A regular reader sent me an email asking me to address the curious case of “who pays for dinner”, specifically requesting strategies to avoid always being on the hook for the bill. We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at some of the justifications women trot out to explain why they think men should always ruck up for dinner.
The conversation has been in the media a lot recently owing to this new study that shows most women are incredibly happy to let men pay all the expenses in exchange for the pleasures of her company. Men, of course, are not quite so enamored of the wallet-rape, and would like women to pick up a few dinners here and there.
Consistent with conventional norms, most men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays. A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women’s money.
Elizabeth Tannen at the Huffington Post thinks men should pay because women aren’t equal. That’s a strange bit of logic, isn’t it? If women paid for dinner in equal measure to men, wouldn’t that in fact MAKE them equal?
She also thinks men should pay as a signal that he recognizes women must be pursued, wooed and flattered. Again, not exactly an egalitarian relationship, is it?
But isn’t there power, too, in letting a guy pay? Doesn’t it, too, illustrate that our affections need to be earned, that we need to be wooed, courted, because we are worthy? Isn’t that also its own assertion of power?
Jezebel commenters trip all over the issue, too, coming up with the seemingly fair solution of “whomever does the asking does the paying”. Right. Except that it’s almost always men who ask, which means it will almost always be men who pay. And it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon.
Nice run around the tight end, there, ladies!
The comments for both these articles are pretty instructive – a self-declared feminist’s sense of being entitled to a man’s money is really quite astonishing.
Oh boy, this brings up a lot of issues for me. I am a women’s college educated feminist. My boyfriend makes at least twice as much money as I do. He won’t pay for anything for me. And yes, I have mentioned this to him. We live together and everything is split straight down the middle. *sigh* It would really be nice if he bought me a burrito every once in a while
Ugh, the anal-retentive-about-money boyfriend. Had one of those for six long years. Never failed to piss me off. If we didn’t split the check, he would ask me if I had any cash for the tip. And he made around 50k a year! And a lot of the time during that relationship, I wasn’t even working. Needless to say, that shit got old real quick. For example, one Christmas, I was on unemployment. We were discussing gifts. He said, I’d like to set a dollar limit on gifts for each other, so neither of us feel like we’re getting taken advantage of. Meaning, he knew I wouldn’t be spending much, so he didn’t want to spend too much on me. Because that would somehow mean I was “taking advantage” of him. I couldn’t believe that shit!! It ruined my Christmas, that year. Boy am I glad that’s somethin I no longer have to deal with. Talk about stabby!!!
Seriously? This just blows my mind. Ask a feminist about equality as she will “rah rah rah” your ears off, but ask her to pay her own way and suddenly she gets’ “stabby”?
I think this article at xojane on the subject takes the cake, though.
This is Helena Andrews:
IT SORTA PISSES ME OFF WHEN GUYS DON’T PAY FOR DINNER AND HERE’S WHY
Aren’t we all a little confused when it comes to the right or wrong way to date in the 21st Century?
Back in the day, I went out with this guy who refused to take me to dinner on our first date.
Why didn’t you take him?
We’d met at a bar a few weeks before, late-night chatted on the phone a couple of times and then finally he’d asked me to meet him at a Smithsonian after work. Apparently there was going to be a nearly sold-out lecture on volcanoes in outerspace that he just couldn’t miss. My “good story to tell the girls later” button flashed bright red.
So you don’t really like the guy and you aren’t very interested in science lectures at the Smithsonian but you still agreed to meet him after work?
Did you carry a flashing neon sign that said “looking for a free meal”, because you might as well have.
After said lecture, which was as wildly inappropriate for a first date as one would imagine, we walked through DC’s version of Times Square in pursuit of what I assumed would be food. Because, hello, date. It was dinnertime, past 8 o’clock, and my stomach roared angrily as we passed one cheesy tourist trap after another.
Why is a lecture about volcanoes in outer space inappropriate for a first date? I think it sounds pretty awesome.
And you “assumed” food, did you? Because date? Okay. No problem with that. It’s the “free food” assumption that kind of grates. You didn’t even enjoy the lecture, which I’m sure you were ever so clever to disguise completely, right? No sighing or eye-rolling or acting like a spoiled brat?
And now you think he should pay for your meal?
“Oh, tapas! I love tapas!” I shouted cheerily as we strolled by an al fresco pan-Latino joint. He grunted and kept it moving.
“Hey, let me buy you some tapas!”.
Try that next time, sweetheart.
Over the next five blocks, we lapped watering hole after watering hole on the long walk back to the metro and all the while I didn’t get why he kept shooting down every single one of my suggestions. What is this guy? An asshole or something?
An asshole because you haven’t offered to pay yet, and he doesn’t seem thrilled about reducing his own resources? Wow. It doesn’t take much to be branded an asshole, does it?
Once we finally got to the train station — me hot, tired, and starving, him not — I just blurted out, “What is your problem?” “What do you mean?” he asked so sweet and innocent I almost forgot how damn hungry I was. “Um, I’m friggin’ starving. I don’t know what you’re trying to do right now. But I’m going to go get something to eat.” Clearly I hadn’t forgotten entirely.
I’m going to get something to eat. She still isn’t including him! What planet is this chick living on? She really thinks he should be overjoyed at the prospect of spending his money on someone so incredibly selfish? And bitchy!
“Yeah, well, I have some chicken breasts and frozen vegetables at the house,” he answered meekly. “You’re welcome to that.”
He goes from grunting asshole to meek in the span of a few blocks. Nice to see Helena not deploying any casual stereotypes about men, isn’t it? He grunts. Obviously stupid. He’s gets meek. How unmanly.
What? I was so taken aback that I laughed, which in retrospect was a real jerk move. But come on, I hardly knew this dude. There was no way this Olivia Benson groupie was going back to his killer kitchen where unsuspecting first dates got deep-fried and I told him as much.
Well, she gets points for admitting that she’s a jerk, and for taking the sensible precaution of NOT going back to some guy’s apartment when she barely knows him. Maybe the deepfried comment was a bit over the top?
This is quite possibly a good time to discuss the difference between assuming all men are rapists and murderers, which is insulting and ignorant, and yet at the same time understanding that certain actions will make you vulnerable and it’s best to assume a little personal responsibility and stay out of those situations.
I don’t need to believe that all Mexicans are thieves to know that I should probably not carry my Ipad under my arm in Tiajuana.
No, no, no, he explained. He’d been on a budget — a tight one — and taking dames to dinner just didn’t compute. I was shocked and, more importantly, touched by his honesty. So much so that we continued to date despite me not being that kind of girl. The kind that doesn’t demand some good ole fashioned courting from the giddy up. I expect doors to be opened, men to walk on the “outside” down the sidewalk, and dinners (at least the first few) to be paid for.
And there’s that giant disconnect again. Helena considers herself a proper modern woman, and she wonders why Steve Harvey wants her to act like a lady but think like a man, because she is neither. She doesn’t read books, hoards Clinique make-up and fakes orgasms. She is 31 years old.
Uhm, honey, you are not looking like you have a whole lot to offer men, but you still demand a man’s protection, chivalry and money?
Why? What do you have to give in exchange for that?
I know I know. This is so heteronormative. So detrimental to the fights against binary gender roles. So completely archaic and outdated. But so what?
Hey, what’s a little brutal hypocrisy between friends, right?
According to a new study “Who Pays for Dates? Following versus Challenging Conventional Gender Norms” most people still hold some conventional views about who should foot the bill.
This is the study I referenced above.
“Men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays. A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women’s money.”
What’s most interesting here is how conflicted and confused and utterly contrary everyone seems to be. Women will “offer” to pay but secretly hope that offer will be rejected. Men say they’d stop dating a woman who never paid (so would I) but then confess to feeling guilty about accepting a girl’s debit card. It’s a rhythmless two-step we all seem to be doing with no dance teachers in sight.
Go back and read the study again. Most men think women SHOULD contribute to dating expenses. Less than half of women report that they DO actually help out, and even when they offer, a significant chunk want their offer rejected. Almost half of women are BOTHERED when a man expects them to contribute.
No one seems particularly confused, and the only contrary ones are the women who refuse to pay their fair share, or even any share at all.
For me, it’s about combating the “no date” dating culture that’s cropped up around hooking up and not taking names. Don’t get me wrong, if all you want is a Midori Sour and ride on the skin bus, then go ahead and treat yo’ self. But I’ve found during my unintentional field research on the subject that a good litmus test of whether or not something is a thing is if someone’s willing to plunk down the first of five easy payments. That sounded gross, but I’m being for real.
Five easy payments. How do you know when something is a “thing” and not just a ride on the skin bus?
When the man pays. Five times.
Okay then. Do you let them know up front they are expected to pay for five dates or do they just have to guess?
Usually if I pay for dinner, especially if it’s the very first dinner out with a potentially romantic partner, it’s because I want to leave as soon as possible. Not that I can’t leave if someone else pays, but if I’m paying then I’m the one flagging down the waiter and twisting around in my seat for my coat. Bad sign.
Jesus Christ. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, peaches!
But when someone else is paying then I’m surrendering my time in a way that says, “What’s next.” All that logic, of course, is Helena specific and has been thrown out the window more than once.
Is he not also surrendering his time? Why does that time have no value?
Case in point: The Volcanoes Guy. I should have known it wouldn’t work out. Not because he didn’t have the scratch for a proper first date (whether it be dinner or a damn ice cream cone) but because in the end it said something more about how he valued me and my time.
Another week or more went by before we actually sat down for a meal that he paid for. This only after he explained — in detail — about how he never takes women to dinner at the onset because he didn’t want to waste his time and money on someone he was just iffy about, which, of course, made sense but in the douchiest way possible. That same brand of bravado-slash-stinginess bleed out onto the rest of our interaction until there was nothing but red correction marks over the whole thing.
But…but….but…. didn’t Helena just say that paying for dinner FIVE TIMES is exactly how he shows that he’s not “iffy” about things? Isn’t that SUPPOSED to be an indication that he is serious about the relationship? Why should he shell out if he’s not yet certain about her potential as a romantic partner?
The only way this makes sense is if Helena feels entitled to ALL meals being paid for up to that magic number five, at which point she knows the relationship is a “thing”. And then what?
So yeah, I was never in it for the free meal, but I was interested in being treated like I deserved it.
There we go. She wants to be treated as if she deserves free meals.
Why you might ask? Why do you deserve anything?
Good question. Really good question. Why do you deserve anything, Helena?
Because I said so.
Oh my god, it’s too much.
Did she really write that?
Because I said so?
BECAUSE I SAID SO?
And if I don’t say so then who will?
Awwww. No one to tell you deserve everything you little heart desires on someone else’s dime? Are you single, Helena? I’m so confused as to why. You’re so delightful!
Maybe if I’d been the one doing the pursuing I would’ve taken him out for dinner, but that’s not how this particular chase went down. Perhaps therein lies the line? Whoever does the picking up should also pick up the check? I’m not sure there can be any overarching rules besides the ones we make for ourselves, but I am sure that once you’ve made them, you should stick to them.
Well, if you’re going to stick to your rules, Helena, you should probably get a cat. You’re gonna be lonely. And again, creating the “rule” that the person doing the “picking up” should pick up the check is really sweet in theory, but when the practice is that only men pursue, it will always be only men that pay.
The comments on the xoJane article veered off weirdly into trying to parse why men should walk on the outside of the sidewalk: most commenters agreed that it was to protect the lady from potential threats that might arise on the street. His body is a shield she can use against runaway cars or pickpockets or errant bicycle couriers.
Interesting that very few commenters had anything to say about the expectation that a man pay for a woman’s company, and that her time is valuable while his is not. Very few people want to discuss that at all. Which leads me to believe that women like Helena are actually very common.
So what is a man to do, facing down these 31 year old shrews who think all meals should be free? How do you avoid that situation in the first place?
Personally, I agree that men should always pay for the first date. But Helena and her fans have made me realize that there are two types of women: women who accept a man’s care and see him as a potential provider, and women who feel like they are OWED money and food and flattery and chivalry and protection.
The trick is to distinguish between them.
There is a fairly simple, straightforward way to do that: make the first date really cheap. No matter how sad your budget is, almost everyone can afford a loaf of bread, some apples, a bit of cheese and a bottle of wine.
If you’re not up for even that amount of food preparation, scout out a hotdog cart and a scenic spot to sit in the local park, or along the river. If you insist on a proper restaurant, check out the local Vietnamese noodle bowl shops and then pre-order two giant steaming bowls of delicious noodles to be ready when you set foot in the joint. Noodle bowls are usually dirt cheap.
My first date with Mr. JB took place in a bathroom and we ate McDonald’s out of a paper bag. That was memorable.
No matter how much money you have or don’t have the first date should be dirt cheap because it will tell you a lot about the woman you are with. If she gets pissy about eating hotdogs or a fresh baguette on the river bank, she is not interested in YOU. She’s there for a free meal, and you know what?
Any woman who sneers at a man who is careful with money is an idiot. She is not thinking long-term. She’s in it to grab as much as she can for herself. And the expectation that you should spend oodles of money on her because “she said so”?
Run. For. The. Hills.
Never, ever try to impress a woman with money on a first date. The ones who are there for YOU and the ones who are there for your money will be impossible to distinguish. In fact, the more money you have, the more reluctant you should be to spend it on the first few dates. Save the Broadway show and five star restaurant for much later. The first dates are investments in a potential future.
Men should absolutely pay for the first date, and maybe even the second and the third and then it’s time to see if she has her priorities straight. She needs to provide a meal for you. Not necessarily pay for, but provide. Not every woman can cook, and that’s fine.
What she needs to do is CARE.
Anyone can learn to cook or just become really good at ordering in, but it’s hard to teach someone to care about someone other than themselves if they really don’t. Providing food is the most basic way to show someone that you care.
No matter how otherwise great she is, if a woman doesn’t offer to provide you with food fairly early on in your relationship, she is not the right woman for you. Wait for the woman who cares that you’re hungry and brings you a bacon sandwich. Wait for the woman who cares that you’re cold and brings you hot chocolate. Wait for the woman who knows you are working late and brings you a warm dinner.
If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.
And always buy unsalted butter for your fresh bread. Why?
Because I said so.
Holy crap, that makes me want to slap myself! I hate that phrase!
But seriously, salted butter is icky.
Lots of love,