Posted on 19 March 2019
In most cases, I’m all for old fashioned values, especially those related to being a gentleman. One I’m not so fond of, however, is that a man should always pay for a woman’s dinner. It’s really not that I don’t want to pay nor is it about being stingy, in fact, I often find joy in being able to give and care for others. My real issue comes to life when the decision is no longer mine.
An unfair expectation
When I was 13 years old I wanted a mountain bike. My mother said to me that it was too expensive and if I wanted something that price then I should get a job and pay for it myself. It took three months and a lot of washed dishes, but the then 13-year-old who spent his spare time is the dish pit of a kitchen got there. And when he finally did, he got more than just a new set of wheels–he got a lesson in life. Growing up I was always taught if you can’t afford something, you wait. You then work and save until you have enough to get what you need. So when I hear people brag about using someone for a free dinner it not only makes me a little angry, I tend to lose a little respect for the person being greedy. You don’t have to go far to see this kind of behaviour either, you’ll see it at most bars and clubs over a weekend. Ask any bartender the number of times they’ve been asked for freebies and I’m sure they’ll say they’ve lost count. From @OverheardLA to conversations in cafes, I’ve lost count myself.
While the majority of the time this kind of behaviour might be harmless, sometimes it encourages bad behaviour from both sexes. Some like to think they’re owed something in exchange for what they’ve shouted while some are happy to use others simply for their own benefit. When it comes to relationships specifically, it can often set expectations, too. For some, paying for the first date is a courtesy. For others, it’s a small sample of every date to come. One thing you might notice is that there’s a lot of people who brag about their independence yet stand on the backfoot when the bill arrives. If this happens and you’re expected to pay, it can show that your date might not appreciate the money you’ve earned or the time you spent earning it. Our time really does have a monetary value so I encourage you to think carefully before splurging–it might just be a taste of your future.
When you break it down you have to consider where the money paying for this meal actually came from. If you’re an electrician, that could have been a few hours you spent in a boiling hot ceiling wiring in new downlights. If you’re a soldier, maybe it was field pay from the 14 days you just spent in the middle of the bush without showering and little sleep. Regardless of how you earned it, it deserves to be appreciated.
If paying sets the standard, splitting vets the bandits
If paying on the first date sets the standard for every date to come, then chances are you’ve got a very expensive future ahead of you. And. relationships shouldn’t be one-sided. Reverting back to appreciation, as with most things in life, a lack of might highlight absence in other areas too. While it’s never nice to make assumptions, someone who doesn’t appreciate your money is likely to not appreciate your time and other efforts you make. If that’s the case, you might find yourself disappointed later on down the track.
Lastly, asking to split the bill on a first date could be quite interesting. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised and find out your date was working up the courage to ask you. You also might find yourself on the receiving end of some not so nice name-calling and met with a frown. Whichever it is, ultimately it’s going to help set boundaries and expectations for a future which either is or isn’t meant to be.
Cautious isn’t cheap
Being a little careful about paying for someone’s dinner, especially on new dates, doesn’t make you cheap. It just shows you’re cautious, which is a great quality to have. Modern dating is confusing and if you pay for every first date, who knows the number of times you’ll be paying for other’s meals before meeting someone you click with? There’s also a lot to be proud of in saving up to buy something, be it a car, real estate or any other worthwhile investment. When life (bills, unforeseen expenses and accidents) get in the way of doing so, the road can seem long and never-ending. However, when you finally get there you can be proud of what you have done, and you’ll have something to represent that–for my 13-year-old self, it was a new bike. Having the willpower go without until we have the means necessary is both a test of our patience and character. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, there’s a lot of things we can get by without–dinner and a little wine at a restaurant are no exception.
In my experience, some people are only independent until it comes to paying the bill. If you find yourself a little like that or you’re someone who regularly goes on dates purely for a free dinner or with the expectation of not paying, I ask that you have a think how you’d feel if the roles were reversed. Times are changing, dating and relationships are too. While we work towards establishing a new norm, asking to go halves might just be the best way to start.
Read more about indulgence in The key to self care is in the name.