The definitive answer for who should pay on a first date

Paying for dinner
Just don’t fight about it. Shutterstock

Ah, paying for a first date. That oft-confusing time when you don’t really know each other well enough to know exactly what to do.

But there is a way to deftly navigate that perilous situation without making yourself — or them — look like a fool.

It starts, before you even leave for the date, with your expectations. Men should expect to pay for the whole thing, while women should expect to pay for their half of the bill.

Men, when you offer to pay — yes, you’re going to offer to pay, at least at first — don’t make a big show of it. The humbler the better. Quietly slip your card into the bill presenter and say nothing else about it.

The woman should then pull out her wallet when she notices what the man has done. The man should shrug off her insistence on paying half the first time. If she asks if you’re sure, the man should reply that yes, he is indeed.

However, if she insists firmly on paying half a second time, the man should not fight over it with her — he should allow her to split the check evenly with him. Fighting over the check is not great in any situation, but it’s especially not a great look for a first date.

After all, the old “man always pays” culture is a leftover relic from a century when it was assumed women didn’t make their own money and couldn’t pay. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.

Now, the most important thing here is to differentiate between the two different kinds of insistence: the polite “are you sure?” kind and the much more insistent “I really want to pay half” kind. This can be tricky when you don’t know the person that well, but a savvy man should be able to tell.

Take neither of these as a sign that she either likes or dislikes you.

Same-gender dates are much simpler, as they don’t come with archaic gender-prescribed rules — just split it down the middle unless you come to another kind of agreement.

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