Who pays?

July 14, 2009 at 3:10 pm (Dating, feminism, personal)

I’m finding way more conflicts with how I live my life and what I believe as a feminist now that I’m dating.  In a relationship, the compromises are less noticeable*, and seemed to occur less often.  In dating, I’m noticing compromises every single time I go out with, or even just talk to, a guy.  It’s irritating.

A lot of it is stemming from my attempts to be a less difficult and argumentative person in life in general.  I’ve always been highly argumentative, and ‘difficult’ has always been the one word to turn up in any description of me, by friends and foes alike.  So I’m trying to change that and I’ve been biting my tongue more often and attempting to let things slide and not get so worked up over every little thing.  It probably explains a lot about what went down with the plateboy situation.

Anyway, the specific point in this post is in regards to paying on dates.  In general, I hate people paying for me for anything.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a cup of coffee because I’m doing a coffee run for you, or if you’ve lent me $10 until I get to an atm.  If I’ve got the cash on me I won’t let you pay, if I don’t have it on me, I will pay you back the minute I’ve got it.

Except I have been letting the boys pay on dates. 

The first date with plateboy (so my first actual real date since I was 16) he paid with a credit card at the counter.  There was no way for me to offer to pay without causing a scene, but I would have been more than happy to split the bill.  From his actions on later dates, I could tell the issue of who pays was a sore spot for him, but he never actually said anything or I would have sorted it out.  There was one date where he was planning on cooking for me and sent me an sms when I was around the corner saying he’d accidentally left his shopping at the supermarket.  Because of how close I was, we drove together to Coles and got all the ingredients for dinner and at the checkout he pulled the ‘whoops forgot my wallet’ game.  Like I said, I’m happy to split bills or alternate who pays, but I’m NOT happy to play games.  There were too many coincidences stacked up in this instance and it annoyed me.  At the end of the day, it’s my fault for not insisting on splitting the bill on that first date, but there was no need for him to play games like a twelve year old on later dates.  For the record, there were other instances of me paying or us splitting the costs, but it was never straightforward.  On one occasion he sent me a message before I left home asking if I’d pick up either the ingredients for him to cook, or takeaway, because he didn’t have time to do the shopping.  Which rang a small alarm bell, but not as much as turning up to his house and having him mention something from when he was at the supermarket earlier that day.  The games were more frustrating than paying was.

With coffeeguy, I actually had the money in my hand as I ordered my coffee, but he was standing closer to the counter and handed his money over before I could.  As I said, I’m trying to be less argumentative, so I let it go.  It didn’t bother me too much because it was a $3 cup of coffee.  But how much of that is just excuses?  In this instance it was clear to everyone involved that I was willing to pay my own way. 

So, how unfeminist is it to not pay on a date?  I’ve done some reading around at different articles and I’m conflicted.   I don’t see wanting to split the bill as a dealbreaker as some authors do.  Playing games is a dealbreaker, but wanting everything to be equal is most certainly not.  On the other hand, is it worth having an argument with someone over?  Sure, it creates the perfect chance to open a conversation on feminism and ‘school’ them as one friend put it, but is it worth it?  If I refuse to tolerate bullshit and any behaviour that would demean me, and if I refuse to buy into the ‘he paid, therefore I owe him now’ mindset, is there any harm in letting him pay, at least on the first date?

Or am I deluding myself and making lots of excuses to justify what is just downright antifeminist behaviour?  Is this a frontline for feminism that I failed to fight on?

I’m not just asking these questions for fun, and it’s not a bid to get more comments on my site to look more popular.  I am honestly curious about what you all think, so if you have any opinion on this matter, please speak up!


*At least in my last relationship, the compromises were less noticeable.  Not meaning to make sweeping statements here.



  1. Hendo said,

    I think, just let them pay the first time, and offer to pay the next time. Sometimes it helps me to view these kind of things as people being nice in a way they’ve been taught. You have different ideas because you’ve thought about these things. It only makes people defensive if you don’t want them to do this ‘nice’ thing for you. I think if you’re at the third date and he’s insisting on paying still, you can lightheartedly say ‘no come on, why do you want to pay for my time like that?’ or something. then you can get your point across and make them think. because really, it’s bit weird to always pay!

    I hate the grocery games too! That’s so crap! WTH he’s cooking you dinner, and he couldn’t be bothered to go to the supermarket yesterday in order to prepare? I don’t mind picking up an item, but if my friends invite me to dinner, they don’t ask me to go buy everything for the meal first. I say ‘can I bring anything?’, they say ‘No’ or ‘wine’ or ‘some cheese and crackers, maybe’.

  2. Elisabeth Kay said,

    “So, how unfeminist is it to not pay on a date?”

    Does it matter? Honestly?

    You mentioned in your post that you wouldn’t let someone (not just a date, a coworker or friend) buy you a cup of coffee if you did a coffee run for them. I think the issue is less of a feminist one and more of a personal one – why do you feel uncomfortable accepting others’ generosity?

    I would say, that if it seems like a man is taking you out and paying because he expects something, then it’s unfeminist to let him pay. If a man offers to pay because he likes you, or because it makes him happy to do so, then no, it isn’t unfeminist.

    Though really this can all be avoided if, after he pays the first time, you tell him that next time is your treat. Or you pay for the tip/wine/dessert and he pays for the dinner. And it comes off a lot better to say “please let me pay for the wine, I had a great time tonight,” which lets you pay virtually your meals’ worth in a different form, than it is to say something like “I’m a grown woman and I can pay for my own dinner” which is basically a slap in the face to someone who thought they were doing something nice.

    • whyimbitter said,

      I’m not sure why I have issues accepting other people’s generosity, but it is a big thing with me. It doesn’t stop at coffee runs, I have issues with all sorts of generosity. Even the act of making/taking a phone call when something shit happens in my life and I need advice/a rant/ a friend makes me uncomfortable and I end up apologising and saying thanks about eight times throughout the call. Maybe I’ll work on it

      And what if the man isn’t offering because he expects something or because he likes you, but because it’s expected? that’s usually what it is, ime. I did actually do the whole ‘I’ll pay next time’ with coffeeguy, and I followed through by paying for our movie tickets. Not all guys are comfortable with that either though.

      Just to give you some background on this post: I have two radfem friends that offered opinions on this situation, unasked for and privately, before the post went up. One took much the same point of view as you and pointed out the things she’s accepted from me as a friend and the other was incredibly upset with me for not insisting on paying my own way as she does. I’m not sure where my opinion is. It’s there somewhere though, I’m sure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: