Should my date have paid for my meal? Or was I wrong for expecting he would?
Spencer and I met through a dating app, the typical way people meet these days. I thought our date would be typical as well. He'd ask me out, we'd get dinner together. He’d pay.
I’d been going on dates with men in this same format for a year by then. This was after my divorce. Sometimes the first date turned into a second date or a third one. Even a fourth.
But one thing was for sure: the man always paid for my meal on the first.
He often paid for my meal on the second or the third date, too. I assumed this would be the same with Spencer. He was a typical dude, of medium height, average good looks. He worked as a high-school teacher.
If Spencer seemed like a regular dude, our date wasn’t average. He would ask me to pay for my dinner. This was so uncomfortable, I never saw him again.
This begs the question: was he wrong for wanting me to pay for my own meal? Or was I wrong for expecting he would?
I liked Spencer at first.
Spencer and I met at a restaurant in Los Angeles—his choice. We had a great time. At the end of our date, the bill came. The waitress laid the bill in front of Spencer. This is the way it typically goes. The waiter usually gives the bill to the man.
Some people think this is unfair. It puts pressure on men to always pay for meals when out with a lady.
A lot of people these days point to the irony of modern women expecting equal treatment in every aspect of life except when it comes to paying the bill on the first date. Women expect men to pay for their meals. If the man doesn’t, it's a turn-off.
This was definitely how I felt.
But I get it. It’s weird that dating etiquette dictates we stick with some traditions while dismissing others.
But still, this might explain why I would feel so shocked when Spencer asked me to pay for my dinner--and why I wouldn't want to see him again.
Going dutch killed the romance.
I remember Spencer picking up the bill and analyzing it. We each had a glass of wine and had ordered flatbread to split as an appetizer. I also ordered a salad and he ordered a sandwich.
It wasn’t an expensive meal. I kept in mind that he was a high-school teacher. He wasn’t drowning in cash. As such, I took care not to order the sea bass or the filet mignon.
Still, Spencer was the man and this was our first date. I expected he would pay for my meal.
He reached into his back pocket to get out his wallet. Withdrawing some money, he started counting out the bills and coins.
I thought that was curious. Usually, a dude just whips out his card. Spencer was counting out the dollars and coins in an exact way.
During our dinner, I'd learned he taught math. I thought maybe he was just very exact when it came to his numbers. I watched as he put his dollars and coins in a pile on the table.
Then he did something that I will never forget. He passed the bill to me and told me the amount that I owed.
Actually, I owed more for what I ate.
As somebody who has never been good at math, I did a rudimentary calculation of my portion of the bill. He had split the cost of the flatbread evenly. However, my glass of Cabernet was more expensive than his Pinot Grigio by two dollars. My salad was also more expensive than his sandwich by three dollars and fifty cents.
Now I had to do the incredibly unromantic thing of taking out my wallet from my purse and rooting around for dollars and the right amount of coins. I reached down into the grubby parts at the bottom of my wallet to scoop out the necessary coins.
I set down what I owed on the table with a sick feeling in my stomach.
We weren’t done. We still had to compute the tip. With my percentage of the tip being slightly higher because my wine and salad were more expensive than Spencer's, once again I had to dig into my wallet to retrieve the adequate tip money.
By the time I was done doing this, the sparks that had flown between Spencer and me were gone. I knew that I never wanted to see him again.
All because he made me pay for my dinner.
Maybe I'm not a feminist.
Some will say I made a big fuss about nothing. Even some women claim the rule that men always have to pay for a woman's meal on the first date is antiquated.
Had Spencer been out with a more forward-thinking gal, maybe she wouldn't have minded.
And yet, perhaps this was part of Spencer’s own vetting process. He didn’t want a woman who clung to old rules. He wanted a woman who supported gender equality.
I’ll never know.
I felt so weird about having to pay my part of the bill that I didn’t want to talk to him again.
He never called me again either.
In a sense, it was like our date never happened. We both paid our part of the bill and went our separate ways.
But I learned something about myself. Maybe I’m not as much of a feminist as I always thought I was.
And maybe that’s wrong. Maybe in the future, a woman paying for her dinner will become a normal thing, even expected. Maybe I’m just behind on the times.