Thanks to the sexual revolution, it’s nearly impossible to determine who pays for a date. Traditionally, it was the man — but that was also a time when men were the only ones doing the asking for dates in the first place. Now that it’s socially acceptable for women to ask, everyone’s all confused. When a woman asks for a date and then offers to pay, you get one of four outcomes:
- Man accepts and feels emasculated.
- Man declines and after much tussling, pays for both. Man’s dignity is intact, woman is secretly relieved/impressed but now feels robbed of the power she had when she did the asking out. (If the woman really likes the man, this is usually good. If she’s on the fence or not sure, this is awkward and uncomfortable.)
- Man declines and woman refuses to take no for an answer. See Outcome #1.
- Man and woman decide to go dutch. Both feel a measure of relief/awkwardness/disappointment.
A lot of this awkwardness can be avoided if women just let men do the asking for dates, but women sometimes will try to pay for their share even if the man does the asking. Usually the reason for this is that the woman doesn’t want to feel obligated to put out for the man at the end of the night (MAN: “You got a burger, now I get to put my tongue down your throat!” WOMAN: “That’s why I ordered all the onions.”), or she isn’t that interested in the man and doesn’t want to give him the impression that she likes him (i.e., she will make a show of independence to decrease his attraction to her), or she wants to make a good impression and show that she’s a contributor, not a taker (i.e., not a dinner whore).
I think the best solution to these issues is not to go on expensive dates. The issues mainly arise at the very beginning of a relationship, so why invest a lot of money to begin with? The point at this stage of the game is to get to know each other better in a one-on-one situation; you don’t need to go anywhere fancy to do that, and a casual environment will also relieve some of the getting-to-know-you pressure. Additionally, most women will feel petty or silly if they try to force a man not to spend $10 or less on her. If they put up [token] resistance (“Oh, you don’t have to pay for me, I’ve got it”), a man should just say, “I asked you on a date. I’m paying for you,” and let that be it. If she presses the issue (“Are you sure?”), reply “What did I just say?” firmly but with a little twinkle in your eye. Whatever you do, do not get into a debate/back-and-forth on the issue. Settle it calmly and decisively with your manly authority. If a woman really puts up a fuss, don’t ask her out again.
“But what if she thinks I’m cheap?” If a woman is expecting an “experience” for a first or early-relationship date, you probably don’t want to be dating her in the first place. A good rule of thumb, though, is that the inexpense should be proportional to how much you earn. If you’re a pauper, she’ll understand that all you can afford is the value menu. If you’re making six figures or more, the value menu will seem cheap so aim a little higher than that. A good option for a wealthier man is to go somewhere with no cost at all, like a park or museum, or a fun, interactive, inexpensive activity such as miniature golf, or someplace that seems rich but won’t cost you much overall (like window shopping at an upscale mall but eating at the food court).
A couple of final comments: one, a date should always obviously be a date. Say the word “date”; this will eliminate a lot of confusion. Also (men), reach for the check right away when it comes out. This assures the woman that you do intend to pay. The longer the check sits there unattended, the more she will wonder if you want her to offer to pay her part, and fret about what to do. If you’re at a restaurant where you pay at the time you place your order, just get in line ahead of her, tell the cashier that you’re together, and then ask your date to order.