Date protocol: when the check comes
January 18, 2008 12:19 PM   Subscribe

First date etiquette: Going to dinner on a first date. I'm always uncomfortable about what to do when the check comes. I always offer to pay for my portion/split the bill. Some guys are offended by this, and even those who aren't typically refuse so I put my money away. I always worry that my offer seemed disingenuous because I didn't persist (I hate making a scene, especially about money. What is the best/appropriate way to handle the situation when the check comes?
posted by birdlady to Human Relations (93 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Offer, when he says no, say you sure it's no problem, accept the next answer as final.
posted by zeoslap at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [11 favorites]


Any man who is offended by you offering to pay is a fucking fool, so it's a good filter.

I'd suggest doing what you have been doing. Say "are you sure? Okay, then at least let me take you out for XXX now" (coffee, dessert if you didn't have any, late night movie, whatever).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Offer once, if you want to, but then let it drop (so, basically, what you're doing already). Nothing is sexy about fighting over a dinner bill.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Insisting on paying when someone has offered to treat is rude, IMO. It's like a man holding a door open for you and you wrestling it out of his grip--"no, let me."

If you need a plan of action, here's one:

It's not your job to bring up the issue of who is paying for what. But if he doesn't offer, reach for your wallet, and get it out assuming you will be paying for half the meal.

If you are stopped at any point and told that the treat is his, just say, "Thank you! That's so nice." and then drop it. Then, later, say "Thank you for the lovely dinner."

If he lets you get your wallet out, whether or not he does the same, look pointedly at the bill and say, "I'm assuming we'll split this?" Then, if he doesn't figure out the split you can, and you can either put it on both your credit cards or figure out the cash. In this case, don't say thank you for the meal, but you can still say, "Thanks for the lovely evening." Assuming it was tolerable.

This really doesn't need to be a big deal. Much more difficult is what to say in regards to whether or not you want to see the person again. I always found that to be awkward and presented the opportunity to be disingenuous in an effort not to be rude.
posted by tk at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


During dinner say to him " So when Im out with someone for the first time I'm always uncomfortable about what to do when the check comes. I always offer to pay for my portion/split the bill. Some guys are offended by this. Are you offended by this? What has your experience been?

But then I tend to prefer complete candor in most situations.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 12:28 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Obviously there's no actual answer, just opinion. For the "absolute etiquette" answer: Miss Manners says sharing starts on the second or third date, and "What you should be doing is reciprocating the gentleman's invitations. This means inviting him for outings that you plan and pay for entirely.

For a personal answer (which really is the best you can hope for here) I think both parties should offer with a slight but comfortable squabble about it. Whoever wins should pay it all, and the 2nd date should be reversed -- the other person would pay 100%. I think actual sharing (like splitting it up or figuring out who got what or giving two cards) is too messy in a date scenario.
posted by neustile at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the way you have handled it in the past is correct. Offer once, and then let it drop. Although I have to say when I was dating, if I asked the woman out, I expected to pay.
posted by Silvertree at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2008


Say, "Okay... but next time I'm taking YOU somewhere!"
posted by LordSludge at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


If you have the money to cover your share and you are genuinely offering, you know your intentions, who cares what the guy thinks? What you are doing is fine. Offer and if they refuse, don't push it. If they are offended by a kind gesture, do you really want to continue going out with that guy?

Anecdotally, there is the Chinese way that my parents taught me when we were at dim sum with family members. Check drops, violently slam your hand down on it and forcibly take it. If the other party is equally fast, grab the check and tug of war whilst slapping the other person's hand and berate them in Mandarin. The alternative is if you have a small, quick, klepto-tendency child (i.e. me at 6 years old), have her go at the low angle she is already accustomed and swipe it. If the other person grabs it, start to cry and the second you feel weakness in the other party's grip, pull it away and give it to your parents.
posted by spec80 at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2008 [129 favorites]


If it's a bona fide date, where he specifically asked you out to dinner as a "special event" (as opposed to a co-worker who says "wanna grab a bite?" as you're leaving the office), I believe that he fully expects to pay for the meal. If you both had a good time and you feel there is a potential second date in the offing, you might want to say, as he pays the check, "That was wonderful, thanks so much. I'd love to reciprocate and treat you to dinner at this great place I know next time, OK?"
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:32 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


This won't be a popular answer, but just let it sit for a minute. No guy I know would be offended, and most would just assume they're paying (if they did the inviting). If you really want to pay then ask the waiter for separate checks when you order.
posted by monkeymadness at 12:32 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Make the offer, then let it drop. If I'm the asker I expect to pay, any time I've been the askee I've been paid for (and done the offer and drop)
posted by substrate at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2008


The Asker is also the Payer.
posted by studentbaker at 12:36 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


I like to pay for my dates, but not so much because I'm the guy, just because I've always been the one who asked the other person out. Sorta like "hey, my idea, I'm covering it, all you gotta do is enjoy the evening". I don't mind if she doesn't offer to pay, but if she does, it's appreciated.

I would say don't be too shy about offering, but don't force it. If the guy insists, just ask, "Are you sure?" and let it be that. Heck, it sounds dumb, but watch a movie or TV show that deals with a date at some point, and just mimic the actress (as long as it isn't a disastrous scene or something). The entire exchange will take all of fifteen seconds, so there's no reason to get too complex. It's really a minor part of the night that no one will remember when the waiter comes back with mints and you're putting your coat on, so offer, concede it if the guy insists, and don't worry much about how all that happens.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:37 PM on January 18, 2008


Offer to pay. It shows you're liberated - and any guy that's truly offended by *that* can go shove it up his ass. Neither, though, should you insist too hard on paying your half, which is just irritating.

If he unlocks your car door, you had *better* fucking reach over and unlock his door, though. That's the kiss of death.
posted by notsnot at 12:39 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I thought the rule was the person that asked the person out on the date, paid unless during the date setting conversation an alternate payment scheme was discussed. At least that's how I roll. If I ask a lady out, I'll pay. If she wants to pay her share, I wouldn't be offended, nor would I insist on paying. It isn't 1920, and I don't think paying for her meal will help me get into her pants any faster.

Are men really "offended" by the offer to pay? Although I'll plan on paying the whole thing, I appreciate her offer to pay as a sign that she's not on the date for free dinner.

Now if the offer to pay is not sincere -- she's saying it just to be polite and expects the guy to pay, then that's different. If you don't want to pay, then don't offer to pay.
posted by birdherder at 12:41 PM on January 18, 2008


Some guys are offended by this ...

Stop dating these fellows.

... and even those who aren't typically refuse so I put my money away.

Seems fair. You offered, he said don't bother, and that's that.
posted by chunking express at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2008


nthing "s/he who does the asking does the paying" - at least on the first few dates. I've been in a couple of dating scenarios where the guy was much less financially stable than I was, so it was either me asking him out to dinner (and paying), or him making me dinner at his house.
posted by desjardins at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2008


If a guy insists that you pay half on a first date-- unless you have established that he is a radical feminist-- he is either cheap or poor. If poor, not a problem if it's not a problem for you.

If cheap, it's either a sign of an ungenerous nature (which few people want in a partner) or some form of obsessive-compulsiveness or due to issues related to childhood and money (which more people are prepared to accept, but recall that more relationships end over money arguments than sex).

Alternatively, he has little ability to understand social cues and their meanings-- again, not a deal-breaker for some, but is for others.

In other words, unless he has a good reason for not paying, it's a bad sign-- and one that my many friends who have been internet daters see as a reason to refuse a second date in many cases.
posted by Maias at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Offer, he rejects, you "allow" him to buy you dinner. Nothing more to it. I've always seen refusing to allow the man to buy the dinner as a signal that a further date isn't in the cards.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seconding a lot of these answers. Its polite to offer, and maybe to lightly insist ("Are you sure? No.. let me pay my half at least!") but that is it. Be gracious in receiving a nice dinner with a (hopefully) charming date.

Offer to take him out for a coffee, drink, dessert later in the eve. or another time.

A guy who gets offended is probably a bit insecure about himself or had some grandiose notions about what a first date should be like and can't deal with a change in the script. Nothing wrong with having grandoise ideas about the perfect date, but at some point in life you have to learn to deal with not having your expectations being met... the movie in your head isn't playing out in real life? deal with it with your head up high and not with a sulk or grim look on your face (Disclaimer: I have been there... done that)

Anyways, like everyone else said (or implied), I think your approach is great. Have fun and enjoy a great dinner!
posted by bitteroldman at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2008


Some guys are offended by this, and even those who aren't typically refuse so I put my money away. I always worry that my offer seemed disingenuous because I didn't persist (I hate making a scene, especially about money. What is the best/appropriate way to handle the situation when the check comes?

I wouldn't be offended per se, but I'd think you were trying to tell me something, like "This is not a date". If you don't want me paying for you on a first date, then you pay for the whole thing. Splitting the check is what I do when I go out to lunch with coworkers I don't like: it seems messy and petty.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Birdlady, I can relate to your worry about your initial offer to split the bill seeming disingenuous, but I think the way you're handling it is actually the polite thing to do and not disingenuous at all. I always feel uncomfortable if I offer to pay and the other person insists on fighting over the bill. (Maybe it was all the childhood exposure to the "Chinese Way" method spec80 describes above.)

I think Miss Manners' reciprocation idea ("Well, let me take YOU out next time") is nice. The only problem I could see with it is if a person had a terrible time on the first date and didn't want to encourage future dates!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:51 PM on January 18, 2008


Er, not to piggyback...but are you guys for serious? Paying half shows a guy you're not interested in him? I always do it just...I don't know, because I always thought the "You pay this one, I pay the next" business was messier than just paying half outright. It's just easier to me. I mean I guess it's a YMMV type of situation but have I been breaking some secret dating code? I've been doing it all wrong =(
posted by kkokkodalk at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Etiquette dictates that the person that does the asking should pay. If he has asked you on the date, he expects to pay for you.

If you really want to, you could offer once to help with the bill. If he declines (many men will; it has to do with the traditional male role as a breadwinner and all that) then let it go and thank him. You are right to not want to make a scene.

You can offer to take him out next time, as suggested above.

Be aware that many men prefer to pay; it makes them feel comfortable and "in control".
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:54 PM on January 18, 2008


I think it all depends on how the date goes. If you're really into the guy and he turns down your offer to pay then you can offer to take him out next time, if you don't want another date then you could insist a little more. As Ironmouth says, insisting on splitting the bill (rather than just offering to) on a first date does imply that that's it, or at least that's what I would infer.
posted by ob at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2008


I would never offer to pay half the bill if a guy asked me to dinner. But if I asked him out, I would insist on paying for the entire meal.

Actually, my husband and I sort of do the same thing today. Whoever decides they want to go to dinner is the one who pays (we have separate checking accounts). It all evens out in the end.
posted by Evangeline at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Back when I was dating, I rarely paid the bill (and I'm a guy). But, then again I typically only went out with those who asked me out first.

Maybe the rule is that the person who asks for the date is expected to pay the bill?
posted by brandnew at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2008


You're doing it fine already. Relax!
posted by languagehat at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2008


I'm a guy. I always liked to pay for dinner. When my current girlfriend and I started dating, I would indicate that I would be paying by physically picking up the check when it came or other, non-verbal cues. She would always offer to pay. I would tell her to not worry about it. She would then ask if she could at least chip in a few dollars. I would politely turn her down again and then she would say "thanks!" with a big smile.

A few times (we went out to eat a lot) she would physically pick up the check when it came and the roles were reversed but otherwise, it played out the same.

We've been dating for awhile now and whenever we go out, we alternate who pays. It's not a science and it's nothing we keep track of but it generally works out that way.

So....if he offers to pay, ask if you can pick up the tab. When he says no, either drop it (with a smile!) or offer to chip in something for your share. If he continues to say no, just let it go and maybe offer to go somewhere for coffee after dinner....your treat!
posted by Diskeater at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2008


Rules I grew up by : Whoever asks pays.
Rules I learned in NYC: Gal offers to pay her share, Guy refuses and Pays no matter who did the asking.

Though, the more I think about this, the more I think it's tied to geographic location and the social circle you're dating in. I've had plenty of women pay their share on the first date (and insist to the point where blood would be spilled otherwise) and be looking forward to a second. Money, like a lot of things, is personal and assumptions on both sides are a huge part of this check ettiquette.

You should do whatever it comfortable for you because the more time you spend worrying about the check, the less time you spend focusing on your date. You might miss something that'll make you want a 2nd date or something that'll make you run and change your phone number. What you're doing now seems fine. If some guy is generally offended by you offering to pay your share, he needs a little tweaking of his assumptions.
posted by Stynxno at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2008


I would go with the offer once, say "are you sure?" and then offer to get the next dinner (if there is one) as everyone else has said.

However, the reaching over and unlocking his door if he lets you in the car first? I didn't even realize you were supposed to do that until I read it in Cosmo or somewhere, and found out that Guys Are Judging You on it. Every time I've been taken out by someone and they open the door for me (and they often didn't and I didn't care), I can't freaking find or reach the driver's side lock. Especially if it's dark! So there's a lot of me leaning over awkwardly with one arm fumbling over the driver's side, which is so unsexy. Especially if he already unlocked the door with the remote entry thing and I only succeeded in locking it.

I hope no one actually uses the "see if she unlocks your door" test as a measure for dateability. It seems like a formality perpetuated by women's magazines rather than actual sincere politeness.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2008


I must revise my answer and say that I don't think you should ever sincerely offer to split a check. Like others mentioned, splitting a bill is really unsexy. If you're going to offer, you should go whole hog, pick up the check, and take care of it. I don't know about you, but I generally don't get to places that are too expensive, so that wouldn't be a burden.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Er, not to piggyback...but are you guys for serious? Paying half shows a guy you're not interested in him? I always do it just...I don't know, because I always thought the "You pay this one, I pay the next" business was messier than just paying half outright. It's just easier to me. I mean I guess it's a YMMV type of situation but have I been breaking some secret dating code? I've been doing it all wrong =("

I've been out to dinner with women on at least a couple of occasions where they were very clearly insisting on paying half the bill as a signal that they did not consider it a romantic date. I don't know if it's a universal signal, but it doesn't seem to be that uncommon.

Personally I've always thought that the person who issues the invitation should at least be prepared to pay for the whole meal, but should not insist on it if the invitee wants to pay for his/her own share.
posted by tdismukes at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2008


the gentleman picks up the check. it's ok for you to offer, but i have always politely declined those offers.
posted by bruce at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2008


@kkokkodalk - It is "messier," but it also shows interest in seeing the person again. If they pick up the bill and you offer to pay for the next one, you "owe" them. "Owing" them subtly expresses that you'd like to enjoy their company in the future.

Splitting the bill seems to insinuates that you want a clean separation. You've had your date, but you don't want to be tied or obligated to see the person again. Not so romantic, but ymmv.
posted by Nerro at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2008


This is really hopelessly dependent on very specific culture, age, upbringing etc — and may differ for you yourself, birdlady, from date to date, if you date people of slightly different backgrounds, ages, etc. Just make sure not to escalate things into a real argument. As long as that's avoided, anyone making make-or-break judgments about you because you did or didn't pay is obligingly editing themselves out of your dating pool by being a judgmental weirdo.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2008


You know how, when you've got a crush on someone, everything they do feels like some sort of sign? ("They smiled/frowned/waved/yawned/farted/ate a sandwich! They must totally like/hate me!")

A guy who's asked you out on a date has a crush on you. Everything you do feels like a sign to him. Letting him pay the bill will feel like a good sign. That has nothing to do with his politics, his attitude about money, or his ordinary sense of gender roles.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, I'm not going to argue this since it seems to be some sort of basic truth everyone knows, but seriously, it's total news to me that because I paid half a guy's going to think I'm not interested in him. I understand how arguing to pay the bill is unsexy, and just to clarify I've never argued or insisted about paying the bill (unless it's with my Korean friends). I never act like I'm grudgingly paying half the check or act really weird about it. In fact I've been on good dates when the check came I chirp how that was a good meal and ask what my half is. I'm not against a guy saying he wants to pay, and I have had situations when someone said, "Hey, I'll take care of that." and I respond with a "You sure? Cool, well thanks." It's just that when I go out on a date my assumption is, if he wants to pay, that's cool, since I'm poor, but I work from the base assumption that unless I have been informed that it's "my treat" I should be ready to pay half...I don't know just because. So all this? Wrong? People need to start some classes on this ish or something. Maybe make it a small section in sex ed when they separate the boys and the girls. Inform a homegirl for crying out loud.
posted by kkokkodalk at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2008


My MO is to reach for my wallet and try to peer at the bill to see what I owe. If/when he says "I got it" I say "Are you sure?" He says "Yes, my pleasure" or whatever, I say "Thank you! Can I at least get the tip?"

This proves problematic when I only have plastic, which is most of the time, but I try to make a conscious effort to carry cash when I'm going out. So that's another option - offer to cover the tip.

Good luck!! Don't stress about it, you'll be fine!!
posted by slyboots421 at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metroid Baby: you know about the bitch test? It doesn't really matter anymore because most cars unlock all doors at once, but yeah some people will judge you by the effort.

To the OP, you are doing fine already, offer to pay, once declined say are you sure, then if its going well offer to get drinks or even better another date. If a girl INSISTED on paying her share I would probably take it as a bad sign and accept and cut my losses. If a guy is totally ok with you offering to go dutch, or even treat him on a first date (assuming he was the asker) then its a bad sign of character in my opinion. Further dates are optional, and you should try to pay for one.

Good Luck.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2008


Pay half if you want to. Insisting isn't arguing or making a scene. If you feel more comfortable paying half, then do it. If a guy is really going to object to that, he may have some serious issues with independent women.

Do what you want to do, and the right guys won't be offended.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:05 PM on January 18, 2008


elaborating on my first answer: if, after a couple of dates and you still enjoy his company and wish to see him again, you reciprocate/"make up the difference" with a home-cooked meal. there must be something you're good at in the kitchen, and from the perspective of a gentleman who is interested in you, it really doesn't matter what that something is. you could say "i do really good borshch and pirozhki, and i'd like you to come over friday night so i can practice on you" that would be great, even if it were (likely) not as good as my borshch and pirozhki. if you said "i do really good calf's liver and onions" well, i hate calf's liver from some of the dried-out calf's liver i had in childhood, but if i liked you enough, i'd go over there and eat calf's liver with perfect aplomb.
posted by bruce at 2:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Guy opinion: You're doing it fine. We expect to pay. If you really feel guilty, offer to pick up the tip a la slyboots. If he waves that off too, don't sweat it.
posted by Camofrog at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2008


Not a date, but one time my wife and I went out with my father for dinner. He ALWAYS found a way to get the check before it even came to the table. But this time the waiter put the check (in a folder) on the table. My wife said "Bob, you always get the check. Can we get it this one time?" My dad shoved the check down hi pants and said "Get it first." My wife replied "Thanks for dinner, Bob."
posted by terrapin at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


My experience in dating (in big, American cities) tells me that many men have picked up the belief that if a girl insists on splitting the bill on a first date, she's indicating that she's not interested in him.

I think of the moment when the check comes as an opportunity to practice being a graceful recipient of a gift. When I was younger, I found it a very stressful conundrum (OH GOD WHO PAYS?), but now, I try to smile and thank the gentleman sincerely.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope no one actually uses the "see if she unlocks your door" test as a measure for dateability.

Progress helps you here, now that most cars have remote unlocking.
posted by smackfu at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2008


My experience in dating (in big, American cities) tells me that many men have picked up the belief that if a girl insists on splitting the bill on a first date, she's indicating that she's not interested in him.

This is one reason why I hate "dating" and the BS games that go along with it. Judge interest by whether a person agrees to a second date, not by petty little crap like this.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:58 PM on January 18, 2008


And yes, that is from my experience in NYC these years. Honestly, do we have to be all vulnerable and fawn and be 'taken care of' or can we simply just split things like adults and carry on as an equal partnership?
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're following the rules. Offer, and if he insists on paying (which is the norm), say thank you and accept. If you feel bad (and you're interested in him), you could always go grab a coffee or drink somewhere else after dinner (or on the next date) and pay for that.
posted by emd3737 at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2008


I go by the "asker pays" rule, and that if the asker wants to split the check it means either that you are just friends (if it was somewhat ambiguous if it was a date or not) or that they don't want to see the askee again. I assume the askee offering to split the check is a face-saving way to indicate that they don't want to see the person again. Askee can offer to treat "next time" if they want there to be a next time.

On the car door issue, I usually unlock and open the car door for a passenger, leaving them to get in and close the door on their own. It's rare that someone will have managed to do this in the time it takes me to get to my door and unlock it myself. I do try to unlock the driver's door on dates, but more often than not it will already be unlocked, or the lock will be in a non-obvious location. There was a movie (set when all cars had post locks on the doors) with this as a plot point, so perhaps in the past it made more sense. The modern equivalent might be not taking phone calls or text messaging on a date.
posted by yohko at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2008


If you are with someone who insists on paying the bill every time but you would rather pay your share, the trick is to wait until you're mostly done, excuse yourself to the bathroom, go up to the counter and pay the bill.
posted by emilyw at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2008


Bruce, I find your answers, particularly the second one, more than a little bit sexist. I do not cook. Anything. Period. I am happy to pay for my fair share of dates, either by paying half of each check or by paying the full check half of the time. I insist on doing so with someone I am dating regularly. But the belief that all men should contribute to a relationship with money and all women should contribute to a relationship with housework is ridiculous.

Birdlady, I think you're doing exactly the right thing. Offer, don't press the issue if he says no, and if you like him, ask him out again so that you can pay next time. Don't fight over the check, but be conscious of paying your fair share of checks over time. One way to do this is by making sure you're doing your fair share of the planning/asking. If he's always asking you out and picking the activities, it's easy for him to end up paying more often based on the "asker pays" rule. If you take responsibility for planning dates about half the time, it's easier for you to achieve parity in finances. Plus, it takes the pressure off the guy if he doesn't constantly have to figure out what to do next.
posted by decathecting at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2008


A great deal of the charm of a man paying for a woman's meal comes from the graciousness with which both parties go through the ritual. I think that most men expect to pay, that you should assume they mean it, and that you should be careful not to spoil the moment by making too much of your offer to pay. Make it something enjoyable for both of you.

Regarding the car door thing: Some traditional etiquette governing male/female interactions is aimed at allowing a woman who is dressed up to avoid having to do a bunch of maneuvering that might mess up her outfit. To wit: The man is supposed to get in a cab first, so that the woman doesn't have to scoot across the seat in a skirt/dress/heels/long coat/whatever, getting all wrinkled, hitched up and staticky. Expecting a woman to lean across the driver's seat and fumble around in the dark for the lock is contrary to this notion of courtesy. If you're driving, it's presumably your car, and she is a guest in it. The idea is to make your guest as comfortable as possible, not to have some juvenile tit-for-tat accounting of who opens what.
posted by Enroute at 3:41 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, I'm not going to argue this since it seems to be some sort of basic truth everyone knows, but seriously, it's total news to me that because I paid half a guy's going to think I'm not interested in him.

Not really. It's doesn't matter what you do with the bill, but how you do it.
posted by ersatz at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2008


In my middle-aged, leftist world: The asker pays.

Income considerations: If the askee is considerably poorer than the asker, it's a good idea for the asker to choose a restaurant/venue that the askee would have been able to afford. That way, the askee is more likely to say, "Thanks for dinner! Next time it's my treat" and not to squirm in uncomfortable silence thinking, "I can't keep going out with this person! Look at what they're used to! I can't afford this!"
posted by PatoPata at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think that this is something that totally varies depending on physical and social geography, the sexual politics of each person, income, and all kinds of other things. Many, if not most, of the women I have dated, and many of my female friends, have preferred to pay half, or to say "ok, I'll get it next time," to avoid any sense of obligation (because there are, sadly, a fair number of men out there who assume that paying for dinner is a downpayment on sex).

As a guy, I'm cool with paying, I'm cool with going dutch, I'm cool with her paying. I'm not cool with some sort of pseudo-"traditional" setup where I pay for dinners and she cooks at home (particularly if I'm a better cook), or anything else that feels like some sort of artificial sexist rule-following. But then I tended to go on "dates" that were more like hanging out with a friend, and less like chatting up a stranger, and always in more casual settings.

"Asker pays" is an ok rule, I guess, but a lot of dates I went on came out of a more organic process, where we were hanging out, we were hungry, we went to eat -- no big invitation or rule-following process to get into. So I think part of this depends on how formal (or to stretch the term: "traditional") your dating process is.

When I and my partner (or I and a female friend) go out to eat, I really dislike it when a server assumes that because I am the man, the bill should automatically be handed to me. Uh, hello? In the modern world, it is polite to assume that a woman is an independent entity who might in fact be paying for the meal, or who might want to pay for her share.
posted by Forktine at 4:38 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The guy may be from a culture different from yours. The answers here are so US-centric.
posted by markovich at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2008


"Er, not to piggyback...but are you guys for serious? Paying half shows a guy you're not interested in him?"

Yes.

Going out of your way to demand equality in all things, you are giving off a vibe that says, "I will take deliberate steps to manage your expectations. I will not be in debt to you. I refuse to be placed in any situation where I might even appear to be vulnerable. I will not take risks."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope no one actually uses the "see if she unlocks your door" test as a measure for dateability.

Why not? OK, not literally the car door ... but small courtesies are indicators of forethought, empathy, adherence to the Golden Rule, etc. Unlocking the door indicates that the person is at least thinking of what might be convenient to the other person.

While not a deal-breaker in an of itself, it's definitely a plus.

Sexiest thing a woman ever did for me was hand me the keys to her sports car, because she thought I might like to drive it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:52 PM on January 18, 2008


Going out of your way to demand equality in all things, you are giving off a vibe that says, "I will take deliberate steps to manage your expectations [snip].

You can't possibly justify making that big assumption because a woman wants a relationship to be a partnership and her independence respected.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:21 PM on January 18, 2008


In other words, if a woman wants to pay her share, there's absolutely no logical reason to assume she's trying to tell you how to run your life.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:22 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also "I refuse to be placed in any situation where I might even appear to be vulnerable."

why can't the man accept "appearing vulnerable" (as you put it) for the sake of equality?
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Going out of your way to demand equality in all things, you are giving off a vibe that says, "I will take deliberate steps to manage your expectations. I will not be in debt to you. I refuse to be placed in any situation where I might even appear to be vulnerable. I will not take risks."

I don't think paying for dinner has anything to do with vulnerability. Economic parity =/= vulnerability. One thing that seems to be left out of the paying as an indication of interest discussion is the unspoken expectation that girls are supposed to repay with sex. This is the number 1 reason I and every girl I know turn down most drink offers in bars, and could be a factor in why many women like to at least offer to pay for their part of a dinner bill on a first date, even if they do graciously accept not paying after the offer is made.
posted by nerdcore at 6:38 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with nerdcore. Offering to pay is one way of saying "you're not going to buy me."
posted by desjardins at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2008


The movie that yohko is thinking of is A Bronx Tale. It's the first place I ever heard of the Car Door Test -- and, I think, the only time, other than in references to the movie.

There's a transcription of the scene here.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2008


I've always seen refusing to allow the man to buy the dinner as a signal that a further date isn't in the cards.

One time I insisted upon paying for dinner in part because I knew I was about to break up with the guy. :(
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2008


You can't possibly justify making that big assumption because a woman wants a relationship to be a partnership and her independence respected.

Wants her independence respected = "I will manage your expectations."

Note that I'm not saying you shouldn't respect someone's independence. I'm saying that going out of your way to demand that it be respected gives off a definite vibe that many people equate with a hierarchical put-down where it's not warranted within the context of the date.

"We will go dutch."
"It's OK, baby, I got this."
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner!"
"Uhh, I'm not putting you in a corner. I'm offering to buy you dinner."
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner!"
"I said, I'm not ... oh, forget it."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:50 PM on January 18, 2008


In other words, if a woman wants to pay her share, there's absolutely no logical reason to assume she's trying to tell you how to run your life.

When you figure out what logic has to do with love, let us all know, willya? ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:53 PM on January 18, 2008


Cool Papa Bell: Yea..........but dude you totally took my statement out of context. I said if a guy wants to pay I don't press the issue. I was just curious if a girl offering to begin with was a faux pas I wasn't aware of. I'm hoping you just took that segment as a general example and not saying that I was screaming "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."
posted by kkokkodalk at 8:02 PM on January 18, 2008


Wants her independence respected = "I will manage your expectations."

No, not at all. It simply means that there is a sense of economic parity and equality. Besides, what right does the guy have to manage HER expectations or to control her will?

I'm saying that going out of your way to demand that it be respected gives off a definite vibe that many people equate with a hierarchical put-down where it's not warranted within the context of the date.

Who's going out of their way to "demand" anything? It's merely exercising one's own free will. If I want to pay, I want to pay. Don't patronize me.

I tend to split checks. My boyfriend and I do this or we each pay for ourselves if doing casual dining or fast food. Sometimes one of us will pay. And we treat to other little things. I'll bring pizza over or he'll buy us ice cream, etc.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2008


bruce, i find your answers, particularly the second one, more than a little bit sexist. i do not cook. anything. period...

you say this with pride! i'm awfully sorry for you to hear this. while accusations of sexism don't bother me, i think you should spare your ammo for the guys who believe that paying for dinner should be rewarded with sex, instead of home cooking. i love to cook and am very good at it, and in the unlikely event that you and i were ever dating, i would teach you how. if i liked you enough, i would eat your (dried out) calf's liver without the slightest outward signal of apprehension, and then work with you in subsequent sessions to develop a palatable, sufficiently juicy liver so that it didn't have to be washed down with a full draught of wine/beer. since we're unlikely to ever be a couple, i urge you to seek cooking instruction from some other source, for your own pleasure.

emilyw's suggestion is ok for a one-off, but it would lead to a spy versus spy on future dates. when making the reservation, i would instruct the house to present me the check, and not to take payment from emily under any circumstances. picking up the check is the very last bastion of male privilege left in america, and i'm going to exercise this privilege.
posted by bruce at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2008


when making the reservation, i would instruct the house to present me the check, and not to take payment from emily under any circumstances.

Glad to see you'd respect her enough to treat her like an unruly child. Picking up the check is not "male privilege", it's payment for services rendered. And there's no gender-based lock on that.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Services rendered meaning the food, obviously.)
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:55 PM on January 18, 2008


Bruce, your comment came off as sexist to me, too. Why not just suggest that she return the favor by buying him dinner?

Furthermore, why do you care whether some stranger on the internet can cook? You seem to see a lack of ability to cook as some kind of moral failing. "I urge you to seek instruction"? Why not just accept that not everyone has the time, patience, money or inclination to learn to cook well? (I happen to love cooking, but I recognize that not everyone does.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:00 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


furthermore, why do you care whether some stranger on the internet can cook? you seem to see a lack of ability to cook as some kind of moral failing.

i would not have cared whether some stranger on the internet could cook, but for her juxtaposing her assertion with an accusation of sexism directed toward me. i responded to a personal intimation with what is (for me) a positive, constructive personal intimation. for the record, there is no moral dimension whatsoever to cooking skill, no more than playing golf or fixing cars. since i'm no good at fixing cars, is it ok with you, showbiz_liz, if i let her change my oil in return for dinner? you mentioned time, patience, money and inclination. the first three are trivial, and numbers one and three actually conflict (if you have neither the time nor the money to learn how to cook, how do you eat?) inclination may be legitimate, but if i like you enough, showbiz_liz, i have enough inclination to feed us both.
posted by bruce at 11:33 PM on January 18, 2008


Sexiest thing a woman ever did for me was hand me the keys to her sports car, because she thought I might like to drive it.
After just a few dates with Mr. Adams, I started handing him the keys to my car (if we were taking mine instead of his) and let him drive. I was leasing a Lincoln Continental at the time, and he later told me that my letting him drive told him how much I trusted him, but he secretly wished it wasn't a car that made him look like a 60-year-old man. (Hey, I was never much for compact sports cars, I like a lot of heavy metal surrounding me in traffic.)

One other suggestion to the OP - take your cues from your date's behavior. If he opens your car door and holds the door open for you at the restaurant, he's likely more traditional when it comes to dating and fully intends to pay the bill and you shouldn't feel awkward about not making a token effort to split the tab.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:47 PM on January 18, 2008


I agree with zeoslap and languagehat. Also, as others have said, if the guy is offended you're probably looking at the wrong guy.

One thing that seems to be left out of the paying as an indication of interest discussion is the unspoken expectation that girls are supposed to repay with sex.

This, as written, is sexist and obnoxious. There is no such expectation, spoken or not, with me or any of my friends when we go out with women. There are lots of men for whom the same is true.
posted by psmith at 11:51 PM on January 18, 2008


I agree with all the others above who said the asker pays for the date unless otherwise specified.

Something else: If you offer to split the tab with a guy, he may interpret that to mean you aren't interested in him, as splitting the bill down the middle is more of a friends gesture than a dating gesture. I see nothing wrong with offering to split but you should try to keep in mind what sort of signal that might be sending.
posted by Happydaz at 1:07 AM on January 19, 2008


I think, in general, that the person with the most disposable income should pay. Where that's equal or close, split it (or pay for alternate meals).
posted by dickasso at 1:52 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


i love to cook and am very good at it, and in the unlikely event that you and i were ever dating, i would teach you how. . . . i urge you to seek cooking instruction from some other source, for your own pleasure.

I didn't say I can't cook. I said I don't cook. It's sort of interesting that you immediately assume I am in need of instruction when I simply asserted that I choose not to engage in the activity. I don't feel the need to spend my time on that sort of housework when I can earn enough money at my chosen career to pay others who have chosen cooking as a profession to do it for me.

[sarcasm] In the unlikely event that you and I were ever dating, I would pay someone else to cook us dinner. Since we're unlikely to be a couple, I urge you to seek income that allows you to pay others to cook for you from some other source, for your own pleasure. [/incredibly condescending, assumption-riddled put-down of anyone whose lifestyle is different from mine]

picking up the check is the very last bastion of male privilege left in america, and i'm going to exercise this privilege.

If you believe that men are entitled to certain privileges merely in virtue of being men, perhaps you are not the person best qualified to answer a question from a poster who has expressed a concern for financial and social equity in her romantic relationships. You clearly want something very different from your relationships than the poster and most of the people in this thread.

This is why I don't date men who insist on paying all the time. It's not that I'm really all that concerned about monetary equality, per se. It's that insisting on always paying all the time tends to be correlated in men with other views I find unsavory. A man who won't let you pay on the first date can be a bit charming. A man who won't let you pay ever. . . will often say something off-putting when asked the reason for that behavior.
posted by decathecting at 3:55 AM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


All answers here seem excellent; just one further comment, for men AND women inviting someone on a first date. It is *really* classy to arrange for payment to happen on the sly. Talk to the maitre d' before you are even seated, hand him/her your credit card and ask to be presented only with the receipt. No check comes to the table at all.

At this point the guest can still ask, can I help with that, and you get to make the extremely classy statement, "no it's all taken care of." That would just make my toes curl.
posted by nax at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks all. There were only a few posts before I left, and the popular consensus seemed to be to stick to my usual MO, which is what I did. It was awkward, as usual, but I suppose that's just part of dating.
posted by birdlady at 10:06 AM on January 19, 2008


If a guy insists that you pay half on a first date-- unless you have established that he is a radical feminist-- he is either cheap or poor.

Dear lord. The question is about a man who insists that the woman pay nothing, not about a man who insists she pay half. She is the one who wants to pay half. And what this has to do with being "a radical feminist" is beyond me.

You don't have to go along with the silly tradition of the man paying. Isn't that based on the old days when a man could be presumed to have a lot more money? That's just not the case anymore.

If one person has significantly more money, it makes sense for them to pay more, regardless of gender. However, I would recommend always paying half and waiting till things get a bit more serious before working out that kind of arrangement. Anyone who's dating (male or female) should be trying to filter out the people who don't see a relationship as an equal partnership.
posted by jejune at 11:17 AM on January 19, 2008


I was all prepared to wade in here and say that it has nothing to do with gender and "the rule" is that the askee pays. However, it occurs to me that never having dated someone of my own gender, I actually have no idea how it works if the two people in a first date situation are both boys or both girls.

If you're not breaking it down into male+female roles are there different rules or is it still "the askee pays"?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2008


Context is very, very important, as with everything. It helps to communicate, and communication does not have to mean "making a scene". Communication is the heart and soul of sorting this stuff out, and being earnest and straightforward helps. To illustrate:

Mr. lfr and I struggled a bit with this back in our early dating days. Actually, I struggled with it a lot more than he did, but that was my own problem. This had to do with a couple issues. He's younger than I am, but on the other hand, he also makes considerably more than I do, particularly when we had just started dating, as I was practically destitute at the time. This set up 2 obvious issues with the whole 'power imbalance' deal right there, and it's one of those stupid pointless issues that could have torpedoed our relationship, were he not such an incredibly kind, patient and understanding human being. This really screwed me over headwise until I learned to stop letting it bug me.

Part of how I solved this issue was my own insistence on taking it casual at the start, so we agreed to date as "just friends" and go to places where I could afford to go Dutch with him. He wasn't completely happy with that, as he is a very pragmatic sort, and took the 'er, WTF does it matter if I pay, I can afford it, let's go somewhere nice!', and a tad bit of a romantic. He likes to take me out to nice places, and takes great delight in paying our way. It's his pride as a successful guy, and at the time he just didn't 'get' that it made me all nervous and squicky and conflicted.

So I brought it up and we discussed it. I told him that I felt guilty when he paid, and that it made me feel like a 'dinner whore', whether or not he felt that way. I also told him that (whether this was logical or not) it bugged me and made me feel like a bit of a creepy loser to have my young, successful boyfriend showering me with fancy meals / spendy gifts / etc, and that I couldn't really articulate why, but fercrissakes, couldn't we just go hang out at Mario's and get great pizza and a beer, and hit the library? He was a bit taken aback, but agreed, but only on the condition that for every couple of low-rent "Mario's" dates, we'd then turn around and go for a sushi blowout at his expense, or whatever.

It obviously worked, heh.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:30 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri, that's a really good "rule" actually. The challenge is that (as in my illustration above) there are other nuances of power shift that come into play. This is likely true for same-sex dating, as well, although I can't speak to them.

This is obviously more than a cut-and-dried issue of finance. There's all sorts of psychological weirdness that can come into play.

Oh and I *really* dig nax's solution. Now that I have a job that pays more than dead bugs and pocket lint, I think I will pull this on the mister sometime soon :)
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2008


I love discussions that start with "what practical advice can you give me" and end up as sociological treatises.

Anyway, reading all this has made me also think about long term couples and how they deal with this stuff. mr. nax and I just celebrated our 32nd year together (I am not as old as that makes me sound, we were just children when we met), so we're way beyond "who pays" but I realized that we have just defaulted to gender roles, not out of any specific agreement, but probably because it feels culturally appropriate to us (?) What I mean is, when we pay by cash, it's whoever has the cash in his/her pocket. But when we pay by credit card, he always "pays." Not sure what that means, just an interesting aside. He always drives too. And I'm a bonafied, burned-my-bra-in-the-streets second wave feminist. hmmm.
posted by nax at 3:15 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm always uncomfortable about what to do when the check comes.

Why? Either he pays, you pay or you go dutch. On that level it's not a hard choice, so clearly there's something else about this situations that bothers you. I'd suggest figuring out what this so you're bothered by it. Life's too short to be bothered by the little things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2008


Maybe this will help you feel better about men paying: General upkeep for chix is a lot more than for men. This evens it out.
posted by dame at 7:36 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


A man who won't let you pay ever. . . will often say something off-putting when asked the reason for that behavior.

It's called chivalry you damn cynic. And we don't do it because we think you're the weaker sex or because we want to rescue you. It's a gesture based on respect and mutual admiration.
posted by Talez at 5:41 AM on January 20, 2008


Explain that too many guys seem to think that paying for a meal entitles them to sex.

Then, if he's cute, add "on second thoughts, how about you pay after all?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:15 PM on January 20, 2008


Askee pays! and gender is irrelevant; this goes for gay and lesbian couples too. if someone asks you out to dinner, they are offering you dinner because they want the chance to get to know you better and have a conversation; secretly paying the bill ahead of time, arguing about it or insisting on splitting it is rude, unless you didn't enjoy yourself and don't want to pursue any type of relationship with them, in which case maybe it is a good way of sending that message. If you start dating regularly, it's different situation and you should at least offer.
posted by edrewes at 3:12 PM on January 21, 2008


« Older Which pen is mighty (workable and inexpensive)..?   |   External vs internal hard drives and speed Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.