Who Pays: Traditionally, the One Who Asks Out, But….: Probably, the thorniest issue about the first date is who pays? Traditionally, the person asking out, or the male date would customarily pay the bill on the first few dates. The basis for this tradition was that men earned substantially higher income than their female counterpart, and men were expected to be chivalrous which included paying for a date. But, in this new age of dating apps where it’s not unusual to be go on 3-4 dates a week, the costs of picking up the tab for both partners are cumulatively cost prohibitive. According to the recently published 2019 Deutsche Bank Research of the World’s Prices, a date for two people in New York or San Francisco is about $140. And what do you get for this date… a movie, meal, plus a few beers and taxi rides and oh, no popcorn! If you went on three dates per week for year, that means you would have spent over $21,000!
The “Reach”: Nowadays, it’s anyone’s guess as to who pays the tab. With the rise of dating apps, increase in women’s earnings, and rise of feminism with the #MeToo movement, there’s a lot of confusion as to how to split the bill. Ask 10 men and 10 women, and you’ll get 20 different answers. As we all know, this wasn’t the case when we dated some 20+ years ago. Do you remember when the dinner bill came? Very slowly, we’d reach for our wallets as if we were going to help pay the bill. Of course, we all knew that our male date would grab our hands and say, “No, let me get the check”. Known as the “Reach”, this hollow gesture has become more like a noon showdown at the Ok Corral between the dueling couple, with each side seeing who would flinch first and pay the bill! In a hilarious Wall Street Journal article, several daters shared their own misadventures with the “Reach”. One gal groaned that she even ended up footing the entire bill for 18th birthday (even though her male date initiated the date!)…two movie tickets complete with a large popcorn and two drinks! “It was so awkward,” she said. “Who makes you pay on your birthday?”. Apparently, some guys! Happy Birthday!
Like the saying, “Old habits die hard”, the “Reach” is still practiced by daters of all ages”. In a 2015 study conducted by researchers at California State University, Wellesley College and Chapman University, 84% of men and 58% of women of the 17,000 men and women ages 18 to 65 years said that men paid for the cost of their dates, even after a couple has been dating for awhile. According to the Forbe’s article, “Who Should Pick Up the Check on a Date”, a 2013 survey conducted by the now defunct financial advising company LearnVest and Ameritrade found that a majority of men (55%), and an even larger majority of women (63%) of the 2,000 people polled think that the man should pay on a first date.
It also found substantial generational differences on this issue. “When asked who should pick up the check on a first date, 59% of total respondents said that the man should always pay–unless the woman has asked him out. This opinion got more popular with age: While 50% of respondents who fell in Generation Z (ages 18-23) agreed, 71% of the Lost Generation (ages 67-82) felt the same way” noted Forbes. Even progressive Millennials hang onto this long standing tradition. In a recent survey taken by the Refinery29, nearly 60% of the 700 male and female millennials polled said that men should still pay on the first date. Further, 54% say that the male should always or sometimes pay for subsequent dates, while 44% of millennial women say they never pay.
One of the common complaints heard from women is that when their “Reach” has been accepted by her male date, they ended paying for not only their portion, but also their dates. Adding insult to injury is that often times, their male date either ate all their food or ordered much more than they did. However, if women want to be equal with men, shouldn’t they take the good with the bad, and suck it up to pay? This is exactly what Dr. Peggy Drexler writes in an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal. “You can’t have your six-figure salary and free dessert too. The power that men used to gain when they treated a woman to a fancy dinner? It can be yours, too”, she wrote.
Dr. Drexler may have a point there. If we females want to be seen as equals with our male counterparts, then we need to step up to the plate (no pun intended!), or should I say cash register and pay up. Anyway, it’s always a good idea to not count on our male date who may have forgotten to bring his wallet and bring money for our dates. Who knows, maybe he wanted to pay for you, but the dog ate his cash!
No French Laundry, No Lobster Please!! Regardless of who pays, be thoughtful and do pick a reasonably priced restaurant, and for Pete’s sake, don’t order the entire menu from soup to dessert, and absolutely no lobster! Do that and that may spell the end of a budding romance!
****Cocktail Chatterers, do you agree that women should pay for the first date? “
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