Who pays the bill on a date?

I’ve already written about who pays the bill. But when it came to romantic dinners, I chickened out. While I was reading up on who should pick up the tab on a first (presumably heterosexual) date, I stumbled across a whole bunch of misogynist comments and posts. It freaked me out. I can’t believe that some men hate women so much.

Now, I’m writing this lil column for CBC, and I feel emboldened by having the Canadian taxpayers to answer to for my work. So I decided to write specifically about female/male relationships and ask the question about who should foot the bill between them.

Here’s a shorter version of my upcoming CBC column. It’s not afraid to answer the tough questions like: who pays the bill on a date?

Photo: Luba V Nel/Dreamstime Images

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Much is being made about the economic power women hold these days. Not all women, of course. Across the board, men still out-earn women. Stats Canada data states that the gender wage gap continues to see women earning 70 per cent of what men earn on average annually.

But books like The End of Men by Atlantic writer Hanna Rosin and The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy take both great lengths and great pains to prove the point that women’s economic power is growing. It’s educated, upper-middle class women who are hopefully leading the way for others.

So the question must be asked: what’s a gal to do when the bill comes?

Logically, whoever makes the most money should pay, right? Men once held all the economic cards and all the power, but they also picked up the tab. Fair or not, it was a trade-off.

But now what? If you out-earn your new romantic partner, should you wrestle the cheque away from him – or her – based entirely on that assumption?

I don’t know the answer, so I consulted someone who would. Cara Anderson runs a speed dating service called Six Minute Dates and has been a dating expert for five years.

She says we’re currently existing in a “dating vortex” where no one knows their role. “It’s murky water,” she says.

However, Anderson’s definitive rule is this: “the person that asks pays.” It should be relied on in 99 of 100 situations, she says. Women who ask men out should expect to pay, and she says splitting the bill just isn’t sexy.

Anderson is so clear in her position that I start to feel confident. We are in a new age where men and women are economic equals, even at the dinner table. That is until Anderson adds this: “My experience,” she says, “has been that when women ask men out, it doesn’t lead to anything long term.” In order to feel masculine, most men, Anderson says, need to ask women out, and pay for the date.

This doesn’t sit well with Anderson, or me for that matter. She says it makes her stomach turn, especially when a photo in her office of feminist Gloria Steinem catches her eye. “I hope for something better in the future,” Anderson says.

I’m just glad I’m not currently on the dating scene, although these perils aren’t unfamiliar. My partner is a chef, and I am a mid-level manager who writes on the side. All told, I earn more. I also carry more economic responsibility in our household, partially because the mortgage is mine and I have a child from a previous relationship. But it’s also because I make more money than him.

When we go out for dinner – and we do a lot, because he’s a chef – I ask him to order for me (again, he’s a chef), but I feel awkward when he pays. I like it, and I kind of feel like it balances out our financial world a bit, if not our emotional one. Yet somehow, it still makes me queasy, like I’m taking more than my share.

We’re not yet at the point where his money and my money add up to our money. It will be the last thing we merge, and I doubt it will ever be to the degree that my parents, and even some of my peers, pool their finances. But like Anderson, I hope for something better in the future.

Until then, I’ll just have to stomach all the uncertainty I feel every time the cheque comes.

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What do you think? Does it matter who pays the bill? And does it matter who makes more money?

~HS

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4 thoughts on “Who pays the bill on a date?

  1. Erin says:

    I am all for the old school!! Men pay! I love it when my L.L. still pays here there. Don’t get me wrong, with all other aspects of a relationship I am the modern day woman….

  2. Damien says:

    Just randomly came across this blog, pretty cool!

    I have to say it really depends. Not every guy can afford to pay for every single date or outing. Obviously it makes sense to treat your girlfriend out to a nice place once in a while and pay for that, but all the time? NO WAY! We don’t live in the 1900’s anymore. Many of us are students who can’t afford to do that. I think in the beginning if the guy foots the bill, then that’s alright I guess (keep in traditional). But after that, the girl should definitely at least try to pay for some stuff.

    The biggest thing is communication though; if you talk about things, chances are you wont have as many problems, or those embarrassing moments when you ask her to go dutch with you out of the blue. I know it’s a hard conversation to have for some guys (ego bruiser maybe?), but there is no shame in saying you can’t always pay, or explaining your situation. We are not all made of money, and if your girlfriend likes/loves you, she will understand.

    Obviously just my two cents though! Nice blog, bookmarked! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment and kudos, Damien. I’d say if you’re both students it totally changes the game, no? Your first date should be a coffee and a walk on campus, and you should probably split the bill from there on out. My first year university love was one of my sweetest, and all we ever did was read books together and go for long walks. Thanks again for commenting, and reading.

  3. AS says:

    Just happened by your blog….quite accidentally…I like the insight….I happy to hear you have a “partner.” The last time I read your column was in the Globe about digital dating although it was entertaining for the regular reader. For me as your blood relative it was sad because you seemed lonely:(…You look soo much like Grandma to me! Please say hi to your Mom for me! One day I would love to meet Ava..Your cuz Arthur

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