Should the Man Always Pay for the First Date?

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Recently, I explored the topic of traditional roles when it comes to men paying for the first date. I’d heard a radio broadcast where the claim was made that women today are offended if the man wants to pay for the first date. I rolled my eyes, thinking that couldn’t be true.

Perhaps much younger women have different expectations, but most women I know not only appreciate a man paying for the first day, they expect it. Yes, that includes me.

I posed this question to my friends on Facebook, and got resounding “I’m not offended!” responses. A couple of women did point out that when a man pays for a first date, you sometimes run into the headache of him expecting sex afterward. I don’t think any amount of money paid for the first date should equate an expectation of sex, but some men will no doubt try. In any case, one of my male friends was a little bit surprised at not only the responses by most of the women, but also by my response.

Yes, I’m traditional. I believe a man should pay for the first date, just like I think he should be the one to propose. I know some women who’ve proposed, and it’s been wonderful, but generally I’m traditional.

And in my opinion, the man willingly paying for the first date says a lot about him. Not that he has to pay for every date, but it shows a level of his seriousness and intent.

I’ve heard younger guys brag about girls paying for dates and other gifts while they “play” them. A man who pays for the first date shows a genuine interest for the most part.

My male friend, however, felt that if women expect such traditional roles from men, we should be willing to be more traditional. Perhaps we should be more willing to stay at home and raise children, or to accept the man being the head of the relationship. He talked about women acting more like “ladies.” While I obviously see things from my female perspective, I do understand where he was coming from. Maybe he’s right— we can’t expect to have things both ways. The proverbial having our cake and eating it too.

His complaint was largely that women expect a man to pay for a date and other things with a huge sense of entitlement and little gratitude. Sometimes, women only want the free dinner or whatever outing it is. I absolutely agree that it’s unfair to say yes to a date just because you want a free meal or entertainment. He complained about women ordering the most expensive items on the menu, which I see as disrespectful. So if my friend’s thought is that women need to show more respect for men who are trying to be gentlemen, I can’t disagree.

Part of the problem is that we live in a society that is becoming increasingly obsessed with me, me, me. There’s more selfishness, less thoughtfulness. There’s more sense of entitlement, less gratitude. And it’s a problem—when dating and beyond.

While I empathize with a man who is continually meeting spoiled women who expect the world and offer little in return, I believe that the man paying for the first date still serves a lot for both parties.

First of all, if a man asked you out and he has no problem paying for the date, you can deduce that he is likely interested in you beyond just a hookup. However, if after he pays, his hands are all over you and he expects sex in return, you at least know that you’re dealing with a jerk and move on.

On the flipside, if a man takes a woman out and she orders five expensive drinks, lobster tail and steak, and all but bankrupts the guy on the date, he knows that this woman is someone he should no longer waste any more time on. She’s spoiled. She’s entitled. She’s ungrateful. A pretty face doesn’t make any of that go away. Thank God paying for the first date exposed this!

I consider myself a feminist, and I have no problem cooking or doing laundry and light cleaning. I would much rather my man perform the heavy work in the house like putting up the TV console, and building a fence. I can cut the grass, and don’t have a problem sharing that responsibility. I’ve shoveled snow every winter for well over a decade, but I would gladly relinquish that responsibility. I’m happier in the kitchen, because I happen to enjoy cooking. Yes, you can argue that these are gender roles, but couples don’t have to adhere to them unless they want to.

Nothing is black and white anymore. You might have a guy who loves to do all the cooking, or you’re the handywoman. If that works, great.

I think at the end of the day what my friend was really trying to get at is that there’s just too little respect when it comes to relationships. And we see that across the board. Selfish people getting into relationships and taking, not just monetarily but sexually. People cheat because it feels good. There’s so much disregard for other people and it’s sad to see.

Perhaps that’s why for me I like the idea of the simple and classic first date where man shows that he’s a gentleman, a woman shows that she’s a lady. The issue of who’s going to pay is in off the table because that’s already been decided. But not because of selfish expectation, but because it cuts so much of the confusion and headache out of the equation. Then the man and the woman can do what we’ve always done on these first dates— decipher whether or not we like the other person.

Of course, the situation will be different with same-sex couples. I guess the general rule is the person who asks the other out is the one who should pay. But the dynamics of determining whether or not the other person seems sincere, likes your company, and is a genuinely good person you’d like to get to know better, are the same.

What do you think about first dates? Should the man always pay? Should the woman pay sometimes? Should be the person who asks be the one who pays? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Kayla Perrin is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning USA Today and Essence best-selling author, with 46 books in print. Perrin is best described as passionate, fearless, motivated and self-driven to excel at whatever she pursues.

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