Back in the day, I went out with this guy who refused to take me to dinner on our first date.

We’d met at a bar a few weeks before, late-night chatted on the phone a couple of times and then finally he’d asked me to meet him at a Smithsonian after work. Apparently there was going to be a nearly sold-out lecture on volcanoes in outerspace that he just couldn’t miss. My “good story to tell the girls later” button flashed bright red.

After said lecture, which was as wildly inappropriate for a first date as one would imagine, we walked through DC’s version of Times Square in pursuit of what I assumed would be food. Because, hello, date. It was dinnertime, past 8 o’clock, and my stomach roared angrily as we passed one cheesy tourist trap after another.

“Oh, tapas! I love tapas!” I shouted cheerily as we strolled by an al fresco pan-Latino joint. He grunted and kept it moving.

Over the next five blocks, we lapped watering hole after watering hole on the long walk back to the metro and all the while I didn’t get why he kept shooting down every single one of my suggestions. What is this guy? An asshole or something? 


How I usually dress for dates. 

Once we finally got to the train station — me hot, tired, and starving, him not — I just blurted out, “What is your problem?”

“What do you mean?” he asked so sweet and innocent I almost forgot how damn hungry I was.

“Um, I’m friggin’ starving. I don’t know what you’re trying to do right now. But I’m going to go get something to eat.” Clearly I hadn’t forgotten entirely.

“Yeah, well, I have some chicken breasts and frozen vegetables at the house,” he answered meekly. “You’re welcome to that.”

What? I was so taken aback that I laughed, which in retrospect was a real jerk move. But come on, I hardly knew this dude. There was no way this Olivia Benson groupie was going back to his killer kitchen where unsuspecting first dates got deep-fried and I told him as much.

No, no, no, he explained. He’d been on a budget — a tight one — and taking dames to dinner just didn’t compute.

I was shocked and, more importantly, touched by his honesty. So much so that we continued to date despite me not being that kind of girl. The kind that doesn’t demand some good ole fashioned courting from the giddy up. I expect doors to be opened, men to walk on the “outside” down the sidewalk, and dinners (at least the first few) to be paid for.

I know I know. This is so heteronormative. So detrimental to the fights against binary gender roles. So completely archaic and outdated. But so what?

According to a new study “Who Pays for Dates? Following versus Challenging Conventional Gender Norms” most people still hold some conventional views about who should foot the bill.

“Men (84 percent) and women (58 percent) reported that men pay for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over half (57 percent) of women claim they offer to help pay, but many women (39 percent) confessed they hope men would reject their offers to pay, and 44 percent of women were bothered when men expected women to help pay. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men believed that women should contribute to dating expenses, and many feel strongly about that: Nearly half of men (44 percent) said they would stop dating a woman who never pays. A large majority of men (76 percent), however, reported feeling guilty accepting women’s money.”

What’s most interesting here is how conflicted and confused and utterly contrary everyone seems to be. Women will “offer” to pay but secretly hope that offer will be rejected. Men say they’d stop dating a woman who never paid (so would I) but then confess to feeling guilty about accepting a girl’s debit card. It’s a rhythmless two-step we all seem to be doing with no dance teachers in sight.

For me, it’s about combating the “no date” dating culture that’s cropped up around hooking up and not taking names. Don’t get me wrong, if all you want is a Midori Sour and ride on the skin bus, then go ahead and treat yo’ self. But I’ve found during my unintentional field research on the subject that a good litmus test of whether or not something is a thing is if someone’s willing to plunk down the first of five easy payments. That sounded gross, but I’m being for real.

Usually if I pay for dinner, especially if it’s the very first dinner out with a potentially romantic partner, it’s because I want to leave as soon as possible. Not that I can’t leave if someone else pays, but if I’m paying then I’m the one flagging down the waiter and twisting around in my seat for my coat. Bad sign.

But when someone else is paying then I’m surrendering my time in a way that says, “What’s next.” All that logic, of course, is Helena specific and has been thrown out the window more than once.

Case in point: The Volcanoes Guy. I should have known it wouldn’t work out. Not because he didn’t have the scratch for a proper first date (whether it be dinner or a damn ice cream cone) but because in the end it said something more about how he valued me and my time.

Another week or more went by before we actually sat down for a meal that he paid for. This only after he explained — in detail — about how he never takes women to dinner at the onset because he didn’t want to waste his time and money on someone he was just iffy about, which, of course, made sense but in the douchiest way possible. That same brand of bravado-slash-stinginess bleed out onto the rest of our interaction until there was nothing but red correction marks over the whole thing.

So yeah, I was never in it for the free meal, but I was interested in being treated like I deserved it. Why you might ask? Why do you deserve anything? Because I said so. And if I don’t say so then who will?

Maybe if I’d been the one doing the pursuing I would’ve taken him out for dinner, but that’s not how this particular chase went down. Perhaps therein lies the line? Whoever does the picking up should also pick up the check? I’m not sure there can be any overarching rules besides the ones we make for ourselves, but I am sure that once you’ve made them, you should stick to them.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Helena on XOJane!

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  • Lisa Jones

    women should never pay for dates – any guy that expects you to basically is thrilled he’s getting away with screwing you over and disrespecting you. there are millions of scummy guys out there—trashy scum. let me explain my last few ‘dates’ excursions with LOSER males. I met a guy at a festival..through the internet…immediately that night he began saying that he wanted to take me home and cuddle with me–and really asked me to do this…huh? wtf is this idiot talking about…seriously. I said we barely knew each other and let’s wait on that–he tried it again the next day and the next. he INVITED me to an event…then INVITED me to get dinner with him. We stood in line…when it was his turn to order he ordered just for himself lol..what?? really..then i said..well i wanted to get this, and he said ok…then he said do you want a beer? i finally said ok…he paid about 12.00 for my meal and 18 for his. He spent 30.00 and later HARPED on how he made 80.00 that night and spent 30.00 on food…he was FURIOUS. now this cheapskate..works DAILY 7 days a week. He sells things maybe 2-3 days of the week too and has a store online. and does other work.

    I think in total he probably makes over 1000 a week or more, pays NO RENT yet claims hes broke lol…he says he has BILLS to pay…when i first met him he texted me saying taht he made 400.00 that night and his vendor setup was 100.00 and the rest was just profit for his RENT…lol, later he said he had no rent no bills and works 9 hours a week for the people he lives near. My thoughts were…where does all your money go? what? obviously he’s a lying SOB….many of these twisted evil cheap males..HAVE MONEY and are trying to get LAID WITHOUT HAVING TO SPEND A DIME ON A FEMALE…that’s their fuking CONQUEST….they enjoy USING WOMEN because they are raving sociopaths. this horrible human being is nice to others and they dont see that he’s most likely a SP loser jerk creep. so he was CRINGING at spending 12.00 on me yet daily asking me to “CUDDLE” and that he can come home with me…and spend the NIGHT with me and leave at 7 am..wow really…thanks so much! he also claimed he was SO LONELY and it was healing for him over and over again…it was the creepiest thing ive ever heard anyone say…that same night he was FURIOUS later pressuring me to stay the night with him and getting mad because he wanted a hug…he rudely set my items down on the floor that i BOUGHT from him…now also ive spent 25.00 PURCHASING ITEMS from his store and him…and yet he cant get me 12.00 worth of food?? he even said “i shouldnt be charging you”..no really?? hes HORRIBLE…this is what htey want…they want SEX AND TO BE ABLE TO PAY NOTHING AND USE AND DISRESPECT A FEMALE BECAUSE IN THEIR MINDS ITS A FUN SICK GAME….ive known MILLIONAIRES who do this…men with MONEY will do it…sickos…this guy also lied to me about several things etc..i knew he was trash within the first 10 mins of talking to him….

    another guy..brags about having money…has taken me out on ONE date in the course of months..seen me 3 times…comes over brings beer and is hoping to get laid…really?? its about RESPECT and these psychopaths are cold sociopaths that have NONE they are trash losers empty sick souls…liars…i went on a date with a MILLIONAIRE or self proclaimed millionaire. after a comedy show, we went to dinner. he ordered a few appetizesr and i ordered an entree…he SHARED the entree with me and ate MOST OF IT making sure i didnt get much..hm why? oh even millionaires with money get FURIOUS at the sight of a woman eating dinner..psychopaths….i got mad and asked if i can order another entree…of course politely…he said SURE and i ordered the same one…then he again began EATING OFF IT trying to eat as much as possible…shame on this lunatic….this is what males do…they are truly crazy…later he said through text that i wasnt that impressed by him obviously…and seemed upset by that..huh? he never contacted me again…..males out there are nutcases…they are trying to get SEX AND NOT PAY FOR DATES..dont fall for these mentally warped lunatics!

  • Lisa Jones

    women need to understand especially these days that if a man doesnt pay for a date- he is a complete scumbag, there is no future together and you need to stay FAR away from him. He is just trying to use you, play a game, have a conquest, get “something for nothing”, win one over on you- in other words, he is a liar, low life, sociopath, psychopath, player etc, NOTHING else. there will be no relationship with him, he will ALWAYS use you, try to get you to pay, not pay for you. there are no ifs ands or buts about it. unless he is just an amazing guy, but really broke, but not even that..a truly AMAZING guy, will still find a way to WOW a female he really wants to be with or impress or cares about. a low life cheapskate, like the 1000’s of warped narcissists you find out there in the ‘single dating pool” usually bitter, angry, misogynists who hate women, are looking to take their anger out on women or control or use them for the woman that broke their heart etc, will NEVER care about you impress you, pay for you, nothing. even men that DO pay for you are narcissists looking to use you most of the time! the jerks that DONT pay are just 100 times worse. there IS no excuse for it! every guy on here that advocates NOT paying or going dutch is the same BREED of ‘narcissistic low life” being spoken about here….

    they WILL try to convince you of their position, it is all BS. it is ALL lies. never be the female to fall for the lies of these psychopaths out there who will attempt to try to convince you of their false arguments and points of view…stay FAR away from these guys adn see it as a good red flag that theyre using you show you THEIR true selves right off the bat as a loser you want NOTHING to do with. unfortunately there are SO MANY jerks out there like this they can band together and present their BS side trying to make them appear like the logical fair or rational ones when in reality they are just liars, and psychopaths trying to fool you or pull one over on you…

  • kofybean

    If that’s the author’s picture in the article..hmm..she really isn’t attractive, and definitely not attractive enough to be so demanding.
    Regardless, this article was a big yawn. A woman demanding her entitlements, a woman demanding a man impress her, yet says nothing about what she’s bringing to the table. What’s new? The only thing I can see she brings to the table on a date is her looks, personality, and attitude, which all stink… sooo… i don’t get her issue. Why would a guy want to pay for that?

  • Steve

    I agree with many of the comments. The traditionalists want their chivalrous knight and the new wave are often put off by what they think is patronage; you know, guy pays, woman lays routine. Still others want their cake and eat it too; he pays, she plays and cold shower dude. It used to be the role was supported by the economic difference between the sexes but its much less than it used to be. I say each pay their own and get rid of all the crap. I’m with the guy that says she needs to bring something to the table besides a possible investment in a 20 year mortgage, two kids, a dog, a truck and all the rest of the love nest game.