Senior year of high school we had to choose a topic to debate in my English class. I elected to debate the merits of men paying on the first date. That is, I defended why men shouldn’t pay on the first date. I cringe when I think back on my arguments, because they were rudimentary and based more on wit than wisdom (what’s new?), but I still stand by the assertion: We need to recall the age-old notion that men pay on first dates.
The rule should be either:
a.) Whoever invited you on the date pays (which can be the man then), or
b.) You split the check.
I’m a bigger fan of b.), but will accept a.)
Last week I met up with “Sarah-Jane.” When we matched on Coffee Meets Bagel, I metaphorically hopped up and down on my bed because her profile could be described as “Real Life Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and, hello, she was interested in me. I quickly initiated dialogue, which she reciprocated minus initiating. She replied to all my prompts and was conversational enough, but she rarely inquired about me.
I debated actually asking her out, but then decided this was one of those YOLO moments. She was gorgeous. I might as well propose meeting, or else I would lament it.
I asked if she wanted to get coffee or drinks. She jumped at coffee. (I jumped again on my bed.) We decided on 4:30 PM the following day.
At 4:26 PM the next day, four minutes before our meeting (!!) and as I approach the decided upon café, Sarah-Jane messages if we can get food at a pizza parlor because she is hungry. What am I supposed to say?
I saw the quicksand, of course. I had intended on paying for coffee, which would come out under $10 unless Sarah-Jane bought a whole vegan cake at the counter along with a latte – but pizza? The proposed parlor was not a $2.50/slice joint. More like $15+.
But I said yes.
And then it turned out she was gluten-free. So one gluten-free pizza for Sarah-Jane. Ka-ching. (That vegan cake joke wasn’t totally out of the question after all.)
The dinner went well despite me not being hungry because I ate before, expecting to be only getting coffee – but I’m not complaining…. No awkward lulls presented themselves. We discussed our mutual aversion to kids.
Then the waitress came. She asked,
“Separate or together?”
Sarah-Jane and I locked eyes.
The inevitable question. One time in high school, my friend and I were faced with this, and my friend answered, “Separate,” and the waiter replied, “Separate?” as if we had thrown the bloodiest of steaks to the lions (and he was the lion).
“Sep-” I begin.
The scene slows. The audience waits. Is he serious?
“Together,” I finish. “It’s on her.”
The waitress’s eyes pop.
“I’m just kidding,” I add.
The waitress regains composure. “That’s the gentlemanly thing to do!” And off she flutters. Only to return with the bill. $38.
And you already know how this wraps up. Sarah-Jane and I stayed once I paid the bill (all $38, stab me). She initiated the hug goodbye (“I’m a hugger! You’ll have to get used to it!”) and said she’d text me. But I never heard from her again.
Now this isn’t a rant about Sarah-Jane. Sarah-Jane doesn’t need to text me or apologize or do anything. She is simply an additional victim of a capitalistic monster meant to make me bleed. I offered to pay. I could have said, “Separate” (which I tried, but choked on while the waitress and Sarah-Jane stared me down).
Of course we can still conclude, as my friend does, that Sarah-Jane used me for pizza.
My friend: “It happens. We must move on."
Me: “And preventively resolve ourselves not to pay for our dates’ food. That’s how you go broke.”
All of that is true. Society expects men to pay. I need to move on (after this blog, okay?). And I should prevent this from happening to myself again in the future, which means I don't date or I post the below disclaimer on my dating profile:
Based on extensive research and many think tank discussions, I have concluded that to purchase food and beverage for a prospective date is to jeopardize my financial security, and since I hope my future partner respects budgeting, I hereby renounce expectations that I will be funding the date.
I then concluded, after extensive research and man think tank discussions, that no one would swipe right on me, so I would be going with the former: no more dating.
I have several female friends who say they always offer to pay on a date or at least bring their wallet. I applaud these efforts. Of course, it is then on the man to agree to split the bill – which I failed to do with Sarah-Jane.
Cue a nightmarish flashback to me at the pizza parlor, interrogated by the waitress, my lips moving soundlessly to say, “Separate,” and only “Together” emerging.
But sometimes "guys are insulted when you even suggest paying," my friend counters. And I anticipate being called “stingy” by women who expect the man to always pay and then read this rant. But then I realize I don’t want to date someone who adheres to gender norm stereotypes. And neither does my friend. (This led to a conversation about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, but that’s another post.)
Gender stereotypes add up, however. First, we (okay, the patriarchal society) expect men to ask women out. Then we expect men to pay. I’m sorry; I’m not a bottomless bank. This is why dates should be be “go Dutch” affairs. Plus, everyone wants to be more cultured, so why not be Dutch?
Of course, I could be more selective in my dating or propose cheaper dates. On the former, I go on a date about once every three lunar cycles, so I don’t think selectivity is the issue here. On the latter, I tried doing coffee and was bamboozled with $38 in pizza (we didn’t even get drinks!). And I don’t have Netflix, so we can’t do Netflix and chill. Also, I might die in that scenario.
Or I guess I could just not ask out Sarah-Jane again. If she ever does text. That's my personal solution.
Everyone else, you should consider splitting the bill on your dates.
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