The Authoritative Guide to Who Picks Up the Check – One Man’s Perspective

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The new status quo in the age of dating egalitarianism is that Who Pays actually means something. I have a female friend whose recent first date was going swimmingly, right up until the check came. The guy looked at it, threw a twenty in, and handed it over to my friend, saying, “Ok, you owe this much.” She was left wondering whether the whole evening was even a date to begin with!

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Many, many guys have zero idea the sort of subtext this can create. It’s true this guy could very well have been trying to send the signal that he only wanted this to be a friendly hangout, but it seems unlikely. They had a nice dinner followed by drinks, after which he suggested they go somewhere else for more drinks, and then he walked her home. His decision to ask her to chip in could have been caused by any number of factors: cheapness, firm feminist sensibilities – hell, there could have been zero thought behind it at all. (That’s where I’m putting my money.)

But that doesn’t change the reaction it caused in her, nor does it delegitimize that reaction. It’s completely fine and respectable that this guy was ok with the check being split, but there is a way it’s done that says “We’re equal” instead of “Here’s your half, I’m out.”

Here’s how:

1. Whoever suggests the “main course” of the date pays for it. If you’re talking about doing drinks, and then one of you excitedly says “Oh we should go to that new show with Michael Shannon!” then that person is responsible for getting tickets. If it’s your idea, ladies, and then you wait expectantly for the guy to buy them, don’t be surprised if he sours on you. And if it’s your idea, guys, and then you tell her how much she owes you for her ticket? She will assume you just want to be friends. And she will probably think you’re a dick.

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2. The dinner check should be lady’s choice. Here’s the breakdown for a dinner date, assuming the guy did the asking out: The guys pays, even if the girl does the Obligatory Wallet Reach. Guys, when the check arrives and you pick it up, she’s going to reach over for her purse and go, “Ohhh, that’s ok, I can help out on that.” This is a fake. Simply wave her off and give the check to the server. Now, if once you’ve done that she continues to actually take out her wallet and remove her card, and say something more serious and low-pitched like “No I’d really like to get my half” then for God’s sake let her. She either philosophically likes to always pay her way, or this has not been a very good date so far. (Sorry.)

3. Eliminate the mystery with “I’ll get us next time.” So on a first date, one of two things is going to happen: it’ll either be followed by a second date, or this is the end of the road. Sometimes you don’t know until after, but usually you know about halfway through. This is a great time that either one of you can send a nice subtle message to the other by saying something like “Fine, and thanks for dinner. It’ll be on me next time.” I LOVE when women say that! And guys can do it too: “No, don’t worry about it. Tell you what: you pick up the check when we go out again next week.” This shows you expect equality, and it also takes the mystery out of it.

Which is what the whole goal should be in the first place.