Boy meets girl, boy asks girl out, boy pays. It’s a well known narrative.
However, this narrative that was once seen as chivalrous and gentlemanly is now seen as patronising and out of date. Today, gender norms and traditional dynamics, such as the idea that the man should pay, are facing constant challenges.
To suggest that the man should always pay is also alienating. What if there are two men on the date? Or two women? Or two people who don’t identify as either gender? The rules we are taught to play by stop becoming applicable when the norms change.
In a world where women are slowly cracking the glass ceiling, to suggest that the man has to pay also implies that he is the higher earner of the two. But sadly, to an extent, this is accurate.
The pay gap between the genders remains staggering. Women still earn a significantly lower amount than men over the course of their careers, often for the same job. The Fawcett Society say that the current gap for full time workers is 13.9 per cent. The cultural presumption that women earn less than men or ought to, can be fuelled by small things. Like who pays on the first date.
So, here’s how to decide who pays without patronising or being patronised.
Let’s be honest, first dates aren’t particularly enjoyable. They make the little “overthinking” part of your brain go into overdrive. You worry about your outfit, your breath and constantly fear there is something in your teeth. Do you eat? Do you just get a drink?
What if you really like them and they don’t like you? Or vice versa? What if there is no conversation? What if it goes well, then when the bill comes he says “I’ll get this, wouldn’t want the lady to pay” and you suddenly feel like you’re in the 1950s?
Take the pressure of yourself to be flawless, you are just two people hanging out! Try to treat the bill the same way you would if you were with a friend. Being relaxed is integral here as you can only decide who pays by talking about it. This avoids an awkward atmosphere, which may in turn ruin the date.
If they strongly insist on paying, be wary.
Try to decipher why they are so keen to pay. Are they innocently trying to sweep you off your feet and be polite? Or have their old fashioned or sexist opinions been trickling through into your conversation during the whole date?
But, if the date has gone well otherwise and you feel comfortable, let them pay. Then perhaps suggest you go to a different place for a drink afterwards, and that you’ll pay for that. Or, offer to pay for the next date. This also lets them know that you had a good time, and you want to hang out again.
But, if the conversation wasn’t flowing or you just didn’t find that cat video they kept talking about funny, a second date probably isn’t on the cards. This is when splitting the bill is the way to go. You pay your share, they pay theirs and you go your separate ways.
Ultimately, be chilled about it.
You are equals in this situation and should treat it as such. Chat about it and use the bill to your advantage, let them know if you are enjoying yourself or not by using the bill tactically.
First dates, though awkward, could lead to something great. So, relax and enjoy!