The thought that I shouldn’t pay for a meal when out with a guy didn’t cross my mind until I’d graduated from college. Before that, when I went out with a man I only ordered what I could afford, and when the bill came or the barista announced the total, I always reached for my wallet. And it wasn’t the fake reach. I wasn’t pretending to pay as a test to see if he would offer, I was really reaching for my wallet.
Post-grad was the first time whether or not the guy paid for the date became some sort of indication of his character. I would be telling the crew about a date and immediately they wanted to know if he paid. One time, I was trying to figure out if I had even been on a date.
“Well did he pay?” If he paid it was a date. If he didn’t, well the nature of the encounter was to be determined.
I told my girls he paid for us to get into the reading, but I bought the drinks. “Oh, well he probably thinks you just want to be friends.”
During the last year I’ve heard everything from, “If he doesn’t pay he doesn’t really like you,” to, “If you offer to pay he will be offended. It’s like insulting his manhood.”
Some folks think I have an “I’m an independent woman” attitude that I need to let die, but really, this has nothing to do with me proving that I can do things on my own.
1. Growing up I never got the chivalry memo.
If a man opened the door for me, I thought it was nice. If he didn’t, I didn’t care. Nobody sat me down and said: the man should always open doors, the man has to ask the woman out (though I’ve developed an opinion on this), or the man pays for everything.
2. I don’t like owing people.
I don’t borrow money unless your name is Sallie Mae, and I hate when people hold things over me. Even when I’m with the homies and they offer to pay for a meal, I shy away because they usually pick the worst time ever to say, “Remember when I bought you a number one two weeks ago? Can you get my Chipotle and we’ll call it even?” When I first meet a dude, I don’t know how he is about his money, and what he thinks he is supposed to get in return for a damned burger from Dallas BBQ. So if he isn’t in a hurry to pay for me to eat, I’m in no rush to make him.
3. I try to be considerate.
It’s a recession and I don’t really know a man’s situation. I know my situation, however, and I don’t even have horseshoe money sitting around. So I’m sympathetic. (Hell, even if it wasn’t a recession I’d think this way because I’m 23, have a ton of loans, and a limited income.) And while I’ve learned that a guy’s willingness to pay is seen as an example of his willingness to be a provider in a relationship, I always thought that my willingness to contribute showed that I don’t expect him to carry the weight all on his own.
All of this is not to say that I’m running around paying for dudes to eat, or that I don’t want a man to pay for the first few dates, however, there are more serious deal breakers in the world than going dutch.