Let me start with a small personal story that made me reflect on the whole notion of dating etiquette. His piercing eyes twinkled as he gazed at me from across the room. Just five feet away from me was this handsome man who was to be my date today. With his deep dark grey eyes and curly hair, his looks were no less than of a Greek god. I thought to myself, “at last, the one I was waiting for”. I cursed myself for a brief second. This guy had been pursuing me for a good two weeks before I agreed to meet him. Seriously, what’s wrong with me!  I knew he was  super smart because we had spoken the night before for hours as he alternated between flirting in his deep husky voice and talking about the future of machine learning. This alpha male had it all, good looks, deep husky voice and wits.

What could possibly go wrong. This is it, I told myself. Suddenly the fact that he had convinced and begged me to drive to the other end of the town  to meet him at his request didn’t bother me.   Before I knew it, we were enjoying our meals and drinks. We were having a really fun time at this exquisite cafe . As I was excitedly wondering about how well we were getting on with our date and where things would lead to next, the waiter came with the check and handed it over to my date. 

To my surprise, the guy slipped the check to my side of the table and simply gave me a nod to settle the payment. While I had all the intentions of splitting the check or even paying in full, his explicit gesture pointing me to foot the bill, became a huge turn off for me and had me wondering, is chivalry really dead? It made me rethink my entire perception of dating etiquette when it comes to who pays on dates! 

Dating Etiquette: Going back in time

On the way back, I kept wondering why his sliding the bill to me felt awkward. While the waiter handing him the bill felt quite natural. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Am I one of those feminists who believes in equal rights, but subconsciously expects a man to foot her bill”? I decided to stroll down a few years and recalled a conversation with my mother. She was narrating to me a page out of her love story, sharing her first date. She recalled how my father, who she was dating at the time, was a ‘perfect gentleman’. He picked her from her home, ensured a lavish meal, which he paid for in full and then dropped her back safely. 

To add to this, I started recalling all those romantic comedies where the man pays for the lovely meal. This is when it hit me that a man paying on the first date was an accepted notion. It was a normal fact for most women even today. To be fair, conventionally, it was men who were more financially independent. Thus, it was natural for them to pay. At the same time, paying the bill was seen as an act of chivalry and the top dating etiquette that most sought. 

Dating Etiquette: Fast forward to the Modern Era

With these thoughts in my mind, I quickly said to myself, “I am as financially independent as any guy, then who should be footing the bill, me or the guy”? This was a tough one to answer. I took another step back to understand the male psyche too. Do men see paying the bill as an obligation or an unwritten rule of dating etiquette? Or do they feel that every woman who expects them to pay on dates is a gold-digger? Maybe this should be a topic of discussion for one of my next dates! 

Well, coming back to the modern era, the answer to who pays for the date is still far from clear. Some of my friends contest that it is no longer the question of gender anymore. And, the one who proposes the date, foots the bill. After the date, I decided to read a little about the whole dating etiquette across the globe. As I read, I realized that there is a fine line between conservative cultures like in India and more liberal ones that have evolved over time. 

My Two Cents on Who Pays: Top Considerations

With the times changing and new expectations surfacing from both the genders, the answer to who pays for the first date is a complex one. Here are a few thoughts I have kept in mind. These have helped me avoid awkward situations when it comes to settling the bill.

Dutching is the golden rule

Paying 50/50 on your first date is a rule to live by. It does not burden either of you and is a win-win for both.

Be mindful of the place you pick

I always believe that going to a quaint cafe for a date is a wiser decision than fine dining. Picking a cafe has always been comfortable on my wallet as well as my date’s.

Always offer to pay

It is common courtesy to offer to pay. Especially, if the amount is nominal, make a sincere effort to pay.

Do not bolt to the washroom

This one is obvious. I have heard stories from my friends how their dates just rush to the washroom when the bill arrives and gesture meeting at the exit post. Do not do that, you will end up destroying your own image.

Do not take advantage of your date

Just because the other person has offered to pay, doesn’t mean you will sit back and relax, especially if the amount is significant. I have always been vocal about splitting the bill.

If your date refuses to pay

If your date refuses to pay, do not overreact by sliding the check to them and making it obvious that you are having a disagreement. Also, you will come out as extremely rude and the one looking for a free meal. If it bothers you, just take it as a learning and reflect on this before going on a future date with this person. 

Dating Etiquette: Is there a Right Answer?

The bombardment of so many thoughts left me thinking that there is no right answer to who pays the bill. And, honestly, stressing about it before your date will only make matters worse. Just focus on having an amazing time. My learning from that date was to always be prepared to pay the bill because there is no written rule on which gender should pay the bill. Maybe it is in our culture that we expect the guy to pay. But, trust me if you reach out for the check as soon as it comes, it will definitely add sparks to your date night!