Today is Friday and this evening is the start of the weekend. Tonight all across the land (and the world I suppose) hundreds of thousands of dates will transpire. Many of these interactions will take place in restaurants, and the question that still always needs to be answered is who pays for dinner?
A recent article in The New York Post focused on a phenomenon known as “dinner whores.” While it seems a bit sensational, the women quoted in the article indicated that they would do what needed to be done (that is to seduce a man into believing he had a chance with them) in order to be taken to the finest restaurants. After the caviar, champagne, and every other extravagance, the women would let it be known that they had enjoyed themselves but that there was no quid pro quo; quite simply, their dates weren’t getting anything more than a kiss, and perhaps not even that.
This information provoked a rather rigorous debate among some people with whom I had a fairly civilized discussion. It really came down along the lines of gender: the women clearly stated that a man had to pay and that didn’t mean he was entitled to anything; the men felt that in these modern times that a woman should at least share in the cost of the meal, particularly if she has no romantic intentions toward her date.
I thought about this a great deal and, since I am looking at it from a male perspective, I didn’t want to discount the female side of the story. After all, traditionally speaking it has always been the case that the man pays for the date. Where does this originate? I imagine it goes all the way back to the caveman who knocked on another cave door to pick up his date. Good old “Ugh” probably brought along his best club, escorted the female to the finest rock in the jungle, and proceeded to bash in the brains of some beast. After the lavish meal, “Ugh” might have expected at least a little kiss, but “Ohno” protested this as a violation and requested to be returned home immediately. This is probably what led to the popular notion of the caveman clubbing the woman over the head and dragging her back to his lair.
In my teenage years, I always faced the daunting task of asking a girl out head on. I tried to get rid of my nervousness, pop a Tic-tac in my mouth, and just run up to her and ask awkwardly, “Would you like to go out this weekend?” Sometimes it worked; other times it did not. Still, once the question had been posed and the positive answer received, then my next daunting task was choosing what to do. In the ’70s there were usually options that ranged from dinner and a movie to ‘lets go to a bar and get sloshed.’ Since most dates didn’t like the second choice, I usually relied on the first one. When the check came after dinner, there was no question that I would pay for it, as well as the movie tickets afterwards. I mean that was the way it had always been and always would be, right?
In these modern times we are faced with a much more difficult equation. Many women today are independent, work at similar or better jobs than men, and have their own cars. One good friend of mine was dating a woman who was a lawyer (they met through an online dating service). He knew she made a good deal more than he did, and after a while it bothered him. He said, “We’ve gone on six dates and never once has she even asked to help with the check.” This annoyed him almost as much as the fact that she would only give him “a peck on the cheek” outside her apartment door at the end of the date.
I had a few questions for her that he would never ask: Why, if she didn’t like him, did she keep going out with him? Why, if she had no intention of being romantic, did she not indicate it sooner? My friend soon ended the relationship, but if I had been in that situation I would have said, “I like you very much in a romantic way. Do you feel the same way?” Maybe this is an awkward question, but why keep getting upset over the unsaid? I might also come out and say something like, “If you want to go out and just be friends that’s fine with me,
but then I think we should split the bill.”
Okay, now I know that doesn’t seem chivalrous in any way, but this is 2006. Maybe some new kinds of guidelines need to be put in place to help both males and females. If the female “dinner whore” does exist, she surely has a counterpart in the male “dinner pimp,” who no doubt believes that he is paying for more than dinner on a date. I have heard many men over the years say something like this: “Hey, if I’m paying, I’m gonna get me some.” Obviously both of these things are extremes and abhorrent, so those in between probably suffer even more.
How about setting one indisputable rule to help straighten out this situation? Whoever asks the person out pays for the date. Now, I don’t know about where you live, but here in New York City there are women who will make the first move. No doubt tired of waiting for the man to realize he likes her or get up the nerve to ask her out, the girl will ask a man to go out. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this in my mind, and it facilitates establishment of a new rule for the dating game: if the woman asks the man to go out then she should pay; if the man asks the woman for a date, then he should pay . If this rule were established, it would make things a good deal easier for all concerned.
Dating is an exciting time in people’s lives and should not be made cumbersome by the minutiae of who pays what. We like to believe in love at first sight, and that’s a nice romantic thing, but in truth it will always eventually come down to the dollars and cents equation. This is not romantic or pleasant, but it is a reality.
The antiquated system of the man paying for the date should have been dispensed with a long time ago. What I propose is an equitable way for both male and female to go out and not feel pressure. The man will no longer think he is oppressed by the cost of dating; the woman will no longer feel any pressure to return the favor of a paid meal. To me this is really a win-win situation for all, and in the end it just might make it easier for those who want to fall in love to do so without anything else getting in the way.