Should the man pay for a first date? This is one of the most controversial and commonly asked questions when it comes to dating etiquette.
I’m not going to talk about feminism or gender equality. I’m not going to compare income ratios or discuss the official roles of men and women in society. I’m not even going to talk about the dynamic of men as pursuers and women as those being pursued, as fascinating as all of that is.
For me, it all comes down to this: Men should offer to pay on first dates because it’s a nice thing to do.
That’s it. That’s my entire argument. It’s a polite gesture that also establishes that the meeting is a date. I feel this applies to all first dates, whether it’s with a friend you’ve known for a while or someone you’ve only just met in person after messaging with them online. It shouldn’t necessarily be expected or required that the man pay, but in my opinion, it is part of the dating ritual that they make the offer.
That said, while I think men should offer to pay, they shouldn’t insist on it if the woman truly wants to split the bill. If a woman is more comfortable paying her own way on a date, that needs to be respected. Some women feel it creates a sense of obligation or imbalance if the man pays.
I personally offer to split the bill or chip in even after a guy says that he’ll pay. Not with much insistence, I admit, but I want them to understand that I appreciate the gesture and that it was not implied. I make sure to thank them genuinely. And yes, I have gone out on a second date with someone who didn’t pay for the first. I don’t believe it is a requirement, although most guys do offer to pay, and they certainly get brownie points for it.
Now, not all men will offer to pay on first dates. That moment when the barista announces your total at a café or the check comes at a restaurant can be awkward if he doesn’t swoop right in with his credit card. In those instances, I always get my wallet out and am ready to pay for myself if they don’t. Despite my personal feeling that men should offer to pay, I never assume they will or want to make them feel pressured. They should pay because they want to, not because you’re looking at them funny.
As a twenty-something who’s been dating since I was in college, I know money can be an issue, especially for younger folks. My general rule of thumb is to keep things simple for the first couple of meetings. Even if the guy asks you to dinner and a movie, you can always request to meet for coffee if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of them paying that much for a date or if you don’t want to end up splitting the bill (which you might have to do, even if they’re the one who asked you).
Although there’s a lot of debate on this issue, the general consensus seems to be that the man should offer to pay for a first date, especially if he was the one who asked for it. Some women feel embarrassed or anti-feminist for wanting or even expecting the guy to pay, but I don’t think we should. It might be a tradition with a basis in outdated gender roles, but if you look at it simply from the perspective of it being a nice gesture, you can’t really go wrong.
Alana Saltz is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She's been in the L.A. online dating scene for several years and has pretty much seen it all. To learn more about her, please visit her website at http://alanasaltz.com or follow her on Twitter @alanasaltz.