As if there wasn't enough anxiety around the topic of love. Then you throw in money and etiquette and a first date can become about as exciting as a trip to the dentist office. At My Very Worst Date, the blog I co-founded, we receive tales of cheapskates and gold diggers on a regular basis. It's a hot-button issue, especially when it comes to a first date. We heard about the New Yorker who wouldn't buy his date a hot dog in Central Park and the guy who didn't want his date to order a drink with dinner, even though he set the date and picked the restaurant.
There is so much debate on this issue so I turned to some modern daters to see how they approach the topic. "I always pay on the first date and I understand that some guys like the girl to at least offer to split the check, but I prefer to skip that whole ruse," says Bashir Eustache, an attorney living in Los Angeles. "I also hear that it is appropriate for the girl to pay if she is the asker, but I've not been so lucky." Tara Evanson, who goes on two or three new dates each month, says, "I like to split the check so that no one feels bad if it doesn't work out, but if he insists on paying it's definitely nice, especially if he was the one who did the asking."
A first date can be a gauge of one's manners and more. "On the first date I do expect the man to pay, but I am perfectly prepared to pay and if we end up going Dutch, I am okay with that, but I do notice," says Brooklyn resident and writing instructor Nicole Taveres. "The main reason I expect the man to pay is to sort of make sure they are not totally broke, which I care more about at this stage in my life being 34." Taveres adds that once she is in a relationship then the payment goes back and forth fluidly and can be determined by who makes more money. A 35-year-old male, who did not want to be identified, said, "To put it bluntly, I am not very interested in shelling out my hard earned money unless there is some sort of reward at the end of the evening."
"The person who does the asking does the paying," explains etiquette expert and Essential Manners for Couples author Peter Post, who notes that online dating has changed the game. "For first blind dates meeting in a neutral location and splitting the check is a real good idea because there's no implication of owing someone something. Women are moving into that position and it makes them an equal partner." Post says that by taking the confusion of who's paying out at the time of asking you can avoid all sorts of awkwardness.
If you're actively dating, then you know a first date doesn't always work out, so why bother dropping $200 on someone you may never see again? However, you don't want to come across as being cheap, even in the economic recession. If you can't afford (or are not willing) to pay for a first date then consider doing something inexpensive like going to the beach, hiking, having a picnic or attending an outdoor screening. This should weed out any users who are just looking for a free meal (trust me, this happens as evident by this date we posted).
"I'm inclined to pay on the first date because I'm still employed and why make money if you aren't going to spend it?" asks TV producer C. Michael Kim. "Once you become my 'official' girlfriend you are expected to chip in once in awhile. Maybe that's why most of my relationships last six to eight weeks."
Read more about bad first dates, cheap guys and gold digging gals at My Very Worst Date.