Some say chivalry is dead, some say it is outdated, but as it turns out, it is merely misunderstood.  With so many mixed signals from society about gender roles and responsibilities, reaching for the check at the end of the date has become progressively more awkward.   I set out to see what expectations exist and to objectively determine a standard for today’s dating world.  20 men and women of ages 25-35 weighed in to give their thoughts on who pays for dinner.  The results are overwhelmingly in favor of men paying, and there are many reasons women can feel quite comfortable with letting them.

His treat!

What the guys say Guys traditionally have been the ones responsible for taking women out and paying for dates, and they are pretty comfortable with this role.  Most guys asked said that they expect to pay for girls, at least in the beginning.  When asked who pays for dates, one subject said that the guy should for the first few at least. “I think it’s fair,” he said, “I grew up that way…expecting to pay, and I think it’s fair. Nowadays it’s probably different.”  While many guys felt circumstances (i.e. past experiences, meeting situation, financial well-being) played a big role in determining who covers costs and for how long, a couple had it laid out in black and white.  Who pays? “Guys.” For how long? “Until death.”  Another guy felt strongly that whoever does the asking out should also do the paying.  He says, that “the person asking is trying to show their intentions… typically one person is asking the other person for time to show why they’re worthy of dating.” Another also felt that if a girl asked a guy out for something small like drinks, she could pay, but if it were a full dinner the guy would always pay.

What the gals say  Though women have the freedom and ability to pay for a night out with their man, most prefer not to.  Some girls gave time lines suggesting how long a guy should be expected to pick up the tab.  They ranged from the first three dates to the first six months. One girl said that she would rather contribute 50/50 after a few dates because, “If I love the person, I want to spend my money on them too. They work hard for their money, and I work hard for mine. I would want to share.” Others think the guy should always pay.  One girl mused, “Is it fair? Probably not, but it all evens out in the end. We have periods. And give birth. So they can pay for our dates.”  However, no one was against taking their guy out every now and then, and most acknowledged that the situation would change in the case of a long relationship.

Why we can all accept men paying It seems that a guy taking a girl out is more about a show of respect and etiquette than it is about the money.  Guys want to be seen as a gentleman and girls want a gentleman taking them out.  However, money does play a part.  I used to feel guilty accepting guys paying for all of our dates or even all of our drinks on a night out.  After all, we were both in generally the same financial state, and we were both getting the same fun and benefits from a date, right? Wrong. Combined with the fact that guys are generally cool with footing the bill, there are three big reasons that girls need not feel guilty about being treated and that guys can feel that their lot in life is a fair one.

  1. The pleasure of my company– In the words of one of my very wise pollsters, “Women are far more in demand than men. If we (men) want a date, we should pay for it.”  So what do guys get out of dating girls?  All of the guys asked said that the only thing they expected in return for paying for a date was a fun time going out (and maybe a thank you).  If a girl is nice, interesting, and responsive, they have a good time.  I remember one night out in college, there was a guy paying for all of my friends and I to drink.  He must have spent a small fortune because there were a lot of us, and we liked fruity drinks and tequila shots.  I felt sort of bad for the guy because not a one of us was remotely interested in him.  When I tried persuading my partners in crime not to lead him on, one of my them said, “he knows he’s not getting any of us. But look at him. He’s so happy now.  He has a bunch of pretty girls around him, he’s the center of attention, and he gets to hang out with us.”  As conceited as that may sound, it was true. I looked at his face, and he was loving life.  While guys have a lot of fun hanging out with their buddies, spending time with girls is awesome for them.  Guys generally stay away from deep feelings and emotions with their man friends. With girls, they’re open to a whole different world. They get to seem impressive when we fawn over their crazy stories, they get to feel charming when we laugh at their jokes, and they get to feel loved when we walk with our hand in theirs.
  2. He’s a big and strong provider– As men traditionally provided for women, sometimes paying can be a matter of pride.  My dad was always first to snatch up the bill when we’d go out with family or friends, and if he didn’t get it in time, he’d try persuading the other guy who’d beat him to it to let him pay.  I always thought it was so nice of him and admired his generosity.  I also have several male friends who won’t let me pay when we go out because it’s a sort of matter of principle. They are guys and I am a girl, so I shouldn’t have to pay.  While of course I always expect to pay and am surprised not to have to, their insisting to pay makes them all the sweeter.  On a date, if you take that little show of manhood away from your guy, it may make him feel emasculated, or it may take away your femininity.  Neither are things you want going on in a romantic situation.  Furthermore ladies, think of a situation when a guy who you’re not interested in traps you into going out with him.  What is the first thing you do if you don’t want time with someone to be interpreted as a date? You pay. We all know the safety net that if they don’t pay, it technically doesn’t count. Don’t create a double standard by acting the same way to a love interest.  Guys have a hard enough time understanding us as it is.
  3. Hidden costs of dating– Now, what about the fairness of guys paying all the time? That can get really expensive, and we don’t want to seem like we’re using a date for a free meal.  And guys shouldn’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of either.   One guy said “I usually pay for dates, but I’m a sucker… I should split,”  and another one felt if a girl doesn’t attempt to pay her share on occasion she comes off as rather “childish.”  A recent realization I had cleans up this dilemma seamlessly.  Women foot the cost of a lot of the pre-date expenses that go into making a guy enjoy having her on his arm. Guys have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but fellas, let me tell you- it ain’t cheap. Make up, hair appointments and products, manicures, waxing, gym memberships, clothes, accessories, and shoes are all way more expensive for women than they are for men.  Many of those costs are non-existent or minimal for guys.  It takes so much more for a woman to keep herself up than it does for a man to achieve an equivalent level of grooming.  So women are contributing, just in different ways.
In summary, most women and men believe a guy should pay most of the time, especially in the beginning of a relationship.  Women don’t need to feel bad about it, but they do need to be pleasant company and grateful when he takes them out.  It is okay for girls to pay for some things on occasion, but in general guys take care of the bill.  At the end of the day, we all contribute to the relationship in different ways, but this is one tradition that is meaningful to everyone.  Men get to be (at least in this one unchanging way) gentlemen, and women get to let them.