Monday, January 4, 2010

Dinner's on... Him?

No matter how well a date is going, things always get a little awkward when the check arrives.

Both parties reach for their wallets and hash out some sort of payment plan. And that exchange invariably changes the evening’s mood.

If the guy insists on paying, great. But if he doesn’t, well…

Every girl has a different reaction. Some feel that gender equality doesn’t end when the check comes, making both equally responsible for that bottle of Chianti. Others expect the guy to pick up the entire tab four years into a relationship.

Figuring out who pays (and how much, and how often) is a delicate compromise that’s different for every relationship. If one partner has a lot more disposable income, he/she might pay more often. If both make about the same, it might make sense to split the bill.

But a guy’s generosity (or lack thereof) can be very telling in two situations.

The first is at the beginning of the relationship. When a guy first meets a girl, he should be going out of his way to impress her. And that includes paying on the first few dates.

That doesn’t mean he has to take you to dinner at the W. Most young professionals spend a good chunk of their paychecks on rent, especially in DC. But, if a guy were really trying to seduce you, he’d pick something he could afford.

Our society places a premium on men who pay on the first date. It’s not necessarily expected, but guys know that they’ll look good if they pick up the check.

So what incentive does he have not to pay on the first date?

Like we said, if money’s an issue, he can pick somewhere affordable. But if he splits the check (or lets you pick up the whole thing), he’s setting the bar pretty low.

People’s behavior gets worse, not better, as a relationship progresses. At the beginning, you’re constantly trying to impress the other person to win him/her over. But once you start getting comfortable, you don’t spend as much time picking out the outfits you wear each time you see him.

It’s the same for guys. If he’s splitting the check on the first date, imagine how generous he’ll be after you’ve been seeing each other for a month.

Not everyone cares about being taken out. And if you’re dating a hill staffer, you probably won’t be wined and dined the same way you would if you were dating a banker.

But stinginess on the first date can be a bad sign of things to come. You wouldn’t wear sweatpants on your first date. So if he doesn’t pay, we wonder why doesn’t feel the need to make an effort.

The second red flag comes when there’s significant income disparity.

If you and your guy are both on tight budgets, it would probably be nice for you to pitch in (at least sometimes) when he takes you out.

But if he’s making a lot more than you and still asking you to go Dutch, again, we have to wonder why.

Money creates a sensitive situation that’s never easy to navigate. People tend to take things very personally when money’s involved, which might explain why money can ruin relationships in a single transaction.

But if you’re interning at a nonprofit and he’s working at Morgan Stanley, he should probably pay when he takes you out. Again, this doesn’t mean he has to take you to dinner five nights a week. And it doesn’t mean that he has to take you to the fanciest restaurants.

But if he isn’t generous with you when it comes to money (and he can clearly afford to be), what else will he be stingy with? His time, his emotions, his support? Do you really want to stick around to find out?


  1. I recently went on a first date that stretched over two venues, where I paid at the first, and she at the second. You're right, I at least make a very concerted effort to pay on the first date (Rule of Two Insistances), but I don't expect to be paying all the time.

    All in all, solid points.

  2. I really like your article about the first date. However, what if you have a one night stand with someone - do you go out to breafast with them the next morning and who should pay for that?

  3. I recently went on 4-5 dates with someone. She never offered to pay for anything and rarely thanked me for paying. I took her to some nice places too.

    It was pretty obvious to me that this was going to be more of a give thing than a give and take thing, and that ended up translating into other areas as well (she was a pretty lazy lover).

    So maybe you girls out there see it as a way to test us a little, and that's fine. But after a few dates you should really take some of the weight off of us.

    So the moral of the story is.. sure it's the guy's responsibility to pay on the first date or first few dates. But girls need to give some indication that they care, or that they plan to start contributing (even if it's a smaller portion).

    Oh and if you are lazy in the sack, might want to work on revising that as well.