Let me just start this by saying that everyone likes getting a free meal. We would be liars if we didn’t pretend that, at least sometimes, one of the perks of going out on a potentially romantic evening is knowing that the night’s events are going to be largely comped. Who doesn’t love to be treated — or sometimes do the treating themselves? There is nothing wrong with graciously accepting another person’s generous offer to take you out and foot the bill. It’s one of life’s little pleasures.
That being said, going out for an evening with someone is by no means a guarantee that you can order nothing but filet mignon and Veuve Clicquot and expect someone else to foot the bill. It is 2012, the economy looks like a melting dollar bill out of a Dalí painting, and we all have rent to pay at the end of the month. Who pays for what is something that should be legitimately decided at the end of the evening between two consenting adults. If someone wants to take charge of the finances, that’s fine, but it is not your job to show up with the expectation of being fanned with a palm frond as you rifle through your date’s wallet with a weed whacker.
I have been on a date on which the other person — who literally prefaced his announcement of disinterest in paying with a “you seem to have your shit together” and a lazy chuckle — did not have the means to pay. He did not announce this at the beginning of our meeting, nor at the time at which we were deciding what restaurant we wanted to go to (had I known I would be footing the entire bill without being asked, I likely would have chosen a McDonald’s out by the freeway), but at the end when I was left with no choice. Though the desire to leave him alone with the full check and a night full of washing dishes under the unforgiving glare of sadistic French chefs was great, I sucked it up and paid, to never speak to him again.
And I have friends (though I use the term loosely, let’s call them party acquaintances with whom I’ve had more than one discussion about dating etiquette) who freely admit that they do not go on dates with a wallet or any intention of paying. They have told me that any man who would expect them to even split the bill is someone they would never want to date, and that it is not their job to warn them otherwise. (I take a certain amount of pride in my refraining from throwing a drink in their smug faces with an impassioned cry of “I hope your date forgets his wallet one day and you are left cleaning the more soiled toilets with your own toothbrush, you classless succubus!”)
The point is that we should not be treating each other — no matter who we are or what we think we deserve when it comes to courtship — like overgrown ATMs with attached genitalia. A date is supposed to be two people getting to know one another and having a good time, not being slowly crushed under the unmistakable expectation of rolling out the carpet made of diamonds to please someone else’s wallet-less taste. There is nothing more insulting than, when a check arrives, simply looking at the other person with a blank stare of “You had better be getting this, you peasant. I am not here to spend a dime of my own money on our mutual enjoyment.” Even the fake-out reach for your wallet that the other person can cordially swat away with a “No, I’ve got this” can do wonders. It means that you are at least vaguely ready to be an active participant in the evening, and understand that financing nights out at restaurants and bars is hard for everyone.
And who knows, once you’ve mastered the fake-out, maybe you could even offer to pick up the check for dessert or drinks afterwards? Nothing says “Hey, I’m kind of a cool person” like being willing to treat someone else every now and again. It may seem like a lot of effort, but the karma you’ll accrue from your generosity will be sure to land your entitled little heart its very own multi-millionaire someday.