Sunday, June 7, 2009

To Pay Or Not To Pay

This week, I was quoted in an Associated Press story about dating and recession that was picked up by New York magazine. My observations sparked some intense conversation, which got me to thinking about the complicated question of who pays on a first date.

Money can be a thorny subject on a first date -- especially when it come to deciding who pays

As I told the AP, I’m a traditionalist in that I think a man should pick up the tab. I’ve always believed that being respected as a woman and treated like a lady are not mutually exclusive -- and I’ve dated enough to know there are many men who are of the same mindset.

“It would make me feel emasculated,” my old flame Steve told me, when I asked for his take on having a woman pay or going Dutch.

Friend and fellow writer Eddie says he was raised to believe a gentleman always treats a lady -- but admits that point of view has gotten him into trouble on occasion.

“I got hammered on dates when I asked for the bill and handed over my credit card,“ he says. “My gesture did not go over well because the dates presumed it meant that I didn't think they could pay their own way. But the old tradition was too ingrained in my soul for me to change. What I did do was a add a line that anticipated the challenge: ‘I have had such a great time with you. Would you mind if I picked up the tab?’ Issue resolved.”

Eddie went on to say that there’s merit to both sides of the argument and I couldn’t agree more. Plenty of men and women are happy to go 50/50 on a first date. And I’d venture to say an equal number of us believe modern-day mores can happily co-exist with the time-honored tradition of a man taking a woman out.

Neither approach is wrong. Recession or not, though, I think a first date should involve more than going for a walk (the suggestion that one guy proposed to a friend of mine). You don’t have to break the bank to come up with something fun -- you just have to exercise a little creativity.

And when it comes to romance, that’s a muscle we could all afford to flex more often.


H9 said...

I think the dating world would be a much better place, especially in NYC,if people would be interested in getting to know a person, and beginning to appreciate them for who they are and not what type of restaurant or bar they take someone to. I realize that consumerism is a big part of NYC lifestyle, but maybe looking beyond that when finding a life partner may help both the individuals and the ones that care about their happiness.

I am very sorry that you do not like a "walk date" in which you focus on talking to each other, while exploring and appreciating together the beauty of the simple things in the world around you. It may also relax both people so they won't get so hung up on their individualized "rules" about who pays for a drink or snack, etc.

Melissa said...

I think you can be interested in getting to know a person and still want to have the experience of being taken out on a first date -- one doesn't negate the other. It's not about fancy restaurants or bars, it's about making the effort to come up with something fun. Especially in a city like New York, there's no excuse not to.

the shark said...

After being married for almost 15 years to a man I wanted not needed, I still leave my purse at home when we go out.

H9 said...


I guess it's just a cultural issue and a matter of preference....that maybe a date can be fun, without spending a significant amount of money, and still be planned.

I know that my best dates were walking along the Hudson and hanging out in the parks.

I think that it is wonderful that people can choose to enjoy different things, but I am concerned that for singles, these discussions too often make people feel like they equate expenditures with how much another individual cares for them and is a fit for them. At the same time, someone can plan a "walk date", and if you are with the right person can still be fun, at least for some people.

-the Shark....Congatulations on your marriage of 15 years, that is truly wonderful.

All the best

H9 said...

....You have probably done this already, but it might be helpful to promote some fun/no-low cost, spiritual ideas for dates.

This might not help the economy as much, but may reduce reduce the strain of aligning the finances with making a true connection with someone....just a thought.

All the best.

kane said...

It's not about fancy restaurants or bars, it's about making the effort to come up with something fun. Especially in a city like New York, there's no excuse not to.

And you can't have fun by not being in a bar or restaurant, especially in a city like New York? There's no excuse not not to have fun without the guy spending on you. You obviously judge a man by the size of his wallet. Ever wonder why you're still single at 35?

Melissa said...

As I've said above, it's not about how much a guy spends -- it's about coming up with something fun to do on a first date. And as I said in my blog post, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to be taken out (i.e. treated) on a first date.

As for still being single at 35, yes I have wondered about it but I also recognize it is a choice because I haven't met the right person yet. And that's not a function of the size of a man's wallet, just circumstances and timing.

Kim Hong said...

Congrats on the AP coverage MB! Call me old-fashioned, but a woman deserves to be put on a pedestal every once in a while, ESPECIALLY on a first date! If a guy expects a woman to pay on the first date, it's a huge turn-off.

With all that said, if you're a gal and you don't mind going dutch on a first date, and the man allows you to pay your way...more power to you both! Whatever floats your boat :)

Cornholio Mangus said...

The issue here is age, folks. Men will pay for a date when he is going out with a young woman, because young women generally don't have any money. A man won't invite a woman out on a date, knowing that it will harm her financially, so he volunteers to pay.

When a woman is older and more financially secure, the need to pay for her dating expense disappears. I see no reason to pay the entire cost of a date with a woman who earns as much (or possibly more than) me.

You may have associated a man paying with "romance" or "just how things are done" because that WAS how things were done when you were a young, broke woman. Men don't resent your lack of wealth, but try to find a work-around. As a grown woman, with a career, this work-around is no longer necessary.

As an aside, have you ever asked a man who earns less than you for a date? If a man (likely younger) can't afford the cost of the event, and you want to spend time with him, you would naturally pay for the date. I have never noticed financially-secure women inviting younger, less wealthy men for dates, but men date these kind of women all the time.

This all depends on your stage in life. When you are a secure, independent adult, you should expect to pay your own way.

Melissa said...

I don't think it has to do with age -- it has to do with one's mindset. As I said in my post, I've dated enough to be able to say without hesitation that there are plenty of men who share my views about treating a woman on a first date -- that it has nothing to do with the size of either person's bank account. And I say this as someone who has dated men from various walks of life.

As my good friend Kim said above, whatever floats your boat. There's no wrong way here.

Cornholio Mangus said...

Your mindset may not vary according to age and wealth, but most men would be swayed. (Most. Exceptions exist, your mileage may vary.)

When a man dates a woman over a certain age, he expects her to act like a responsible, mature woman, not a nubile young girl with no visible means of support. This includes (among other things) paying one's own way.

Just because younger women get away with something, that doesn't mean that older women will. Is this really news?

As far as "mindset" is concerned, that also (hopefully) changes with age and experience.

Melissa said...

I think it's interesting that all of the men here presume to speak for the majority of their gender when it comes to the issue of money. I stand by what I've said -- that there's a broad range of opinions about this.

Like me, the men who share my perspective do so because it's been part of their upbringing, not because there's an expiration date on their desire to take a woman out. And, as a woman, welcoming that tradition has nothing to do with whether or not you're financially independent. I have yet to meet the man that assumes a woman has no means of support simply because she lets him take her out on a first date.