Why I Pay: Splitting the Cost of Dating

I have zero problems with a guy who doesn’t cover the entire tab after a date.

You think I’m lying. You think I’m saying, “It’s fine” while mentally vowing, “He will never see me naked!”

The reality is ever since I first started going on “hang outs” I’ve preferred to pay my fair share, or at least trade off purchases—movie tickets for dinner, etc. This preference seems to be a boner-killer for men and women, but surprisingly, my girl friends treat it with more skepticism than most of my dates. A handful of my lady friends think a guy must foot the entire bill if he’s at all generous and respectful. Many reason, “Why not, if it’s offered.” Then there’s my friend who pragmatically or cynically calls it “equity redistribution.” She’s a teacher, and the way she sees it, if a broker wants to take her out, the least he can do is re-circulate his hearty salary by buying her booze.

I’m not preaching a new religion or seeking converts, but the thought of someone sharing my belief has tempted me to write this. I also realize that I’m lucky to be employed and lucky to have grown up in a middleclass home wanting nothing that I needed. I’ve never had to engage in “equity redistribution” because my options were limited.

So to me, a “bad date” is a man who doesn’t take me seriously when I request that I be allowed to pay my half. Minus 100,000 more points if he settles things behind my back while I’m busy, er, powdering my nose. What actually impresses me is a guy who understands my request, or even if he doesn’t, allows me to pay because he respects my choice in the matter.

I spend a lot of time critiquing gender roles; splitting the tab is my way of putting these criticisms into action, trying to make the world more nuanced. We ask men to see us as the strong, individual women we are. Why then should we enforce old-fashioned notions that masculinity equals money, and male kindness and respect equals paying for things. When I fumble for my purse and a wallet and debit card actually materialize, I’m trying to let a guy know that I don’t think he’s a knight or a means to an end, but a real person I want to get to know for reasons that aren’t contingent on money.

Of course, I also never say never. The further down the road I get with someone, the decision of who pays the tab can turn into fun role play. And when Jessa demanded money from her soon-to-be-ex husband during last season’s Girls I was all: “Geeettt iiittt!” But that’s a discussion for another time.