Who pays on the first date? Exploring the Age-Old Question

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When Densu Dixon, 26, went on his first date with a woman he met on Tinder, he assumed she would pay for her share of dinner and drinks that night. Instead, he found himself paying the $150 food and wine bill, including what she had consumed. He never saw her again after that.

For many (straight) singles today, the idea of ​​who should foot the bill on the first date is full of questions: Does she want to go Dutch? Is he a traditionalist who prefers to pay from the first dates? Why does who pays always have to do with sex?

When I posed this question to some of my friends and acquaintances, who are all straight and in their twenties, I received a range of responses.

One man told me he insisted on paying the first four dates in full, while two women said they were ok with splitting the bill, but were also ok with having men pay because of the existence of the gender pay gap. According to the Pew Research Center, women in 2020 earned 84% of what men earned due to factors such as choosing lower-paying jobs, maternity leave, and other forms of gender discrimination in place. of work.

Select explores the age-old question of who should pay for the first date, the meaning behind it, and how couples can better handle modern dating demands.

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To divide or not to divide?

Although women have made great strides in achieving gender equality in the labor market and in higher education in recent decades, a 2019 survey by online dating site Elite Singles polled 300,000 singles and found that 63% of men surveyed believed men should pay for the first date — 46% of women surveyed agreed to the same conclusion.

Similar trends hold even beyond the first date. In a 2008 survey, sociologists found that despite a majority of men (74%) and women (83%) saying they both contributed to dating expenses after being together for six months, 84% of men and 58% of women surveyed said men always end up paying more after the six-month mark.

“Before, there was a very clear script of what had to happen on a first date and then courtship. And as we move towards egalitarianism and more and more women in the workplace earn their own income, some of those things have started to change,” says David Frederick, an associate professor of psychology at Chapman University and one of the researchers behind the study.

In the past it was understood that men should expect to pay in full for the first date. However, according to Frederick, a new counter-norm has emerged: women are expected to at least offer to participate, whether by picking up their wallets or vocalizing a desire to pay.

For many, it may be unclear what should happen next. Should the man insist on paying or should he accept the offer? Frederick says people tend to fall back on existing gender norms, with men insisting on footing the bill. However, this is not true for everyone.

When Dixon goes on a first date, he says he usually covers it up, but if he’s dating a woman with a higher income, sometimes she will.

Frederick’s 2008 survey also found that 44% of men said they would stop dating a woman who never offers to pay for the expenses of a date. Some men tended to view women who did not contribute to a relationship as profiteers.

Suhani Mendpara, 24, a data analyst, told Select she always offers to split the bill on the first date, even though men usually don’t accept it. Mendpara is indifferent to sharing or her date being paid for, but says that if she particularly likes a guy, she appreciates that he foots the bill.

When Ellen Lamont, an associate professor of sociology at Appalachian State University and author of The Mating Game, surveyed more than 100 straight and LGBTQ+ singles in the San Francisco Bay Area, she found that straight women tend to attribute more meaning to men who were paying for the first date. In fact, a 2016 survey by Refinery29 showed that almost 60% of women said they felt appreciated when their date paid off.

“The women, they were really invested in that ritual, in the sense that they believe that if a man didn’t treat you on the first date, they actually weren’t very interested in you…” Lamont says. “From my interviews, more men talked about it in terms of ‘it’s just what’s expected of me’.”

But what about the old adage that men can expect to have sex in exchange for paying for a date? In the 2008 survey, researchers found this to be false: less than 20% of men surveyed thought women should engage in sexual activity if men footed the bill on the first date.

So what do same-sex couples do about the first-date bill? Since gender norms do not exist equally when both partners are of the same sex, Lamont found that the LGBTQ+ couples she surveyed were more likely to cost-share and were more focused on research. free dating activities.

What to do on a first date?

Dating expert Amy Nobile recommends that men in straight relationships kick up the tab on all dates before a couple becomes exclusive. In Nobile’s experience, her male and female clients tend to favor chivalry. Some people, however, may prefer a more equal approach to their relationship early on.

Olivia Smith, 22, a student, suggests couples could jointly plan the date with an emphasis on mutual affordability to remove gendered expectations about who should pay. By communicating about the types of activities and events that are affordable before the first date, singles can have conversations about how to split the bill up front and avoid implicit expectations of who should pay, says Smith.

Whenever it comes time to pay, people can switch to a payment app like Venmo if they choose to split the bill. And for the treater, a meal rewards credit card can help reduce the cost of the meal. A card like the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards credit card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® allows you to earn cash or points on your date, whether it’s for coffee, drinks or dinner.

Whether couples choose to split things equally or base their decision on gender norms or income, it’s important to be open about what you can and can’t afford and who you are. comfortable having someone else pay for it, especially if you don’t. want to be stuck with unexpected expenses.

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Information about the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards credit card was independently collected by Select and was not reviewed or provided by the card issuer prior to publication.

Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, criticisms or recommendations expressed in this article are those of Select’s editorial staff only and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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