Thursday, November 08, 2007

Splitting the check

I recently went on a date where the guy split the check with me. I cannot even remember the last time that happened.

I always offer to pay, and I do mean it; I don't just do the perfunctory hand gesture in the vague direction of my purse. And men never, ever take me up. Even guys who wind up never asking me out again pick up the check.

In this case, it was sort of a relief. I'd had a perfectly fine time but I knew I didn't want to go out with him again. And the Crazypants Journalist left me with a "you owe me" flinch with all his vitriol. And so I was glad that when I opened my purse he didn't just grab the check and insist. We both plunked cards down and split it.

If I want to go out with the guy again, and he picks up the check on the first date, I have to admit that it's kind of a relief. Because you never know how people will be with money, and if it's awkward, well, it's awkward. I'll treat, or anyway try to, the next time. I don't want to split the bill every time. I'd so much rather go back and forth. It's nice to be treated, and it's nice to treat.

Even with friends, the ones I go out with a lot, we often do this. Not that we never split bills, but often enough one or the other will grab the check. You go out with the same friends enough times, it all evens out in the end. And as I said, it feels good to treat.

I used to work with a guy who always split the check on the first date. He'd pay for everything after that, he said. He was very generous and often insisted on paying for me when we grabbed drinks after work. He liked to treat people. But never on the first date. He was adamant about that.

And I have female friends who feel very strongly about not paying on the first date. The guy asked them out - he should pick up the check. They don't even offer.

I don't entirely know how to think about this, because I grew up in these very sexist places where men had all the power and men paid for everything. Then I went to college in the south, where men paid for everything. And my experience since then is that on dates men almost always pay. They'll let you treat them sometimes, but it's never really even.

I have to say, though, it was a clean way to end the evening. Splitting the bill is much less charming, but much more straightforward. Easy. Even. Done.


  1. As a guy I have always felt more comfortable treating on a first date because if I am choosing the venue I know what I am willing to spend and I don't want to make that same assumption for them. Being a foodie I often enjoy dates at really good restaurants and I don't want to freak a first date out by an unexpected triple digit dinner. Or worry about the potential date trying to talk themselves out of the dinner because they can't afford it. If I asked you to go, I can and am willing to pay, and hey even if it doesn't work out you hopefully got a good meal. Enjoyed hearing your perspective.

  2. Well, I always upay on the first date, but I still appreciate the "slow reach" for the purse so that I can say "don't be silly, I got it" and she can say "thanks."

    But I can see why someone would want to split the check. If the guy pays, then (like the weirdo newscaster guy) he may feel like you owe him something sexual.

    I figured away around that though. Now, I tell my dates that we'll split the check so that she doesn't feel pressured for sex, BUT if we do end up having sex at the end of the night, I will reimburse her for the meal. Everybody wins!!!

    Don't forget to turn in your receipts in the morning laydeez!

  3. Sean - That makes sense to me. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    HIN - Hahahahahaha!

  4. I know that as the guy I will pay for the first date. Though I do appreciate (and give "points" for) the the woman making the move for the purse. Though I will take it if the woman insists (particularily if I felt that the date was really awkward). Its the thought that counts.

  5. I'm with the guys here. I pay, but you earn points for offering.

  6. Things that you're socially allowed to "split", in no particular order.

    Hairs - for the disagreeable

    Wood - for the outdoor types

    Bananas - for the non-diabetics

    Legs - for cheerleaders, gymnasts and strippers


    Popsicles - for people who learned sharing is caring

    Or you can just "split" after a bad date with a disagreeable, non-diabetic, stripper who likes to camp.

    No real guy splits a check though.

  7. ah, the mythical "real guy." i'd love to actually meet one one day. and also see a unicorn, and big foot.

    to me, the eminently reasonable way to think about this in our (allegedly) gender-equal world is that whoever did the asking does the paying. but perhaps this is too simple and not fraught with power dynamic undertones for us all? :)

  8. kate.d. - real guys, you've seen them I'm sure. They're the guys who know how to throw spirals, pop clutches and think that Daniel Vosovic got robbed.

    What they do best is...not noodle how much your salad, salmon and 2 glasses of wine cost, then ask you to pony up some cash.

  9. When on a date, I always fish out my cash/card but, I admit, I'm hoping that the guy will want to be the one to pay. It's not about the money, it's indicative to me that he's somewhat old-fashioned - and I like old fashioned.

    If he doesn't let me chip in, I ask to leave the tip, or to go down the street and let me buy him a drink.

    I think that they guys who do the check splitting are either cheap or trying to weed out the dinner whores from the rest of the bunch.

  10. I went to lunch with someone who works in my (ginormous) building, in a completely different department.

    As I reached for my wallet at the end of the meal (which wasn't obviously a date), he asked if I was going to treat him. Not jokingly, either.

    I was actually going to, until he asked. I have not seen him again, needless to say. Ugh.

  11. Daniel - I offer but I don't insist. The more graceful the whole deal the better.

    HBMS - That's a lot of things you can split! AND in comment 2 you made me realize that I clearly eat a very standard chick dinner practically every time I go out. Sometimes it's tuna, though.

    kate.d. - That is totally reasonable, although (for me anyway) until you're actually dating, that means it's always going to be the guy paying.

    FK - Hmm. Probably right. This guy was most likely one or the other. Very money focused, which was part of what made him boring.

  12. LMNt - Oops - I almost missed you. And HI! I've missed you! That's a nice way to look at it.

    Dagny - Ick! Annoying! It's nice to treat but not when it's put on you. Why ask that? Do you think he actually was trying to joke but is just really awkward?

  13. this is ALWAYS weird for from the south... would be rude for me to try to pay... a independent woman in the city.. soo.. theres that...but generally IF he asks me out.. AND he picks the venue..i like for him to at least offer to pay...
    after that..if he comes to my neighborhood.. i usually offer to pay... but i like the back and forth WAY more than the splitting it..which seems kind weird to me..
    for no real reason... although now that i think about it..i like HIN's suggestion that i get a refund..if i put out..

  14. For first dates, I prefer the time-honored she reaches for her purse/I say "don't worry about it"/she says "are you sure?"/"yes"/"thanks!" approach. Yes, it is a charade, I suppose, but let's face it, this is a first date, and what to do with the check isn't the only charade-y thing about the evening. I do like the woman to at least offer to pay -- I've been on dates in which my date just sat there while the check came, and that definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

    I have a theory on why guys should pay on first dates, even past the "he asked and picked the place, so he pays" reasoning. As I see it, there are at least three reasons:

    1. All those studies that show that women only make 70 cents for every dollar that men make at comparable jobs. (Granted, these figures are averages -- so in the lawyer-filled world of DC, I'm not sure this makes much sense since most law firms plus the government follow these relatively rigid pay scales that don't usually vary.) Not that guys paying for first dates makes up for this injustice, but hey, at least it's something.

    2. I think guys and girls face different risks going into a first date (assuming here that they weren't set up by close friends or relatives or so on). For a guy, the worst that is likely to happen is that he finds her boring or is otherwise just not interested. For women, there are greater risks, however unlikely, over things like safety -- which is why women are advised to plan first dates in public places and so on. So the way I see it, a guy paying for the first date is compensating the woman for the greater risk she's taking by going out with him vs. the risk he's taking by going out with her.

    3. Finally, women spend more getting ready for the date, or on what I'll refer to as "upkeep" more generally. Women have all these expenses for pedicures and waxing and what not that guys don't have (for the most part). Their dry cleaning bills are higher. Plus they spend more on outfits that they will wear on first dates, gazillions of shoes, etc., whereas guys will just wear jeans, a striped shirt, and a blazer -- and we can get away wearing the same outfit on multiple first dates because, for the most part, we don't care. Again, the guy paying for the first date is a way to make up for this spending imbalance.

    (And yes, I'm a nerd for having thought this through to this extent.)

  15. I agree with this logic. I feel guilty when I don't want a second date and they insist on paying. But my girlfriends and I all treat (each other) every now and then. Same with bar bills. It's a good system, and as long you're good friends, you know it's always worth it and you will get your due in due time.

  16. So random that you just posted this today because my mom and I had this exact discussion tonight.
    You know, I always feel so awkward when the guy always pays. I am trying to get over it, but I just don't want them to think that I assume they are going to pay. However, I also feel like a lot of the guys I know get offended when I offer, kind of like a "how dare you ask" kind of response.

  17. Feminism really screwed us chicks. I'd like to let a guy pay but being all 'I'm an independent woman' I find myself always splitting or treating.

  18. S_B - Yah, the southern thing really does make it all a little more confusing.

    VVK - Yikes. I've had friends like that and it winds up just not being fun to do anything with them that involves going out and paying for anything.

    Dave - I LOVE your analysis. Earnings, risk, and upkeep. It makes a lot of sense to me!

    SD - It definitely eliminated any guilt, I have to say.

    AT - I don't get the acting offended part of it. I've experienced that as well, and that's awkward too.

    Kim - It's hard to know what to do!

  19. I think it all comes down to minimizing awkwardness. The most gracious way is the time-honored she reaches for the purse, he waves her off method. Everybody wins.

    Check-splitting kind of implies he's only halfway into the date. Like, if it gets serious, is he only going to remember half of my birthdays? Send six roses instead of a dozen?

    When a guy splits the check on an Internet blind date, fine. But nitpicky check-splitting is a dealbreaker - you had the salad, your entree was more expensive than mine, etc. Ugh.

  20. I never offer to pay or split it on the first date, unless I definitely want it to stay "friendly" and not be construed as something more. I typically date older guys, who are making more money than I am, but that's not the point. I'll end up treating them for drinks or dinner next time. Why bother to offer to split if I'm just going to be offended when he says ok?

  21. I always pay on the first date . . . but it's a deal-breaker if my date doesn't at least reach for her purse when the check comes. I won't ask that woman out again, no matter how much I enjoyed the date up until that point. And I also appreciate it if the woman offers to leave the tip. If I want to go out with her again, I usually insist on also paying the tip . . . but if I don't want to go out with her again, I'll let her pay the tip as a way of cutting my losses!

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  23. south carolina born and raised. i like frecks comment about liking old fashioned. I think I'm the same way.

    There are a couple of things I look for and they're not requirements as much as they are nice surprises (hence it doesn't happen a lot).

    1. they walk on the curb side of the street (this is completey a southern gentlemenly thing to do)

    2. they open doors. i know in the day and age that we all have electronic locks this isn't a big deal and yes damnit i CAN open the door myself but... it's nice and old fashioned and southern if a guy does it for me.

    these are free and easy. ain't nothing wrong with that.

    as for the paying... it's all about context. it is nice to be treated... but i also think it's nice to treat.

    and i totally get the "easy. even. done" :)

    fun post!

  24. Ok, I love DC Blogs for letting me find great posts like this. Anyhow, this post is so freaking timely, as all morning I have been rehashing a date I was on last night. It was date number three.

    Date number one- comedy show, drinks, late night dinner, I picked up the tab.

    Date number two- coffee, movie, sushi, drinks- all on me.

    This ended with making out at my place- so ok, not feeling used.

    Send flowers.

    Date three- dinner, still no reach for the purse, not really recalling a thank you thrown in there.

    What's the deal- is this a deal breaker? I'm totally into this person, but given everything else is there, the non-thanks/non-offer may have ruined threee otherwise awesome dates.

  25. Mandy - I love when guys do those things as well. As you said, not expected, but nice surprises.

    HtC - I don't know that it's a deal breaker but it would certainly make me think less of the person. Honestly, I think not even thanking you is just bad manners. I also think that by this point she should offer to pay for something, if not treat you altogether.

  26. I ate, I'll pay- especially on first dates.First of all, I despise this idea of "Me man, me have big money" and second, I don't want to keep track on how often who treated whom. Because I would.

  27. Oh, and i just forgot - If you want her to reach for her purse, just as a "symbol"- that equals wanting her to like the idea of feminism but not actually living by it's standard. I don't really want to offend anybody, but I have strong opinions on this particular issue.

  28. I need an opinion from someone who knows what they're talking about because I'm new to this whole feminist thing. I have always offered to split the check but I have never had a guy accept it until now. I have been seeing a guy I really like for a few weeks now and he lets me split the check. I'm almost tempted to say that he expects me to split it. I'm not sure why but this has really been bothering me. I guess because it seems like he doesn't think I'm worth him impressing me. Does that make me a bad feminist?

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  31. I offer to split on first date, and He ask me to cook for Him next time. Idiot, I do not cook for my self !!!!!!!

  32. Despite being a girl, or being asked, I always offer and really do think I should pay. That noted, what if I'm seeing someone long-term (a year) who makes 4 to 5 times what I make? I can't afford to eat out as often as he does or pay for the both of us half the time. Since I've spoken up he's been better about offering to treat more, but really makes a point to let me know when it's my turn. All this despite the fact that I always make it a point to get out my card and not just my purse. He also complains about tipping, but still tips decently, when he knows that's how I got though college and my first years teaching. What does all this really say about a person? He can be so generous in other ways, but this does get a little old.

  33. I'm a single parent, male, and have been divorced over 10 years. Women want equal pay, equal treatment, but when it comes time to pay for lunch or dinner, they want the man to pay. I've met over 200 women at online dating sites, not looking for anything other than a friend, but when you add up cost of paying for dinner for many who lie about thier situation, it adds up.. Only 5% or less of the women I've met have offered to pay for thier half of the meal, which truely surprised me. Of these over 200, there were only 4-5 that I met, who truely represented themselves that I would even be interested in dating. If you provide 5 year old pictures of yourself, lie about who you are, your age, your weight, and looking for a free lunch, I think you should pay for your own damn meal.. If you are online on a dating site and look at the cost of membership, as collatoral, compared to the free meals, I think you are a waste of time and give 5% of of real women out there a bad rap...

  34. Look, I wasn't talking about not never or even rarely wanting to pay, especially if it is someone I just met or only dated briefly. I've been dating this guy a year and literally earn a fifth and just can't keep up. We also didn't meet him online and so I am clearly who I present myself to be and I don't think I'm a minority of 5%. You sound very bitter. Sure, women want = pay, but do they get it. No, even despite the fact that we are now statistically more educated than men. I could be bitter too. As a young female, it feels like men under 35 want women to be a man and a woman in that they will just take take and take and take. I'm not sure who you are dating, but perhaps you should meet them in real time and not online. Statistics also show that marriage is now financially better for men. 200 women would add up. Sheesh. I really look at myself and think hard when a problem keeps happening TO me. Maybe I am the problem at that point. Do you have any faults? Probably not since problematic women just keep happening to you. Being a single parent is hard, huh? My mom did it with 3 kids and no child support. She also got 3 degrees and didn't need to bitch about 200 men she met online b/c she didn't have time for that.

  35. all very amusing... how many women actually wip out the cash when that check arrives; i bet none of u!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i'm a blue collar worker, walk on the curb and all that gentlemanly bs,my mom taught me,but here is something 4 the girls 2 think about.

    due 2 govt. quotas, etc. there r women doing men's work that they really can not physically do. they managed 2 "pass" hiring tests, yet on the job all bosses know if they want it done, a guy gets it. so, i think in this day and age, all the genuinely classy women will beat the guy 2 the bill. by the way, i never asked a chic 2 pay, never had 1 pay... and yes, always carried them on the job. :)

  36. I did online dating for a while and every guy but one insisted on picking up the check. Then he wanted to get romantic and I told him it just wasn't happening for me. We decided to just be friends. We do things together and he always jumps right in and tells the waitperson that our checks are separate. Turns out that although he has his good points, he is the cheapest person I have ever known. He's got a great job and always tell me he lives way below his means. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if he had picked up that first check, then remind myself that I'm lucky he didn't. It was off-putting enough to make me say no to romance.
    Don't get the wrong idea...I make enough to pay for myself. However, I
    don't want my date to be obsessed with money. The guy I'm dating now has a good job, makes less than the first guy and I'm very happy with him.

  37. To the male single parent who has been divorced over 10 years, your attitude is a huge turn off. It is likely they have portrayed an image as they see themselves, and are just as discontent that you are judgemental, bitter and just plain unpleasant to be around. Do you truly believe over 200 women are the reason for your miserable social life?

  38. I re-entered the dating scene in my 50's after divorce. Having grown up in the time period I did, I watched my parents' generation treat each other one way -- even my older brother's -- and watched a changing social world treating each other more in a way I'd describe as "tit for tat."

    Choosing to use online dating, I addressed the issue in my ad. "I'm not a gold-digger, but I'm looking for someone who wants to treat me special. I want to be courted. We're talking coffee here!" (The rest of my ad was quite humorous, so in context is probably sounded better than it does above). It's not about breaking anyone's bankroll. And I was not going to "play a game" of fishing for my wallet. If we ended up at dinner, it was still about courting -- not money. I met the man I am with now this way, and I can guarantee you that he does not feel used. Yes, he does pick up the check in restaurants almost always. But who surprised him with the automatic starter in his car when I borrowed it for the afternoon just as the cold winter was starting? Who surprised him with tickets to the Carole King/James Taylor concert (not cheap!)? (This list would be endless if I went on -- and yes, he has a list, too. We both feel pretty special.)

    Just because we are in the world of online dating does not mean that dates are insignificant. You are still seeking that special person, and that first impression means the world. If he had not treated me so special that first date, he would not be feeling so very special one year later.

  39. When I posted my previous comment as a single male parent, I'm not bitter, just sharing facts that I've experienced while meeting single women in todays dating scene. The women I've met were compatible, educated, and most had good jobs or careers. What I've found is women like to meet over lunch or dinner, and as I look back at my dating experiences, I find it rather interesting that I've only seen about 5% offer to pay for thier meal on an initial meeting or date. To those of you few who offer, thanks. The the few who actually pay, thank you. Years ago many women didn't work outside the house, so they many didn't have extra money to pay to eat out. Maybe they would just invite you over for a home cooked meal, imagine that. In todays world, marketing has influenced men and women to buy more stuff, bigger house, and new car. Both men and women are busier than ever, working, trying to juggle it all on our plates, possibly looking for a companion along the way. I always paid for the meal in my younger days, because I made more money or had more money than most women I dated. At the present time, I have the money to pay for all the meals, but find it amusing when the check arrives, 95% of women make no attempt to pay for thier meal. I pay for the meal and don't say anything, but in the back of my mind, I sure do miss the good old days and home cooked meals...

  40. Wow...this was 3 years ago but I had to respond to this. My grandmother raised me (I call her mom) and she is from (British) Guyana (which is in South American but considered part of the Carribean ESPECIALLY in ethics,lol). I was taught to never go to someone's house for the first time with out bringing a gift or paying for something (this OFTEN conflicts with Southern protocol).
    OK SO HERE WE GO...I was raised in a matriarch household and was told to never depend on anyone let alone a man for anything. I don't date (long story but this is a factor as to why) but I feel that if I don't at least pay my part (or tip) that makes me look weak as a woman (yeah that's jacked up huh?). I will obsess, agonize and go bonkers over this. I honestly feel pathetic "needing" a man to pay for my food. See why I don't date,lol! Do all men expect sex for food? WTF is that about? ALSO HomeImprovementNinja....if you have sex with her and "reimburse" her for her meal...doesn't that mean you are paying her for sex (or bartering sex for food?). Is she a prostitute in YOUR eyes. Seems weird dude! Can some "decent" man tell me that its not that deep and explain your perspective. Thank You!

  41. I dont know. I have always felt who ever does the asking and/or picks the restaurant is asking to treat the other. If I ask someone to go to something and expect them to pay for their own, I usually say something like " tickets are $$" or words to that effect.

    I have offered to pay when I picked where. I really ticked one guy off for being first with the debit card. If someone says they will take me dinner/drink.. at someplace then I guess I am wrong to expect them to pay?

    I wouldn't get intimate on a first (or most likely even third) date anyway. So maybe I should insist on always paying? Im beginning to wonder if I'm too old for this game.

  42. I do appreciate when a guy pick up the check on the first date, even though I always offer to split the bill. Sometimes we will go somewhere else for coffee/dessert after the main meal and I will insist on paying if he picked up the check for dinner. A friend told me to never go on a second date if the guy does not pick up on the first date. I did not take the advise, but after having been on a couple of dates where guys making about double of what I was making was so concerned that the bill was split to the penny I took her advise. One guy I went out with had a finance degree and an accounting degree plus he had his CPA. He worked as a consultant because it paid better. His explanation for still being single at 41 was that he had been busy accumulating wealth. He was about 25 min late for lunch. 7-8 min after we were suppose to meet I called him and he told me he would be there in about 5-10 min or so. He walks in looking older, heavier and less hair than his online dating picture (which I learn was taken 4-5 years ago) I being a finance major myself and having taken several accounting classes toward my accounting degree, we had very interesting conversations. He suggest we had shrimps to start out with (he eats about 70% and his table manners was not the best) He had several ice tea and I was drinking water as I often do since I am not much for alcohol or soft drinks. He ordered the fish special which was the most expensive on the menu ($25.) and I order a $10 entree. When the bill arrives, I offered to pay him cash for my lunch and he could just charge the whole thing since he did not have cash. He suggest that we split it 50/50 on our credit cards. I did not want to say anything even though I could not believe he was so cheap. When the waiter brought back our credit card slips he ask me if I am leaving $x in tips. I told him that I was planning on leaving a little more than that. He asks me how much. I told him and he left the same amount. If that was how he was accumulating wealth - making his dates pay for half his food and trying to be cheap about the tips after having ordered the most expensive on the menu, he can stay single for a long time. He told me that he really had a great time and would love to meet over lunch some other weekend. Needless to say I had no planes on going out again. This is 1 of 3 "interesting" experiences I have had. I drove straight home and deleted his profile - "not a good match" Thanks everybody for sharing your experiences and opinions, I really enjoyed reading them.

  43. As a single female senior, I was cautious about my best male friend picking up the tab. We were on low pensions. There were a few times when we had to talk about this until we understood that, essentially, we were both a little old fashioned about our roles. He is a total gentleman and our relationship has become more intimate than "friends." So now he pays and when the second half of the month rolls around, I give him the money in private so he can pay and it all comes out fairly. This works for us. Obviously, attitude and relationship have everything to do with it.


  44. Decent man's response to woman with grandmother from Guyana. I was raised old school, you work for and pay for what you want or get in life. I have several sisters, raised by the same parents, and the ones around my age live by this philosophy. Our youngest sister, who is the most educated, still requires money from our parents to support her in her mid 30's. I only mention this because I do have a good relationship with my sisters, have been married, and lived with 4 other women so far in life. Anyways, its not that deep and I believe most men don't expect sex for dinner. In a relationship, I have no problem with paying for the meal, as I'm sure my girlfriend does nice things for me. That is the balance, if a woman doesn't do her part to achieve the balance in a relationship, and expects the man to pay for everything, I would view her as lazy or weak in the relationship. Im my opinion a prostitite is a woman who charges men for sexual favors and uses that money to pay her bills, because she is lazy and doesn't want to work a real job, not a woman looking for a free ride or meal.


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