Monday, April 10, 2006

The Power of Paying

One of the toughest questions in dating is also one of the shortest, and seemingly, one of the simplest. But the reality is that in today's world, where we pay lip service to equality, the question of who pays for dates is not as simple as it seems. So, who pays? One of these is the correct answer, so consider each one carefully. 1) The man pays. Every time. No excuses, unless it's his birthday and his woman wants to buy him dinner. Aww, shucks--ain't she sweet? 2) Whoever did the asking does the paying. It's a modern world--if a woman asks a man out, she should assume the responsibility of paying. 3) Whoever makes the most money should foot the bill. 4) Whoever chooses the restaurant should pay. 5) If you'd like to make a gesture that says "I like you and it was my pleasure to sit here with you," no matter what your gender, or whether you were the asker or the askee, you should pick up the check. 6) None of the above and all of the above. We're all screwed. Over at the E-Cyrano blog, Evan posts about this issue of the expectation of payment. (Feel free to weigh in over there as well...) He hits many of the issues, but for me, the issue of who pays establishes a strange kind of power dynamic that I've never been 100 percent comfortable with--in dating and with my other friends too. But in dating, payment feels especially like a contract, like I'm expected to deliver something that I might not yet (or at all) be comfortable delivering. Maybe that's a sign I'm watching too much Law and Order SVU. But because money has a disproportionate value for me--I tend not to spend it because I don't have that much post-rent-and-utilities wiggle room in my budget--it's therefore a big deal when someone (even my parents) treat me to dinner. With friends, I feel obligated to "get them next time," and usually manage to keep that promise even though I'm budgetarily limited...but this is probably my issue and not everyone else's. Is money power? And does the forking over of cash for dinner establish any other kind of contract? What do you all think? Because the more I think about this, the more I think I have the answer. The answer is 6).


VJ said...

That's what I was thinking too. Almost anything can and will be misinterpreted, especially things involving money of otherwise scarce resources. I've seen it work all the ways above, and I'm amused to hear from folks who want it 'only' this way or that way. If my wife pays they just stand a better chance of getting a larger tip. I'm generous, but always a difficult grader. If you don't pay proper attention to our table, you'll be getting a smaller tip from me. My wife if a bit more forgiving, (at least where tips are concerned)! This has been true since forever, so typically she's picked up the bill, again her choice. Me, I like to pay for cash for everything, this gets to be a bit more challenging when the bills creep towards $100. Here again, depending on what I'm carrying at the moment, it's still more likely that they come out ahead with the credit card. I just loathe to use plastic, I do it often, just not every day.

So I agree, there's many ways this can work, and there's many reasons for our collective madness over the issue. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Jennifer R said...

I think everyone should do Dutch. Forever. Seriously.

In my relationships, it's gone all over the map. One ex was employed when I wasn't and thus he paid all the time. The reverse happened with the ex after that. The guy before both of them I can't even remember all that well.

I have given up on arguing with a guy much on the first date about who gets the check. They all get massively offended if I say anything. *sigh*

I do agree the contract aspect is also kind of creepy, though the creepiness depends on the guy and how much he thinks you "owe" him now. The normal ones won't do that crap.

ptwelve said...

Well, Esther, I would say it is more of a code than a contract. In particular, if you are meeting via internet or blind date, if the guy insists on paying it means he is interested, and if he accepts her insistance on splitting the check, it means he is not. Likewise, if she lets him pay she is interested and if she makes sure to split it, she is not.

Of course, there are variations that throw a crimp into this, like if he is "polite" and so he pays, but then doesn't call. Or if she lets him pay, but just wants a free dinner and is not interested at all.

As a sidenote, I find e-cyrano's relentless chipperness about online dating to be thoroughly grating and pollyanna-ish. He sounds like a paid shill for the online dating industry. Which should not be a surprise -- because that's what he is.

Rather than the five -- five! -- successes he trumpets on his site, a complete list of his clients and their outcome or current status would be more useful in assessing his claim that online dating works so well.

Anonymous said...

Pretty simple, this one. Though it is a ridiculous tradition, the man always pays on the first date. Even when he has no money and the woman is loaded. Even when the woman asks him out. Even when the woman picks the place. Thats a rule of life, like death and taxes. By the third date, you can mix it up a bit. Let her buy the drinks, pay the tip or pick up the movie tickets.

Once you are steadily dating and exclusive, then the payment issues do begin to define the relationship. If the man always pays, the relationship will be quite traditional, with the man taking charge. If the parties split costs, then the relationship will be more like a partnership - and more healthy. But, its up for the couple to decide what they want. If one party wants the relationship to be an equal partnership, then both have to be open to permitting the splitting of costs (of course taking into account the earning power of each).

Anonymous said...

Ptwelve is a bit off base. If a guy lets the woman pay on the first date, then he very well may be interested. However, he isnt very well-tuned to proper social mores. Likewise, many women offer to pay on a first date, even when they are very interested. It just means that they (1) feel its appropriate "to offer" (even when they dont expect the guy to accept their offer) or (2) do not want to give up any equality (the so-called feminist approach).

Coversely, as Ptwelve notes, many guys will pay for the date, and have zero interest - they are just following social conventions. Likewise, many women will let the guy pay, even when they have zero interest (happens all the time!!!)

There are no rules except that th e man is always expected to pay on the first date. Thats just the way it is.

T.A.B. said...

Ah, a topic near and dear to my heart. I could write an entire diatribe on the issue.

My beliefs are summarized as this: just because something has been accepted as a societal norm doesn't mean it's fair. Women didn't have the right to vote for a long time and that was considered socially acceptable, even by women. It should be no more acceptable for a man to be expected to pay on the first date than for a woman to be expected to give sexual favors on the first date. Dating would be overall easier for everybody involved if some sort of equal-rights date payment system were initiated (there would be short-term benefits for men and long-term benefits for women). However, whenever I propose this on my own blog, I am accused of being cheap by commenters, which is what I expect here. So be it.

Anonymous said...

You arent being cheap. Merely fair. Women have never been able to explain the equities of the "men have to pay" rule other than women have and still do earn less than men. However, while women still earn less, it is generally because they still tend to choose lower paying jobs (social work, teaching, writing etc). Should society permit women who choose to earn less than men to control social (ie dating) finacial rules?
Now, if there was some sort of quid-pro-quo in dating then sure, let the men pay. Tacitly the consideration women must pay is "look good and eventually put out". Men work hard to earn money to pay, and women work hard to keep in shape and look good. But when this is articulated, women tend to scream sexism. "Men are shallow for expecting us to look good (i.e be thin and put together) and put out." Is it sexist? Or are women just being unfair? Cant have your cake and eat it too....

VJ said...

I wanted to mention a bit about Ptwelve's comments. If e-cyrano claims 5 (count 'em!) 'successes', I imagine this is because they're new or perhaps their definition is a bit stringent.

But say if I got together a randomly selected group 25K or so of eligible people on the Brooklyn Bridge for a huge Christo like art project. I then split the group in 2, again randomly. Then we told each group to assemble at the ends of the bridge, and then starting from either side to run into the other group as fast as possible, sort of a mash up to be filmed in real time from the top of the bridge . From that one bit of 'performance art' piece, I'd fully expect to see at least 5 new, and yes serious relationships, just based on random events meeting & happy happenstance. But they tell me I'm an optimist too.

So I imagine we'd need to know some hard numbers here before we could judge the adverts.

I'm always learning new things here. Who knew that women were expected to "look good and eventually put out"? My goodness, there are people of both sexes for whom this totally does not apply. How about 'Look your best, and put up with as much as you dare to, because you might be stuck with it for a very long time?!'. How's that? I imagine that would argue for the Dutch solution too.
Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

AddledWriter said...

No, the answer is '3.' Whoever asks, pays. Because you are really asking someone to do several favors for you. And because you have already decided that you like that person a whole lot, but they haven't decided about YOU yet. So you are asking for them to give you a chance.

You are asking them to spend time with you, do something that may cost money, and give you the opportunity to help them realize that this might make a good relationship. You are asking them out because you want the chance to convince that person that they would like you.

So, that's one thing. The other is, the person who asks is also probably asking you to do something that costs money, whatever it is. And they will probably suggest something that costs money. You can respond with, "No, let's sit on a park bench and look at pigeons," but you might seem batty and difficult, and that doesn't make for a good opportunity to get to know someone, does it? So you go along with it. Why should you have to pay?

Now, on second dates and dates after that, you can go Dutch. Because on subequent dates, hopefully there is more interest on both people's part. But for first dates, whoever asks, pays. That's it.

ptwelve said...

VJ, you are correct. If you did such a performance art project, you would likely end up with many more than 5 serious couples. Part of my quarrel with the online thing and with e-cyrano's trumpeting of it is that you supposedly have a group of suitable people who have all expressed interest in a relationship. From such a high-yield pool, the yield is abysmally low. In fact, it is not a high-yield pool. As Dr.Phil would say, this is not a target-rich environment.

Cearly, there are factors at work that make this online process a not-terribly-successful method.

What e-cyrano needs to have "success" be a meaningful word is a chart of all clients with length of time dating onlin, how many dates there were, how many second dates there were, etc. This would need to be followed over time and also compared with the same person's stats BEFORE they hired him. He touts five successes. He doesn't tell us how many failures he has -- I mean, how many clients
*still* awaiting success. Five hundred? A one percent success rate?

Anonymous said...

A lot of these arguments are made by people who lack common sense. This is sort of like the argument over who should hold a door open. I mean, holding doors and offering to pay for someone you ask out on a first date are basic POLITENESS. Yes, there are people who freak out over both, but you can't let the freaks stop you from being polite and normal with eveyrone else.

When I've met someone I really liked, none of those things were a big issue.

DbRhK said...

When I was single, I operated according to this principle:

If I invited a girl out with me, and she accepted, she was essentially my guest. Basic hospitality dictated that I should pay. If she expressed awkwardness when I reached for the check, I would mention this, and offer that she could always "host" the next date.

Seemed to work well enough. (Now my wife just makes me pay all the time, damn her black heart.)

Anonymous said...

I think part of the reason we're having all these problems is because internet dating is different from real dating. You've barely met a person when you have your first internet date. It's really sort of a pre-date to see if you even are attracted to each other and your conversation flows.

I blame the reliance on jdate and other failed internet dates on the fact that people have stopped introducing each other, and really making an effort. The last few parties I went to, people hung with their own groups and the host made no effort to say, "Hey, you're a runner; Bruce is a runner too." How hard is that? Also, if you meet a guy who seems great, but you're just not into him for some reason, think of your single friends who might fit well with him. Then even if you met him via e-dating, your friends won't have to. I've done this and people are always grateful for the 'meddling.'

If you're off the market, instead of nagging all your single friends and telling them bullshite about how it's easy to find someone, INTRODUCE THEM to single people you shoudl be looking for! Why is it that I have a lot of friends and not one knows someone who could date me?? They all work with people and meet new people. So are any of them single??

I can use more pairs of eyes than just my own, especially because I don't date at work. Someone told me that it's too risky and that you could lose friends, but that's crap. People are mature enough to realize that not everything works out - it sure doesn't on jdate.

It's selfish to deny friends introductions because they MIGHT get mad at you - isn't making their dreams come true worth the risk? The best relationships are the ones where people introduced each other. But no one does that anymore - they meet their dream person and then turn a blind eye to other potential singles out there, when they should be setting them up with friends. It ain't hard, and people will appreciate it.

Derek said...

The fact that this topic inspires so much debate I think is proof there is no one set of "proper social mores" on this issue. (This is like the fifth or sixth blog-debate I've seen on this, I had my own here, but also check out this, this , this and this.

Personally, on the first date I always offer to pay and will turn down a woman's initial offer to split it ... but if she wants to offer again, I'm not going to get into a fight about it and come off as controlling!

I'm not rich by any means but paying for one a date or two is not a big deal ... still, if she doesn't offer to pick up a round of drinks or pay for at least something small by the second date, that is a strike against her.

I will say I was on a first date with this (v. attractive) woman the other day, she ordered appetizers, but I had already eaten so didn't have any. So she insisted on picking up the entire bill, including two mojitos for me. Of course I am hoping I get a chance to buy her dinner for our second date, but we'll see.

Anonymous said...

OK GUYS, LISTEN UP... As a women on the dating scene, it's my firm belief that a man paying on a 1st date is the gentlemanly thing to do. Sure women deserve equal rights in the hard old work world, but just for once (on a special date) they want to spoiled a little. Women deserve to be treated like a jewel, with the the car door opened and a man who wouldn't even think of not treating. In my experience if a guy cheaps-out on my early in the relationship, he will go on the act more and more selfish, instead of being giving or loving. In the future of the relationship a man who values his lady (and will treat her with unselfish generosity) will be more than rewarded with hugs, backrubs, consideration and respect.