Gender roles are changing, so should it still be up to the guy to pick up the tab after a first date? We find out.
If the guy doesn't pay on the first date, it's a deal-breaker for some of my single heterosexual girlfriends (don't shoot the messenger). It's not that they aren't self-sufficient, pavement-pounding women who can't afford to split the bill or even pick up an entire dinner tab. It's an appreciation for a gentleman in the old-fashioned sense of the word.
The thing is, of course, that gender roles are (finally) changing everywhere from the home to the office. We live in a time when females are at last making major strides in the equal pay department, saying "hell, no" to objectification, and when stay-at-home dads are increasingly common. But it seems that gender roles when it comes to heterosexual dating—especially in the early stages—aren't changing quite as fast, and the "fake wallet reach" on a first date is a perfected move for many women with zero intention of paying.
But is this a dated notion of the so-called "courting" phase?
"No one should be expected to pay based on their genitalia or gender identity," says sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Jess O'Reilly, Ph.D. "If this is the case, how should same-sex or non-binary couples make financial decisions?" In heterosexual situations, however, the tides seem slow to change. A 2017 survey by Money and Survey Monkey found that 78 per cent of respondents believe the man should pay on a first date—in heterosexual situations. On the other hand, a 2016 survey by Match.com found that 62 per cent of LGBTG singles thought that the person who asked the other out should foot the tab. Whatever your sexual orientation, however, the emergence of dating apps can blur the lines of who actually asked out whom, with mutual "matches" or right swipes usually implying an imminent date.
It's clear to see that traditional notions are shifting, however slowly, when it comes to the actions of servers who have gotten the memo not to place the bill down squarely in front of the man. Instead, today's server will often ask if you'd like for one bill or two and place the former in the middle of the table—admittedly making for either the first or yet another awkward first date moment. Then it's decision time. "I would say that whoever pays for the first date sets the tone for the relationship," says Julia, a heterosexual 36-year-old woman. "I love being taken out on a date, but I'm just as happy to split the bill because it creates more of an even playing field." Sarah, 35, believes that a man should "100 per cent pay," but that women should at least offer. A 2016 study showed women believe that men who pay are more likely to be attracted to them.
With that said, an insistence to pay might not be rooted in old-fashioned chivalry, but a desire for something in return. "Paying the tab is also attached to expectations of sex for some people; it's time we rid ourselves of these gendered expectations," says Dr. O'Reilly. "It's fine to pick up the tab regardless of gender—if you're a man dating a woman, you can absolutely pay if you want to, but you shouldn't be obliged to do so."
Dr. O'Reilly points to research that reveals dating traditions have changed when it comes to certain old-fashioned notions of chivalry. "An autotrader.ca poll found that chivalry may be on the decline. For example, 50 per cent of millennials prefer that their date did not greet them at the front door to their home," says Dr. O'Reilly. "Seven per cent of millennials consider opening the door for your date cheesy or pointless. But I consider it good manners. I don't care what your gender is, if you can go out of your way to make someone feel important, do it. I always talk about 60-second favours—this is a simple one."
I admit, the opening of a car door, inviting me to order first, and—yes—picking up the tab on the first date have always been check marks to me that definitely don't go unnoticed. Frankly, I shamelessly loved being wined and dined once in awhile—whether on a first date or on a fancy night out with my partner. I am also an 80s baby; single ladies in their early 20s may have a different—perhaps more progressive—view. Niko, 27, isn't so sure. "I think that women still like that I offer to pay and more often than not let me," he says. "But there are some who insist on splitting."
Perhaps it's the definition of a gentleman that needs some modernization. After all, being a modern gentleman goes beyond having good manners and gestures like opening a few doors. Today, it also means supporting female empowerment and treating women with a heightened respect when it comes to everything from sexual boundaries, to actually listening to what she has to say—things most of us find sexier than dropping dollars on dinner.