I definitely don't expect it, and my assumption if someone doesn't offer would just be that he's a modern guy, not cheap. I love generosity in people, but it's strange to me that this is still a custom. (I see it as well-intentioned, I guess, and would never fight someone about it. But I'm much more touched when someone wants to buy me dinner, or whatever, after we've already known each other for a long time and have been splitting bills).

In your case, as others have said, it wasn't necessarily the easiest situation for him to pay, since it was just a walk-up counter. I also think that if he was really a good match for you, you would have been distracted from the bill incident and forgotten about it. But maybe that's just me, since the bill thing doesn't bother me to begin with...
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2012


My name is Ruthless and I'm a check grabber. I come from a long line of check grabbers. I will always offer to pay, not just my share, but the other person's share too. This is pathological.

When I was single and dating, I expected the guy to pay, but I'd always offer. When Husbunny and I dated, we took turns.

My preference is for a guy who can afford for a date not to be a big issue financially and who will insist on paying for it.

If a guy is too broke to buy my coffee, I'm thinking that we're not on the same page financially, and it's a deal breaker.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think attitudes vary on this. I'm of the opinion that expecting a man to pay for a date is sexist and old-fashioned. I don't see that it makes any difference who asks. Someone asks. Someone accepts. a date is a two-way thing, and the bill for it should be too. But again, as we see, there's no "right" answer here. Go with your own feelings about the matter.
posted by Decani at 6:20 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reading these responses, it just occurred to me that an awesome thing to do if I arrived early for a coffee date would be to order my drink and then explain to the barista that I'm on a date and give said barista ten dollars cash so that when date arrives and goes to order the drink, barista says "oh, it's already paid for." And barista gets a nice tip.

I'm out of the dating pool, so this is moot. But I could then say something like "it can be awkward figuring out who pays, so I just went ahead and did it."

Or text the person and say "I arrived early - can I order you something?" especially if it's winter and cold outside!.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why the first person ordered and sat down. If I am going to meet someone at a restaurant I hang around and wait until they get there. If I felt I needed to sit, I would sit without a drink and tell the waiter that I was waiting and my friend would be here in a minute. Then we would both order together and have a separate argument about who pays. Because for me, this question is not "who pays" but "why didn't he wait for me?". (OP, were you on time?)

But I can see by the other answers here that others have different opinions and they seem like reasonable people , so I'm not going to get all angry and demand that my way is the only right way, but it sure makes me glad that I'm not in this whole dating game anymore. I'd never survive.
posted by CathyG at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Forget the coffee, it's a question of hospitality. If it were say, one of my relatives and I was there before them, I'd say, "hey, can I get you anything?" And they might decline, but would appreciate the offer.

Pretend you were at this guy's apartment. You walk in and he's drinking coffee. The polite thing to do would be to offer you a cup, provide you with said mug, offer to fix it for you or let you put in your own cream and sugar. But if you walk into anyone's place, they're having a drink, and don't even offer you a glass of water, it makes you feel like you're not wanted.

To me it's more of a feeling of, "Glad to meet you, would you like something?" Or even, "I'd like to buy you a cup of coffee, but I'm always awkward when it comes to things like this." It's basic social etiquette, not someone buying you surf 'n' turf and expecting sex for a $200 dinner.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:49 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like if he had bought you coffee, or offered, you would go out with again. If that kind of thing is important to you, then why does it matter what other people think?

Personally I think many of us read way too much into these things, and this would not bother me if I was interested in the guy.
posted by sm1tten at 6:58 AM on September 14, 2012

seriously, unless you're college students, IT'S A FUCKING COFFEE

IMO that's exactly why everyone can get their own coffee and not pitch a fit about $2. I'd find someone who stood around waiting for me to purchase their coffee to be socially graceless and possibly in possession of a time machine from the 1950's.

This isn't a "we're both in line at the same time" thing, in which case offering to buy both would be normal and fine. Getting up and buying someone's coffee when you're already seated is the equivalent of walking around a car and opening a car door so your date can get out.

I'd use the word "patronizing" but if you say "appropriate" then I guess it's pistols at dawn
posted by soma lkzx at 6:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

The one who invites should pay.

This guy sounds so romantic.
posted by tel3path at 6:59 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it indicates a character flaw or just complete self-absorption. He should have offered to buy you a beverage, absolutely.
posted by waving at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

[At the point at which you are calling other commenters "insane" you should politely excuse yourself from this thread. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:39 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm of the opinion that expecting a man to pay for a date is sexist and old-fashioned

This, but with a bit of nuance. A number of commenters have made comments about "chivalry": what it is, why it is expected, and so forth. The problem is that these comments misunderstand what chivalry was.

Chivalry was never a universal social custom. It was a code of behavior for a very small, elite portion of the population i.e. knights to another small portion of the population. A knight would act with chivalry towards a noblewoman, and most particularly *his* lady, but not the bootblack's daughter. The idea was that this was a favor the knight was doing in exchange for his social station and in exchange for the woman behaving as a lady, and it was *never* expected by the lady. A man is not the unpaid valet of strangers to hold open doors or carry heavy loads, or a benefactor to provide food and drink. I behave chivalrously towards the women of my inner circle: wife, mother, sisters, and female friends. I also extend it to elderly women who I think would remember how chivalry properly works. Everyone else gets gender-neutral courtesy.

People are getting it wrong when they confuse chivalrous behavior with etiquette. Everyone is entitled to etiquette, but chivalry describes a very certain relationship.

I was not also not persuaded by the "hospitality" argument, either. It is a pretty common occurrence for me to call a male friend, or him to call me, and say something to the effect of, "want to grab a few beers at the bar?" It is never understood that anyone will be paying for anyone else. However, if he were a guest in my home, I would certainly provide food and drink. Why does a man need to spring for coffee for the OP when he wouldn't be expected to do so for his drinking buddy?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:18 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I meet someone at a cafe, even a casual friend, even a guy friend, and certainly a date or potential date, I wait until they've arrived to get food or drinks unless they're very, very late; that's just common courtesy, nevermind the paying for it part...and if I extended the invite, I assume I will be paying. Perhaps I am old-fashioned.
posted by davejay at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Er, assume I will be paying unless they suggest otherwise, that is.
posted by davejay at 8:59 AM on September 14, 2012

This is really interesting, and varied. The way I was brought up, if you invite a person to coffee (and it's not a mutual, "Hey, we should get together for coffee!" or a business meeting), you treat them. Regardless of their sex/gender. If I invite a friend to coffee, especially if, say, she's done something nice for me recently, and she arrives a few minutes before I do and buys her own beverage, I buy her a cookie or something. But perhaps this is really traditional?

On the other hand, when on a second date, or a date that's going really well and involves multiple stops and drinks etc, or an expensive dinner date, paying for myself or paying back-and-forth only seems right. And if I ask the guy out, I treat (if he lets me).

But the thing is, yes, it's just a coffee. This is like an episode of Seinfeld.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:04 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do not read quite so much into this.

It seems like you had an awkward interaction with a guy at a coffee shop...

Maybe he is always like this? Maybe never? Maybe he just had a really hot sip of coffee and had burnt his mouth? Maybe he hates women and uses coffee snubbing as a subconscious attack against you as a result? Maybe it was just awkward? Who knows. Nobody here, that's for sure.

If you don't want the second date that's just fine. I'm in the camp that you don't tell people you've only met once what you perceive to be wrong with them. because it's unkind.
posted by French Fry at 9:17 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, when you arrive he should get up and greet you and as he's pulling in your chair after you're seated he should say "What can I get you? The espresso is quite good here." then he should go to the counter and get it and pay for it.

I think this highlights a difference in how various posters are conceiving of the situation. I suspect those of us who have spent a fair bit of time with online dating viewed this situation as a first in-person meeting more than a first date. In those situations, it can be nearly impossible to immediately get up, greet the person, and offer to get something, since you can't be certain that you'll immediately recognize the person at all.

On subsequent dates, a split check, asker pays, or back-and-forth dynamic is great depending on personalities involved, but that first meeting is rather unique.
posted by SemiSophos at 9:26 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

All of these responses are very interesting. And many of them are very emphatic in diametrically opposed ways.

What this might suggest is that there are differences in social expectations, and when you meet someone for the first time, it's pretty much impossible for one person to be a mind reader regarding what another person might prefer.

Is this a good reason to cut him some slack, then? Perhaps, but of course it's ultimately up to you. The bigger question, perhaps, is if in granting him the benefit of the doubt, you like him enough (and are able) to have conversations about how this dynamic works in the future, and whether or not those conversations lead you to a place of understanding or compromise.

No conversation possible? Deal breaker. No compromise possible? Deal breaker.

But, he might just have been uncertain the first time around. Personally, I have a rule of cutting people all kinds of slack on a first meeting, because nerves/uncertain expectations/whatever can distort first impressions quite a bit.

And I do tend to agree that at the end of the day, this is probably not a hill to defend to the death. In most relationships, there are plenty of hidden annoyances that won't surface for months or years, much less a first date. The question is whether or not people have tools to deal with those issues.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Men. As long as women earn 80 cents to the dollar, things are not fair. So let's deal with reality.
posted by pakora1 at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't go out with someone again who didn't offer to pay for the first date. I don't expect the man to pay, but I won't go out with him again if he doesn't offer.

I assume a man who wants me to pay isn't interested or is miserly. I always offer to pay and get my purse out when the bill comes and then ask if the guy is sure he wants to pay because I don't mind paying. However, if he doesn't pay, he doesn't get a second date. I admit this is unfair, but I don't want the guy to feel obligated to pay. On the other hand, the little touch of paying for me is very attractive to me.

I can afford to pay, but at the end of the meal, my mind jumps to, "If I married this guy, would he be generous with the kids?" I assume the answer is "No," if he isn't going to be generous enough to pay for coffee or an inexpensive meal. (Or else he just doesn't feel attracted to me, in which case not paying is a very easy way to let me know there won't be a second date and that makes things easier for me too.)
posted by parakeetdog at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

"I assume a man who wants me to pay isn't interested or is miserly." @Parakeetdog. Completely agree.
posted by pakora1 at 10:07 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

it can be nearly impossible to immediately get up, greet the person, and offer to get something, since you can't be certain that you'll immediately recognize the person at all.

So the person who arrived early should remain seated when the other one arrives? Not get up and greet her, shake hands at the very least, say his name? Red flag on social graces, however you look at it.
posted by Dragonness at 10:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The way I was brought up, if you invite a person to coffee (and it's not a mutual, "Hey, we should get together for coffee!" or a business meeting), you treat them. ... But perhaps this is really traditional?

No, that's how I was raised, too.

Even beyond the question of how one was raised, it's a coffee. Coffee costs almost nothing. If you're an adult and not living in penury, treating someone to a coffee is such an insignificant thing.

I also like the notion that going out for something like coffee or a drink is a part of our almost universal human tendency to equate social interaction and food sharing. The goal of the encounter is to establish or maintain your bond with the other person. It seems a little weird to do that by saying "OK, I bought my coffee, now you go buy yours. I suppose I'll allow you to sit near me while we drink our completely separate and unrelated beverages. Perhaps there will even be eye contact."

Me buying you a coffee is the action that makes this a gathering of friends and not two strangers sitting near each other.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 AM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

The person who asks pays. Unless the asker is a woman and the invitee is a man, in which case the man pays. Or if it's two guys who are friends in which case both men pay (but whether it is a simple split or true accounting is complex - consider mates drinking rounds in a bar in Ireland for example). If it is a gay male couple, one of the men pays or sometimes both but i've been told on numerous occasions that the reality is usually the older or less attractive pays if the check is not simply split. My understanding from a narrow range of lesbian friends is that it is consistently Dutch and power imbalance makes this awkward enough that the unimaginable (discussion of relative incomes and an equitable uneven split) is not that unusual.

So, breaking it down, it depends, but in all cases the person with the expectations has the obligation to make them clear or deal well enough with life's little speed bumps that they don't need to drag the question to strangers on the Internet.
posted by rr at 10:47 AM on September 14, 2012

the reality is usually the older or less attractive pays if the check is not simply split.

Who is it that decides who is the least attractive? I'd hate to find out what happens if the two of them disagree.

In the OPs case, I do think it's a bit rude and a little strange that he didn't make any effort to treat you. That said, since it sounds like the meeting was rather on the casual side of things, I wouldn't have expected him to jump up and spring for your beverage either. All in all, I would say that it is not something to get worked up over. Your expectations in this once instance didn't match up perfectly. I'd have said to give it another chance, though it sounds like you've already made up your mind.
posted by wats at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2012

As a lady person who dates both guys and other lady peoples, if I invite someone somewhere for something, I am the one who pays. They can fight with me over it if they want, and we may agree to split the bill, but I am not going to NOT OFFER, at the very least. For me personally, I would find anything else tacky and awkward.
posted by elizardbits at 11:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

It might have just been an awkward moment where he missed the opportunity to buy your coffee. Or it might have been the beginning of a red flag. If he asks you out again, and doesn't even offer to pay again, I would run. If he asks you out again and offers to pay, swell.
posted by debbie_ann at 11:49 AM on September 14, 2012

"If I married this guy, would he be generous with the kids?"

I find the idea that how a man handles the bill on a first date somehow maps to how he would treat his own children to be a novel one. As a father of two, I can tell you that I would swim across shark-infested waters for my children. My counterpart on a first date does not get that level of treatment. The purpose of the first date, second date, and all of the other dates is to determine if the woman merits that swim.*

I don’t have a ton of dating experience, but one thing I’ve noticed as a single guy living in Japan is that girls (well, people in general) are usually very sensitive about who pays for what, even on dates

I did my fair share of dating in Japan, which resulted in one lucky lady becoming Mrs. Tanizaki, and I did not have the experience of dutch treat/alternating payments being the norm at all. YMMV.

I think you raise a good point about giri. In Japan, one is always aware of one's place (unless totally socially inept). One knows what is owed to others and what is expected from others. This is obvious from keigo/kenjougo, and absolutely required for using giving/receiving verbs, the second point more especially being one that I find it lost on Japanese language learners. If one can't use "-te morau" and the like properly, one's Japanese will never sound right.

And frankly, I think that is the crux of the issue here: knowing one's place. In North American society, it is an article of faith that there is no class, everyone is equal (or at least has equal potential), and the like. The result is that in situations like the subject coffee date, where the parties' relative social standings are on center stage and determinative of the interaction, no one knows what to do. This confusion is clear from the many differing responses posted to this thread. If there were clarity of what was expected from whom, this question would never have been asked.

*I do not go on first dates because I am happily married to the mother of my children
posted by Tanizaki at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Here is why American/British social etiquette matters to me on a date*:

The asker paying for the askee, and not beginning your meal/drink until everyone has arrived are basic tenants of social etiquette. It has been my experience that men I have dated who disregard, or are ignorant of, some social graces are usually lacking many more than initially visible.

Example: the guy who expects the askee to pay may times is also is the guy who doesn't see the need to write thank you notes, skips that romantic meal on valentines day (regardless of your feelings on it), responds to a street salesman with a snarky comment instead of a polite "no thank you", puts the bowl to his mouth and drinks the last bits of soup at expensive restaurants, etc.

My point is, if a person is failing 21st Century American Date Etiquette 101, there is good chance that there are other social graces that he will either be ignorant of or just think are "silly" and see no need to follow**.

You are allowed to have preferences. If respect of generally accepted etiquette is your preference, then you are not obligated to waste time with men who disregard the basics in the first five minuted of the date. Regardless of whether he is "actually a great guy" or not, there are plenty of other versions of him out there who observe social etiquette. You are allowed to go find them.

*This is based on my personal experiences only. I have no doubt that there are others here who can provide a plethora of counter examples. YMMV

**Not true for everyone.
posted by Shouraku at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

At every point in a relationship that doesn't involved combined finances, I only suggest activities I'm prepared to bankroll, and only agree to activities that I'm prepared to pay my way for. At least, that's my default way of thinking.

I like to think of myself as a generous person, but I also value generosity in others. And the kind of larger awareness about what travel time costs people. And the kind of "shared experience" bonding that comes from sitting down at the same time with coffee that's the same temperature. It's a good enough reason.
posted by itesser at 12:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a data point, but as a guy, I'd 100% always pay for dinner, or some other large ticket item like that on a first date. But it might not occur to me to get up and jump in front of a $2 coffee bill; it's just so in the financial noise. I'd certainly do it if we were in line together, but if I'd already gotten my coffee, that might just be awkward. I'm also assuming everyone is a professional where $2 IS in the noise, as opposed to a student, etc.

Either way, I guess it would work out, as I'd prefer to date someone that would be more into getting to know me than to care about two bucks. I'd take it as a strong sign you're just not into the guy if this is the deciding factor.
posted by festivus at 12:51 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nobody cares about two bucks. That is why offering to pay for your guest's coffee doesn't reveal much, but not offering may be significant.

If a coffee date is a pre-screening for an actual date, I would wonder if my host
a) cares so much about $2 that he made sure to get there and order his own coffee first, in order to make it impractical for him to then get one for me;
b) is a PUA who doesn't believe in "supplicating" to women so doesn't pay for anything as a matter of technique;
c) doesn't know, or doesn't believe in, etiquette around hospitality;
d) doesn't care about making a good impression on me, perhaps he took one look at me and decided I wasn't that important;
e) none of the above, this is just how he rolls, whatever that means for future interactions with him.

Whatever it did or didn't signify, you know from his outward behaviour that he didn't think it was worth offering to get you a coffee simply because you went across town to go on a date with him. I think that the fact that it was a date, and that he asked you, means it should have been worth the effort to him.

My friend went on a coffee date with a guy who got around the problem of payment, and waiting for everyone to be served, by taking the coffee from an adjoining table after the people seated there had left.
posted by tel3path at 1:11 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I assume a man who wants me to pay isn't interested or is miserly

And yet the fact that you want him to pay does not make you miserly or uninterested? There is no way around the fact that this is a question of traditional role playing.
posted by mdn at 1:57 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

It would be a huge turn-off if my date made it obvious that she expected me to pay.

I agree with this. As a guy I wouldn't mind paying (esp if it's a good date that I really enjoyed) but I think in most circumstances a date should be *expected* to be split 50/50 (or at least I pay this time, you pay next time). Anything more than that is a bonus - I don't think you should go in expecting your date to foot the bill. I've been in that situation (first date, date makes it obvious I should pay b/c I'm the guy) and I didn't really appreciate it.

Of course I think there's more at work here than just that, but just a thought.
posted by photo guy at 2:53 PM on September 14, 2012

the equivalent of walking around a car and opening a car door so your date can get out.

I think this is a great example of the "you should go with your preferences" thing. I did the "open the car door" thing on many dates, and it was usually met with either appreciation or a sort of amused but happy response. It's not something I would literally do every time a woman was in the car with me, but on special/early dates I think it's cute and polite.

That said, if a woman was offended, it probably just means we're not a good match. I like to pay, hold doors, that sort of thing. That's fine, the whole point of dating is to see if two people are a match or not, right?

So paying is the same thing. If two people have wildly different ideas on this, and it matters to them, they're not compatible. If they don't care, it doesn't matter (but I guess thats more or less "having the same idea" anyway).

In this example, I wouldn't have ordered before you got there, which would have prevented the issue in the first place. I know it's just coffee, but in my head I treat it similarly to if it was a dinner, and ordering dinner before the other person shows up would be considered rude by most people I think.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I went around to open the car door for my passenger, and after the second time I did it, he explained to me that I would save at least 30 seconds by not taking the time to walk around the car and hold the door for him.

(My car doesn't have central locking though, so I would have had to lock the passenger door anyway but) it was good to know his take on these things. It was good to learn about the importance that time efficiency held for him, and his lack of shyness about pointing out ways in which my processes could be improved.
posted by tel3path at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2012

I'm not sure my subcultures follow the standard rules for "dating" (if there are such things). However, I have met with a lot of potential artistic & musical collaborators over drinks, and have done a fair bit of "meet up for coffee/happy hour and see if we click" with people from Teh Interwebs in a few different cities in English-speaking countries.

In my experience, the predominant set of expectations is:
- The person making the invitation picks up the drinks, particularly if the other has had to travel a long way/show up at an odd time/put themselves out to make the meeting.
(Incidentally, did this guy know that he was making you come across town for his convenience? You mention that's one of the things that irks you about this meeting, but not whether he was aware he was asking this of you?)
The major exception to this has been when the person doing the inviting has made it clear that they're a student, unemployed, or otherwise impoverished. Though often people deal with that by choosing more affordable places where they can cover the bill and thereby save face - they'll suggest a cafe rather than a cocktail bar, for example.
- Whoever arrives first waits for the other - whether outside the venue or at a table. If there is table service, the waitstaff are well-accustomed to hearing "No thanks, I won't order yet - I'm waiting for someone."
- The pair order together once the second person has arrived.
- Usually there is some sort of "what are you having/what can I get you?" signal to reaffirm the expectations in play.
- The guest can pay for their share if they push hard enough, but that may be offputting to the host. However, male guests will often push harder for the right to cover their share, or even the whole bill, as will those who have established that they're better off financially.
- Given the above, the guest will not impress people if they go overboard ordering the most extravagant things on the menu.
- No set of expectations is universal - talking about things is easier than trying to guess!

As with several commenters above, I think the principles at play here are those of hospitality. The thing I find most gives me pause in what you describe is that this guy didn't wait for you to join him before ordering, making the dance around who-pays-for-what that much more awkward. Unless you'd established you were running significantly late, the fact that he knew you were coming but couldn't wait a few minutes to get his coffee suggests to me that he prioritises his convenience. (Or is seriously addicted to caffeine, perhaps?)

I would read it as an indicator that there may be a place for me in this person's life, but only if I fit perfectly in the space he created and didn't get in the way of what he wanted to do. I wouldn't make a judgement based on that alone, but it would be a data-point that I considered in assessing the meeting. And the fact that he expected you to come out to meet him but couldn't buy you a cup of coffee in return is another point on that side of the scale. (If he was aware of making you travel to somewhere that suited him, that's one more.)

YMMV, of course.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 4:27 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oops - I managed to delete most of my final paragraph.

That comment should've closed with something like:
Having a vastly different set of expectations doesn't mean someone's wrong, but may well be a sign of incompatibility. It sounds like in this case, you're not interested in investing more time to find out, and that's just fine.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I think was really going on here, was that he was testing you to see if you're the kind of woman who expects him to pay for the date. If so, it wasn't a very good test because the revealing thing would have been if you'd asked him on a date and not paid.

The other possible explanation is that he was simply unwilling to lift a finger.

Someone Else's Story describes politeness principles that are found in common etiquette and even in common practice. The reasons why your date didn't go by that may not be sinister, but he basically wasn't polite.
posted by tel3path at 4:56 PM on September 14, 2012

The guy ALWAYS pays for the first date. I cannot think of a scenario in which this would not be the case. It's just the way it is. I don't care how progressive folks try to pretend to be, everyone knows this is the way it should be.

In that vein, I think you are right to decline his second invitation and while I wouldn't initate the reason, if he asks you, I think you would be doing him a great service to tell him. Start with "I just don't think we're a good match, but it was nice talking with you." If he persists, "well, why do you say that, did I do something wrong?" Do buddy a favor and tell him, "You seemed not very interested in me. You were already drinking your coffee before I arrived and you didn't really offer to get my coffee. I just got the vibe that you weren't too interested in me....and that's cool, we're just not on the same wavelength."
posted by GeniPalm at 6:47 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is an easy way around this. If you're concerned about etiquette or chivalry, or if you're a woman eager to get married, for a first date a woman doesn't travel across town, especially if you met online and there's nothing really fabulous being offered. Script goes (much abbreviated) as follows:

He: Would you like to meet sometime this weekend?
You: Sure--[insert convenient time] would work for me if you come to [insert your neighborhood]. There's a good coffee place I like.
He: Sounds great.

Then the trick is that you get there early, well before he arrives, and buy your own coffee. He made the trip so he thinks you're worth traveling for, you're not frazzled, you can check him out while he's in the coffee line and decide whether you like him, and he's thrilled that there's no awkwardness around paying. It's coffee, which for most people is a much smaller investment than a trip across town.

Then if there are second or third dates, he should both plan and pay for them and it is likely he will be happy to, provided you are exuberant and say thank you.

Also, thinking about this, despite the traditional views I've expressed here, I really would not overthink someone's failing to pay for coffee (as opposed to dinner). Echoing what's been said upthread regarding the awkwardness of getting up after you arrived, standing in line, etc. I would find it very odd if he had paid. If he wanted to be super chivalrous and smooth, he could say, what can I get you, I'll be right back and let you sit at the table. But some women wouldn't like that and he probably knows that.

So avoid the whole scenario entirely by getting to first dates early.
posted by luckdragon at 7:19 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Were you on time? If not, expectating him to pay is not appropriate. If so, then it's up to you. Either way, I think questioning somebody's worth over less than five dollars tells you all you need to know and you should cut him loose and find someone who is playing with the same rulebook that you are.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you again for all the thoughtful input. This seems pretty well resolved (or at least illustrated), but because people asked, yes -- I arrived on time.

questioning somebody's worth over less than five dollars tells you all you need to know and you should cut him loose and find someone who is playing with the same rulebook that you are.

Would like to point out that this really isn't about questioning someone's worth, and hopefully is not being construed that way.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:41 PM on September 14, 2012

Thinking about this, the cultural and gender issues surrounding this, and my approach versus my brother's approach (I am a woman), this is how I would frame it for me.

For a woman, there is an intimacy implied in treating someone else or getting treated. I am happy to engage in this intimacy with family, friends, and promising dates. With people whom I don't care for, or even just don't care for enough to want another date, I don't want to create/imply this intimacy so I try to pay my own way. If I let him pay for our last date (because at that point I was looking forward to another), and I can afford it, I may pay for both of us less as a gesture of generosity and more as a sort of closing out (which may be a symbolic closing out if the date he paid for was much more expensive).

For my brother, paying for his date is his way of closing out when he knows he doesn't want another date. I think that in a way, sharing the bill with a woman feels more intimate, or at least like more of a precursor to intimacy, than just paying for it himself.

If this was a first meeting date, and given that he chose a very low investment first date for whatever reason, I don't think it's really fair to expect him to pay. The sense in which someone you've never met before 'asks you out' is pretty narrow. It's more of a mutual decision to invest some time and money in meeting each other, and there's no reason why he should have to invest more just to meet you. If he were wealthy and money were immaterial and he suggested somewhere expensive that you wouldn't have chosen for yourself, then maybe it's appropriate for him to pay. But in that case it's not all that generous either, since the money is immaterial to him...

I think the bigger problem actually is that whichever kind of date it was, he should have made a bit more fuss over your arrival - standing up to greet you, offering to go to the bar with you, etc, wether he paid for your coffee or not. He could have been more emotionally generous, I guess is what I'm saying. That's free.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another way of looking at this would be that one should not leave one's beverage unattended with a stranger. However, bringing one's own drink along to the counter when ordering brings attention to this aspect of the situation in a way that does not make for a good first impression.
posted by yohko at 5:58 PM on September 15, 2012

The guy ALWAYS pays for the first date. I cannot think of a scenario in which this would not be the case. It's just the way it is. I don't care how progressive folks try to pretend to be, everyone knows this is the way it should be.

Wow, that's both bogus and offensive. When dating, I almost always paid for first dates, be they coffee or dinner, for a number of reasons. Among them, it allowed me to screen for men who actually were progressive and were not entrenched in traditional gender roles.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

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