Spencer, 32, Renewable Energy Investor
It depends on what you define as a date. In the early stages of a relationship, everything is a date. Eventually, being together, going to dinner, movies, etc., becomes just living your life. In the ‘living your life together’ phase, I think something equal or close to equal (if one person makes much less) is important. Even in long-term relationships, I think it is important to make time for dates to do something special and deliberate. I think paying is less about the financial aspect of it and more about the effort. I wouldn’t expect my partner to set up the dinner, plan everything and then ask me to pay. I’d expect to plan the night as a gesture to her, and then paying would be a natural extension of my taking her on a date.
Whitney, 27, Development Associate at a Nonprofit
I always do the “wallet grab,” but I fully expect the guy to wave me off and take care of the check. That being said, I always offer to pay for a beer/coffee/movie after. That’s how I handle first dates, but as you get to know each other, it’s easier to figure out who’s paying for what. If I found this great Groupon to do [insert activity here], I’m certainly not going to ask you to pay me back. I used to say, “Oh, I’d never let a guy pay for me! I can take care of myself! I’ll open my own door, thank you very much!” But let’s be serious here: I work for a nonprofit and don’t make a whole lot of disposable income. Plus, if he’s not willing to at least offer to pay his share, I’ll assume he’s cheap or rude—or both.
Even in these days of “equality,” I still think the guy needs to pay initially.
Paul, 59, Civil Attorney
I think the man should pay on a date, but in a serious relationship, if a guy has limited means, the girl should be sensitive enough to either volunteer to go dutch or make dinner. Even in these days of “equality,” I still think the guy needs to pay initially to avoid the impression of being cheap, socially awkward or a “loser.”
Ariel, 30, Writer and Performer
At first, whoever does the asking does the paying. From there, I think it needs to more or less trade off, so if one person is doing all the asking at first, the other person should offer to pay at least by the second date. I would not be impressed if someone asked me out on a formal date and didn’t pay; I’d be much more relaxed if it was just a “get cocktails” situation. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown a little more rigid in terms of my expectations for manners. Of course, taking someone out for dinner can sometimes be cash-prohibitive, but I still expect someone to do something nice for me to make it feel date-y.