Once a guy asked me on a date. We’ll call him “Chris” to save him from embarrassment.
He was a nice enough guy. Probably not someone I would envision myself going out with. But I like to be pleasantly surprised. I fancy myself as open-minded.
So I said yes. He picked me up in his big white boat of a car and then we picked up his friend and date. Chris drove us to a little hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant. I had a simple dish with one drink. The total bill for my dinner would have been about $6.
We had a good time. My date and I didn’t really click yet, but that was ok. The night was still young. We wanted to do a few other things, so we ended dinner and headed up to the counter to pay.
Suddenly, Chris looked smug. He had his wallet out, but unfortunately, it was looking rather slim. He proceeded to pull out two one dollar bills and that was it. Poor Chris didn’t have enough cash to even pay for himself. (He didn’t own a debit card.)
I felt pretty bad for the guy—he had gone to such trouble to arrange the date and here he was without enough money to pay. It was embarrassing for him and for me. I pulled out my purse so I could offer to pay, but then his friend stopped me.
He was such a gentleman. “You shouldn’t pay.” So he whipped out his wallet and paid for me, Chris, himself, and his date. We left the restaurant and went about our business doing other things. Chris eventually took me home. As I laid down to go to sleep, you can bet the one main thing I remembered was how the dinner payment went down. I was very impressed that Chris’ friend had paid for everyone.
For me, it wasn’t about the money; I had enough money to pay for myself. It was about how being taken care of makes you feel. So now I ask the question to you: Who pays on the first date?
- Does the woman pay?
- Does the man pay?
- Does each person pay for themselves?
The answers to these questions will depend on many things. Who asked who on the date? What are your feelings about who should pay or not pay? What have your experiences been thus far? How do you feel on a date when it comes time to pay?
When my parents were dating years ago, societal norms were different. It was normal for the man to always pay. It was expected. He typically was earning the money, and he generally feels like a provider, so it seemed the natural way to do things.
Things have changed. Society is different. Women and men have equal rights. It isn’t always the man asking for dates anymore. Also, women are working alongside men and making money, too. So is it ok for women to ask for dates, and it is ok for women to pay for dates.
But, in my experience, I know that men do enjoy paying for dates. It’s part of their nature to want to be the one to take care of a woman on a date. And a woman likes to feel taken care of.
These days, though, preferences and ideals can vary from person to person. So when asking the question, who should pay on the first date, the official answer is this: it depends.
Sorry to be so ambiguous, but that’s the best I can give you. As a general rule, I always bring my purse and expect to pay for myself, so then I am pleasantly surprised if the guy does pay. But I am not disappointed if he doesn’t pay for me. If he only has $2 and can’t even pay for himself—well, you know how that story goes.
One basic rule of thumb to make things less awkward later: when making the date, quickly determine the payment plan. Then, when it’s time to grab the bill, you can worry less about what is going to happen and think more about the rest of your date.