Who should pay?

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Picture this – In the beating heart of the trendy part of town, a young gorgeous couple sit in a secluded corner of a charming restaurant on their first date. Fleeting yet suggestive glances, unbridled laughter and lingering touches, both the man and the woman feel intoxicated by the others wonderful company; neither dares to look at their phone encase time has vanished far too quickly for their liking. Alas, even an electrifying date as theirs still has to dwindle into its final ambers, the time has begrudgingly come to whisper a reluctant goodbye. But before that can happen, the simple yet easily disastrous and awkward matter of the bill has to be sorted out. It’s at this point where the next few minutes could either end the couples delightful evening with the promise of more or with hidden animosity that means they will never see each other again – who pays for the bill?

In the not too distant past, such a question would have been met with an automatic but quite emphatic two-word answer: THE MAN, this is because polite society always considered it respectful and most importantly chivalrous for the man to always pay for the woman. However, in a modern world striving for equality of the sexes, women want to be considered as independents capable of paying their own way in life, leading what was once expected – a man paying for dinner, down a hazy and controversial path. Should the man pay? Should the bill be slit? Or should the woman pay – oh no, god forbid. The divide of opinions and beliefs to this question isn’t necessarily fragmented by gender as you would expect; not all women think the man should pay and not all men feel the cheque should be shared, instead it’s more of a conflict of preserving tradition vs embracing modernity. Thus, to absolutely solve this heated conundrum we have to break down the latent ideologies behind each stance:

Tradition

Sometimes in life you can tell more about someone by their true actions than a million of their false words.

When a man pays for dinner it is a statement of his generosity. Consider this, if a man is tight-fisted with the first couple of pence and pounds then you have to ask yourself when next in life would he be so stingy? If he can’t be dependent on to pay for a meal, can he be relied on to be a good provider for his future children? Like I mentioned before, a person’s actions can reveal a lot more about their character than any amount of words can. Here’s another point, in some respects life can be more stressful and draining for women – fighting for equal pay and shrugging off unwanted male attention, thus at times it can really feel refreshing and pleasant when a man invites a woman to dinner and then pays for the meal, it really shows her that he appreciates her time and company. For a woman it’s also like reliving that childhood fantasy of one day growing up to be a princess and being treated like they are the only girl in the world, forever special and beautiful.

Modernity

For a very long time a man was supposed to go out to work, ask the women out, open doors for her and then pay for the meal, in vain of always demonstrating his gentlemanliness and chivalry, whilst in exchange all a woman has to do is sit there and look pretty – umm, that seems fair… 

When a man is always expected to pay for a woman, it’s as if society is saying subliminally that he can buy a woman’s affection and as an extension it suggests that her worth can be attached to a price tag. All notions of ownership need to be eradicated, this is the 21st century and it’s all about female liberation and independence. Women are no longer financially shackled to men, they occupy important positions in the job market and they earn all their own money, meaning they are fully capable of paying for a dinner themselves. Unfortunately, venturing into the seedier side of the argument: if a man goes to the burden of paying, there seems to be an expectation or unwritten law in some male minds that a woman should then repay the financial gesture with one of a sexual nature in return, again going back to the argument of ownership. Taking the man specifically into consideration, constantly paying for the meal can be a huge financial commitment when at times they could be struggling for money. Also, it should be remembered in the modern dating scene it is often encouraged for people to date multiple partners at once and if the man is constantly paying for each of the two or three women he might be courting, then quickly it becomes a huge financial strain.

When you equally spend time looking at both sides of the argument, it can become very easy to understand, believe or even poke holes in either side of the argument. In terms of tradition, a man paying for the meal can feel like the ultimate expression of appreciation of a woman’s time and does suggest that he really wants to invest in the relationship long term. But is a financial investment more important that an emotional investment? Whilst for the modernity side of the argument, if women are to achieve real equality they must be prepared to always pay their own way in life and if they expect both equality and the privilege of having their meals brought for them by men, it leaves plenty of room for contradiction. Yet again, the cost of one measly meal is miniscule compared to the undoubted commitment and sacrifice a woman could bring to a loving relationship.

To me, when a couple is in a committed relationship there is no problem with the man on occasion paying for dinner, that’s what you do for the people you love. But when a man is expected to pay for a woman’s meal on the first date, without even knowing her well enough yet, it’s as if society is saying females are vulnerable and aren’t even capable of feeding themselves without the help of a man and I think that is wrong. In my opinion for so long people have been taught to accept tradition as a permanent way of life, to the extent that they can become blinded to its inherent flaws and to me the tradition of a man paying for the meal on a first date is definitely flawed.

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