I moved to Brooklyn about a year ago and started online dating. Throughout the summer, I was going on 2-3 dates a week; sometimes these dates were with new men, sometimes they were second or third dates. As someone who had never "traditionally" dated, I thought, Dating is really easy! I got dressed up, went to new places in a new city, talked about myself and got a free meal and drinks out of it.
Then a couple months ago, I dated a man who, on the first date, did not pick up the check; we split it. This was also a man, who out of all my dating prospects, I liked the most. After the first date, I remember I went home and told my roommate how great he was and added, "But, he didn't pay for my drink." Her response, "Dump him!"
I seriously began questioning if I was going to see this man again because he did not pick up the check. I also became insecure and questioned if he had as good of a time as I did. Because of my dating history, I was programmed to think men always picked up the check.
I continued to date him, and he continued not picking up the check. After about five dates, I broached the subject with him. His response made me like him even more, "If I, or you, always pick up the check this, dating, becomes transactional. It is like I am paying you to spend time with me, or you are paying me to spend time with you."
I had never thought about it that way before. After his response, we continued splitting the check or doing the "I get this one, you get the next one" deal. The pressure was off; I wasn't anxious every time the bill came wondering, "Will he pick it up this time?"or "Should I offer to pick it up this time?"
I, like many women, used to think if a guy likes me, he'll pick up the check, or if a guy doesn't like me, he won't pick up the check. I've stopped doing that. Now, on first dates, I always insist on splitting the check. The man is, usually, against it. Then, I always make sure I get the check on the second date.
I don't want my love life to be transactional. I'm not dating to get free meals; I'm dating to find someone who I can commit to -- a partner and an equal. I don't need a man who showers me with meals and drinks; I need a man who showers me with thought-provoking conversation, smart humor and new ways to see and live in the world. So, I split the check, and I hope more women will start, too.