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Check, Please

To go Dutch or not to? That's always the question, isn't it? The 4-way discusses picking up the tab on dates and other dating "rules."

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Dear 4-Way,

I’m a single woman in my late thirties, which means I’ve been dating for about twenty years. Over the past few years or so, I’ve noticed that when men ask me out, they expect me to pay for half of the date. I’m all for offering to chip in on later dates, but I’ve kind of always gone by the rule that for a first date, the asker does the paying. Am I being ridiculously old-fashioned? Does it mean something if they ask me if I want to split the bill with them—perhaps they’ve already decided I’m not worthy of a second date? If I ask a man to have drinks or dinner with me, I expect and intend to pay, though about 75 percent of the time, he won’t let me and he ends up paying. I have girlfriends who are more rigid about this than me; they never offer to pay. Who’s right? —DR, Austin, Texas

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy

Twenty years of marriage and you get china. Twenty years of dating and you can’t even get Chinese food without paying your half of the bill. Dim sum tough facts, DR. You’re correct and I agree, the asker should pay for the whole meal and the askee should offer. If the guy wants to go Dutch without telling you so beforehand, tell him to go on a long walk in wooden clogs.

It reflects well on you that you offer to pay and you deserve a guy who appreciates this. By comparison your friends who NEVER even OFFER to pay, well, they should get used to being single with rules like that. If a guy can’t afford to pay for a whole dinner, then he shouldn’t ask you to dinner. There are less expensive dating options: drinks, coffee, a hike. It requires a little more thought, but these options are just as viable as a dinner date. After all, food is the way to a man’s heart, not a woman’s, right?

So, DR, you deserve a guy who asks you to dinner and holds up his end of the deal and pays. When he does, I suggest you buy him an after-dinner drink if the date continues. This isn’t necessary but I think it’s endearing, fair, and respectful. In the future, if a guy asks you out to dinner but asks you to pay half, then YOU can consider him unworthy for a second date.

Fortune cookie say: if guy ask you to foot the bill, you know where to put other foot.

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer

Picture this, two lesbian women are out on a date. Who pays? Or worse, is it a date, or is it just a friend thing? Talk about confusing! Be glad that this is an issue you don’t have to deal with. And yet I find myself offering you the same advice that I would to anyone, regardless of her/his sexual identity. Who is right? Everyone and no one. Just because you have a rule about the first date and who does the paying doesn’t mean that it’s a universal rule, or even a golden one.

You have your standards and that’s fine, but he may have a different approach. So I wouldn’t let my self-worth get caught up in who pays. Would you only pay for the guy if you find that you like him? I hope not. I suppose tradition lends itself to the man paying, but most folks I know only see that world when watching classic movies. Honey, this ain’t Casablanca. And unless you are sitting across the table from Humphrey Bogart’s ghost, let your traditional ideas of who pays be “gone with the wind.”

And by the way, next time I am in Austin, I would love to take you out for lunch. No, it wouldn’t be a date. And as for who pays, this one is on me.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox

Girl, you’re 122 percent right about everything you’re saying. If he asks, he pays! If you ask, you should pay (or at least offer to anyway). Chivalry is not dead! A true gentleman would not let you pay for dinner on your first date unless he forgot his wallet. Then he better prove it. Think about the date like it’s a birthday party. If you get someone excited about taking her out to dinner for her birthday, would you ever expect her to pay for her own meal? It’s the same way with a date!

Concerning your question about whether or not it “means something” if he asks you to split the bill on the first date, hell yes it means something. It means he clearly misplaced the manners his mamma gave him and you better count your lucky stars you’re finding this out before you get too involved with his cheap ass. But if this does happen again, go ahead and pay for your half. Then head for the door smiling at the fact that you won’t end up marrying the bastard.

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown

I wish I smoked right now. Because I’d take a nice long drag on an unfiltered Marlboro, maybe take a couple of shots of Wild Turkey, and then in my best gravely, veteran-dater voice say, “Oh, honey, don’t I know it!” I struggle with this question all the time. I feel like I’m the least equipped of the four of us to give you sound advice since it sounds like we’re in the same dating space, but here goes. I agree with you, the asker should pay, regardless of whether the asker is male or female. But for whatever reason, I don’t do much asking, so to be fair, I try to suggest something that’s checking account-friendly for everyone when making plans.

But I have a horrible confession to make, one that I’m sure will mortify my other 4-Way compadres as well as any woman who considers herself a feminist and modern woman. I secretly hope that they’ll pay on a first date. (What’s that rumbling noise? The women … are … coming for me! And the men too!) I absolutely believe that women should have all the same opportunities as men, and this—for better or worse—includes paying for dates. But not a first date. Sorry. I’ll probably get angry email for saying this, but there it is.

I really appreciate the gesture of someone who wants to treat me to something that he thinks we’ll enjoy doing together. There’s no rule that says people have to drop a ton of cash on dates. I eat just fine on my own; I don’t need an expensive dinner. What I would love is to enjoy something interesting and fun that exists outside the “let’s have dinner” box with this new person who’s got my heart racing. It doesn’t have to cost a lot—we could have a picnic, go to an art gallery, or even get some cheap bleacher seats for a baseball game (truly one of the best places to get to know someone).

I also don’t think it means there’s no interest if he or she asks you to split it. Asking someone to pay is essentially them putting their beliefs on the table—“I don’t think I need to pay for all of this”—and unfortunately for that person, you don’t agree with that particular belief and probably won’t be in a big hurry to go out again.  My advice to you—and to all of us who are confused about the payment issue out there—is to get a little more involved in the planning. Suggest something fun and affordable so if you end up paying, you’ll have a good time no matter what and won’t feel miffed for spending $50 on some overcooked lamb and a dud of a date.

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