Whether you’re eating at a hole-in-the-wall diner or a fancy French bistro, there comes a time in every date when a woman must answer this question: Will I reach for the check?
I know some women who would rather run out of the restaurant without paying than chip in on a first date.
Others make a token effort to look for a wallet.
And still others make a sincere offer to pay their share. (I don’t know of any women who have tried to pay the whole check, but I’m sure it’s happened somewhere.)
The tradition of men paying for a first date seems to have stemmed from a time when few women worked or were able to support themselves, and a man’s offer to buy dinner was not just a sweet gesture of romantic interest, but a necessity and a signal of the financial stability required to support a family.
But a recent post by Taylor Marvin at Prospect, a journal of international affairs at UCSD, wonders whether such a tradition is still relevant in an age in which many women support themselves and some earn more than their dates. The idea stems from the fact that, in 2009, women earned more than half of all doctorates in the United States. In general, individuals with PhDs earn more than those with master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees, although all of these still lag considerably behind those with professional degrees.
Marvin brings up some interesting points about relationships in which women earn more than men. He asks:
“What’s the point of an expectation that a high-earning man buys a female date dinner if there’s a good chance she makes more than him?”
However, as one reader of “The Daily Dish” (which featured the Prospect blog post) pointed out, possessing a PhD doesn’t guarantee wealth:
“While it’s true that women are earning more advanced degrees, they aren’t earning the salaries that go along with them for men. It goes without saying that PhD women earn less than PhD men. But it may be more surprising that overall, women with PhDs earn less than men with master’s degrees; among those between 35 and 54, the gap is in the neighborhood of 20 grand.”
Let’s leave the income disparity discussion for another day and focus only on the possible effect that high-earning women have on the dating scene (not to mention the male ego). While Marvin raises some interesting questions, he also believes that the tradition of men treating women to dinner is here to stay.
But is that fair?
Is that what men really want?
A recent episode of “How I Met Your Mother” featured Ted, one of the main characters, trying to decide which of two women he wanted to take to a gala. He created a list of each woman’s good qualities and under one woman’s name he had a laundry list of lovely traits. The other had a single item under her name: She reached for the check. He didn’t want her to pay it; he just didn’t want to feel like his date took it for granted that he would pay.
I don’t assume that a date will pay for a meal, but I’m usually pleased he does, not simply because it’s a free dinner, but I do think it’s a sign that the date is generous and serious about making a good impression. However, I’m happy to pay my share too, and I always order only what I can afford to pay for myself.
Ladies, I’m interested to hear how important it is to you that a guy pick up the tab on a date. Does it matter more on a first date than on subsequent dates? Do you reach for the check? By trying to pay, or insisting on paying, are you trying to send a certain signal (good or bad) to your date? If you earn as much or more money than your date, do you still expect him to pay?
Guys, how often do you pay on the first date? Do you wish more women would pay their share? Do you wish more women would at least make a token effort to reach for the check? If a woman made more money than you, would you want her to chip in? Or even pay for the whole meal?