Last Saturday, after the umpteenth edition of dinner-and-a-movie with my wife (or in this case, movie-and-a-dinner), we arrived back home to a phone message from the restaurant, saying I’d left my credit card behind. I never make that mistake. Let me rephrase – since my wife reads this blog – I almost never make that mistake. Credit the restaurant for taking our phone number when we arrived, “just in case we need to contact you later”. Credit the very nice bottle of wine – empty by the end of the meal – for contributing to my forgetfulness (though not to my driving).
Hey, at least I paid the bill before I left my card behind. Because that’s what I do when it comes to nights out with my wife. The gentleman pays.
“The gentlemen pays” is up for judgment in the new world order. “Paying etiquette” – especially on first dates – has become a lot more complicated with modern social conventions (i.e. dating apps). As if first dates aren’t stressful enough already.
Whether the guy invites the girl out for a drink, or the guy invites the girl out for dinner, or even the girl invites the guy out for dinner, you’d be inclined to say he/she who does the inviting picks up the bill, right? I know I would, but it’s not that simple.
“A drink” (as in, the result of a swipe on the Tinder app) implies a quick meet-up, where one or both parties dance around the potential for a longer-term relationship. If this really is the agenda (and nothing else), I’d argue both parties split the bill. Could get awkward.
“A dinner” (as in, the result of a well-designed profile on the eHarmony app) implies a more serious stab at a relationship. In this case I’d argue the “inviter” pays the bill, not the “invitee”. Unless you’re in New York or San Francisco. Social convention in those cities leans towards both parties splitting the bill, since restaurant tabs flirt with the $200 mark. Not exactly disposable income for most young people. Could get awkward.
In “the girl invites the guy” (as in, the Bumble app, where only she can “make the first move”), I’d argue the girl pays. But what if the girl is “traditional”, and holds out on paying just to see if he’s a “gentleman”? Again, could get awkward.
If “who pays?” hasn’t been decided beforehand, the mind games really kick in with gestures to pay the bill, otherwise known as “the reach”. Some women do “the reach” to appear a team player (when in fact they have no intention of paying the bill). Some men interpret the woman’s reach as her wish to pay; in return, somehow “looking good by not falling into stereotypes”. Other men pounce on the woman’s reach as the perfect opportunity to suggest half and half.
Half and half is also known as “going Dutch”; a phrase with take-your-pick origins. The most common origin ties back to the 17th century Anglo-Dutch wars (also coining the phrases “Dutch treat” and “Dutch courage”). The more fitting origin however, comes from “Dutch door”; the farmhouse invention of two equal halves. A Dutch door is sometimes referred to as a “split door”. “Fits the bill”, wouldn’t you say?
Going Dutch is not as safe as it sounds. One time my wife and I met a couple in downtown Chicago, for a pricey meal atop the John Hancock tower. As we waited in the bar for our table, the husband knocked back several expensive drinks, followed by several more at dinner. Imagine my shock when the dinner bill was merged with the bar bill. The husband casually said, “let’s just split this, shall we?”
My daughter is a twenty-something, brand new to the dating scene in Los Angeles. As far as she’s concerned, forget everything I’ve discussed in the paragraphs above. She has one and only one rule: the gentleman always pays. Frankly, that’s just fine with me.