When I was dating online, when every first date was a blind date, nothing confused the feminist in me more than the moment when the bill came. Was the man responsible for the bill by default? If a man considered a woman equally responsible for the bill, did that suggest he considered her his equal in every other way as well? Did the amount involved change the calculations—if I paid for his coffee, did that imply a promise to also pay for a more expensive dinner? Did it matter who initiated this date? Did it matter if he was unemployed or suffering through hard times? Should I reach for the bill or wait a split second to see if he picked it up? Should I begin the conversation about payment when the bill arrived? Nervousness about that moment impeded my comfort as we got to know each other.
I was raised in the 1950s, and men my age might think it was insulting or aggressive for a woman to offer to pay; they were raised to be breadwinners. Younger men, on the other hand, might think I was a gold digger if I didn’t pay half the cost. Did I care what the man thought?
Lacking universal dogma on this subject, I blatantly raised the subject while planning a first date, even if the date was just for a cup of coffee. Why waste my time with someone who couldn’t discuss that small issue? Each conversation was different, revealing something about the person every time. It turns out there are dozens of ways to skin this cat. The important thing is to raise the issue early so the meeting will be relaxed.
P.S. When planning our first date with my husband Terry, I brought up the subject and he said, “Don’t worry. We’ll work it out.” He suggested Rosa Mexicana for dinner and I offered to split the bill. He said “Let me pay this time.” I offered to repay him with a home-cooked meal for our next date, he accepted, and since then we have split everything. Hey, sometimes there there is a place for 0ld-fashioned gallantry. I don’t make a fuss when he opens a door for me either.