Monday, June 21, 2010

Who Pays?? A commentary from BOTH sides of the table.

Here's the unedited version of an article appearing in the "He Said/She Said" column on The Stir, to which my friend, Matthew Wells and I were contributors. 

Here's what SHE said........

“I’m having an amazing time,” Drew said, his big, brown eyes smiling with delight.

“Me too,” I almost giggled as I took another sip of wine.

It had been a great first date – one of the best I can remember. We laughed and talked with the ease of a couple dating for months, not hours. He was scoring high on the first-date-checklist: Good conversationalist – check. Great table manners – check. Polite and Courteous – check.

So when the bill arrived and he gently pushed it toward me saying simply, “You got this, right?” I was speechless.

The shock of it all prevented me from doing anything other than paying the bill. My disappointment was palpable. The night was going so well! It was as if someone just pulled the plug on one of those old record players, the needle scraping against the vinyl with a horrible screech.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” My friend demanded the next day when I told her what happened. “He invited you out, didn’t he?”

“Well, technically he suggested we go out, but it was more of a mutual thing,” I countered.

“That’s crazy!” My friend snorted. “The guy should always pay on the first date.”

This got me thinking. Why should the guy pay on the first date? It’s the new millennium after all. Isn’t it a little antiquated to expect such chivalry?

All of my friends said, emphatically, that they prefer the guy to always pick up the tab – especially on the first date. I wasn’t convinced, so I took it to my blog, asking all my female readers to weigh in on the subject.

The comments varied from women in their twenties to those in their mid-forties, but most agreed that whoever does the asking should most definitely do the paying. The reasons behind their opinions were more interesting though, varying from not having to “owe” anything at the end of the date to maintaining the masculine/feminine polarity. Take a look:

“The guy should always pick up the tab on the first date, especially if he asked the girl out in the first place.” –B, 23

“The person who requests the date should pay for the date. If a woman asks a man out, she should expect to pay. This lends itself to the notion that if things are going well, keep it goin-with the counter offer. Dinner was great and thank you, now let me buy you a drink, a coffee a piece of cake.....” –F, early 40’s

“…I insisted on going dutch the first date; unless the date was precipitated by him asking: "Can I take you out to dinner," in which case, he paid…..I kept the dutch rule because, firstly, I've always been proud when it comes to money (perhaps a character flaw); and, secondly, because I believe that equality between men and women begins with treating each other as equals in everyday circumstances. If I depend upon a man to buy dinner, that dependence could stretch into other categories as well.” –A, 33

“The guy should definitely pay on the first date. I think for the masculinity/femininity balance to work out, the man has to be the provider, especially at the beginning. He has to show that he can look after her. She’ll then feel safe and be able to open up to him…We all have both masculinity and femininity within us, and to keep the chemistry alive in a relationship, you need to be mostly in the opposing trait to your mate.” K, 41

A week later, he called to ask me out on a second date. I thought about my own relationship to how I feel about the guy picking up the tab. I’m an independent woman. I own a home and make a decent living, so why would I need a guy to pay my way? In doing so, wouldn’t I be defeating the very purpose of being a strong and capable woman?

But here’s the thing. The very reason that I would like the man to pay is because I’m an independent woman. I work so hard at taking care of myself and holding it all down that it’s nice to have a man who wants to take you out, show you a good time and insist on paying the bill. For me, it’s like a mini vacation or more importantly, it gives me the chance to relax a little and let someone else be in charge for a change.

Just because I’m a strong woman doesn’t mean that letting someone else take charge will threaten my ability to take care of myself. If a person is truly comfortable in her personal power, allowing the guy to pick up the bill isn’t anything more than a nice gesture. It is just as much an act of power to receive as much as it is to give.

I say, keep it simple. If you’re interested in a second date, let him pay and offer to take him out the next time. Otherwise, politely decline and offer to split the bill.

Either way, always remember, you’re just as much a part of the date as he is and however you feel about him, you still get to choose what’s best for you.

I thought about it and Drew really did ask me out on that first date and my reason for declining a second one was simple. Dating, especially the first few, is all about putting your best foot forward and I’m not ashamed to say that I expect the very best from a man who’s interested in me. Drew didn’t deliver and put his best toe forward and in the end it’s not about the money – it’s about the effort.

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