I’m not quiet about workplace inequality, don’t believe women should be defined by whether they choose to get married or have children, and firmly believe we’d all be better off if more women held leadership roles in corporations and government.
However, I still want a man to pay for me on a first date.
I’m not alone. About 77 percent of people in heterosexual relationships believe men should foot the bill on a first date.
And though women, including myself, often make a gesture toward paying our share, 39 percent of females admitted that they hoped men would reject their offers to help pay on a first date. For their part, more than 75 percent of men say they would feel guilty accepting a woman’s help in paying, according to a study led by Janet Lever, a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles.
Society has shaped these expectations
I’ve seen these roles shift over the years. A man born in 1960 was more likely to expect to foot the entire bill than the millennial males I more frequently date. Those same young people now say that the person who asks for the date is the one who should pay for it, regardless of gender. This signal of a move toward equality is tempered however, by the fact that the overwhelming majority of askers are still male.
Back when women didn’t work, obviously men were paying for dinner. That discrimination, which has kept females in the home and out of the office for centuries, has taken — and continues to take — money away from women. We are still not getting equal pay and, at the current rate, probably will not get equal pay for another 70 years. A little retaliatory discrimination in the form of expecting men to pay for dinner feels somewhat justified.
For men who might get upset by that, think of paying for a first date as one of the very few costs you have to bear in a world where you earn more for doing the same work.
Paying as a gesture of control
When someone treats the other person, they usually also get to control other aspects of the date, including when and where it’s to occur. For many, it’s hard to detach that from the element of expectation.
While most men would never take this beyond the point of hopeful expectation, there is a scary extreme worth mentioning. In a study, a majority of men said that both women and men should expect sex when the man pays for an expensive meal, rather than splitting it.
Knowing that, if I’m on a date that’s going poorly, offering to split feels like an out. It asserts my independence and lets me limit expectations.
Sometimes control is a good thing
But on the right date, a guy who takes control can be a turn-on.
When the bill comes, the dance of who pays is as primal as it gets. A man grabbing the check is one way he asserts his masculinity. No matter how far we come in our careers, our biological makeup will not change (at least not in our lifetime) — most women I know say that they will almost always, on an animalistic level, be attracted to a man who she feels will protect and take care of her. And the role of who pays on a first date is merely an extension of that.
Like many women, I claim my equality by offering to pay half, but a man’s decision to accept my offer admittedly shapes how I perceive him, and this is regardless of whether sex later occurs.
No, I do not expect a man to pay for every date going forward, nor do I think a man should support me financially. My independence is extremely important to me, and maintaining a separate bank account and paying for things is one of the ways that I assert that independence.
But on the first date, a man who takes it upon himself to show that, “Hey, I really like you and would like to treat you this time,” shows that he knows what he wants while still being respectful of your boundaries. And in an era where an overwhelming number of men are, perhaps, too chill about their desires (unless it’s their desire for sex), it is refreshing to date a person who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to show it.
The bottom line: If I am comfortable, I like you, and I trust you, letting you pay the bill is the first sign that I’m willing to explore that. Call me what you will, but in a world where I only succeed by going after what I want, sometimes it’s nice to have someone go after me.