A few weeks ago, an e-mail hit my inbox with the question we’ve all asked ourselves when it came time to reach for the check: On a date, who’s supposed to pay?
“I was taught to always offer to pay on a date, [but] I was also taught to never let someone take me up on that all the time,” she wrote. “Thus far, as a self-employed single mom, I’ve decided to take myself out of the dating game because it’s getting too damn expensive.”
Every man she’s gone on a date with, she explained, has taken her up on her offer to pay.
“I’m not looking for someone to take care of me, but damn. What happened to chivalry? To wooing a girl in the beginning? Is it me? Or is this an epidemic? Is there a reason for it? Are there new rules?”
It’s a question I’ve gotten a lot and am never sure how to answer.
On the one hand, I was raised on the same idea and came to expect that on a first date, while I offered, I wouldn’t be the one paying. But on the other, it’s 2017, and if women can make the first move on a dating app, why couldn’t, or shouldn’t, they pay for the first date?
I wanted to get an unbiased look at how other people felt about it.
I asked my girlfriends, guys I’m friends with, guys I’ve gone on dates with, and, for a broader look, 27,500+ of my closest friends in the form of the Agenda’s daily newsletter subscribers. I asked them all this: “Even if a woman offers, should guy always pick up the tab on the first date?”
In my own circle of friends, all but one person thought the guy should cover the tab up until the third date or so – unless she initiated the first date, in which case she should pay. After that, it’s apparently commonplace to start paying closer attention to how much she offers to pick it up.
Meanwhile, Agenda readers were split closer to 70/30 on the issue.
Just over 66% of respondents said that yes, the man should absolutely cover the tab on the first date. Explanations ranged from “It shows a good sign of him having the old-fashioned courting” skills to the action being proper etiquette and polite.
That leaves the other 33% somewhere in a gray area.
Plenty of that 33% found that the person that initiated the date should be the one picking up the tab, but most cited equality, social constructs and antiquated gender roles as reason enough to not expect a man to pay.
Even Twitter, where everybody agrees to disagree, felt like the guy should cover it.