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First-date conundrum: Who should pay? Add to ...

The Jungle is a column that uses social media to explore the fault lines in adult relationships.

The debate

When love and money meet, it’s going to get complicated. This is especially true now, while the dating scene shifts uncomfortably in response to changing sex and gender norms, which include new, less rigid dating economics. It all raises the question: in a male-female first-date situation, should the guy always pay?

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#pickupthetab

“Definitely on first dates: it’s the classy thing to do,” @wilddanimal tweeted. “It’s an incentive: a reason why this woman should even waste an hour or two on your ass.”

“He should at least offer,” @NatBat9 tweeted. “To me, the dude paying is a gesture that says he wants to 1) impress you and 2) take care of you.”

“There’s still room for chivalry in 2013,” @scottyhons tweeted.

#letsgodutch

“Guys shouldn’t pay on first dates, definitely split the bill,” @MarSquared tweeted. Otherwise, “it sets a bad precedent for the rest of the relationship.”

@johnsemley3000 tweeted that paying the bill should be up to “the asker. Or askette.” He added, “Dutch is annoying (and offensive to the Dutch!); it should ping-pong back and forth.”

Although @Afis8 thinks men should pay on a first date, she clarified, “I for one never go into a date expecting the guy to pay. … It’s a problem to expect a free pass. I’d rather be able to pay my own way with the odd treat than the other way around.”

Final word

I understand that women often expect men to pay for a first date, not because an outdated hetero-relationship model says so, but because of financial realities. Many women still tend to make substantially less than men, and spend more on social and dating-related expenses, like clothes, shoes, cosmetics, grooming and post-date taxis, which are safer than transit. It’s also true that women in their 20s and 30s have become used to men taking advantage of gender equality. (Last week on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, a clueless character named Garth said to Leslie, while asking her out despite her obvious lack of interest, “I realize you’re a modern woman, so I will let you pay.”)

That said, for me it’s not about the money itself, or who earns more. (A girl who can’t afford her own dinner should be at home updating her resume, anyway.) Men should pay on the first date, and I would feel the same way about a guy not paying for my $2 Popsicle as I would about a $200 dinner. It’s about the principle and the gesture, generosity not of cash but of charm and spirit, and it suggests that he understands that some women want gallantry as well as equality. It’s about the sense that even though I don’t need to be paid for, he wants to anyway.

Weigh in on the next Jungle debate. Follow Kate Carraway on Twitter: @KateCarraway

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