I always think it’s a bad sign if a man doesn’t pick up the check, at least on the first couple of dates. I never let this be a deal breaker for me, but I’ve also never walked away from a date where I had to pay for myself feeling good. That’s no way to start a relationship. I should have heeded my feelings. In every case, those men who betrayed a lack of fiscal generosity at the outset exhibited an emotional one down the road. Monetary stinginess and emotional withholding go hand in hand.
I dated those men so you don’t have to. I won’t tell you not to go out with a man who lets you pony up your share of the check, but I will tell you to tuck that information away. He’s giving you a message when he takes your money, be it ten dollars or fifty. If he’s unwilling to share his wealth (no matter how much or little he has), I suspect that he’ll be unable to share his heart in any real and satisfying way. A man should plan a date within his means (pretending he has more than he does adds dishonesty to the already mounting problems), and pay for it. There are fun, romantic places to go at any price point. There’s nothing so unromantic as the Dutch treat – a date so unsexy you may as well wear wooden shoes on it.
The argument that the women’s movement has confused this issue is utter nonsense. The idea that feminists burn bras and take offense at chivalry is a fallacy perpetrated by those who wish to hold us back. Feminism is about women being empowered to do anything they want to do, be it running the House or staying at home. There’s no power in buying dinner. The powerful one is always the one who is being courted. As it is in business, so it is in romance – the client doesn’t buy. Eventually, the host benefits from the client’s resources, but he has to woo her first.
This custom may have been born out of an all-but-dead tradition of the male breadwinner, but it’s still valid, because what money signifies holds much more currency than actual dollar signs. In the early stages of courtship, the price of dinner is not a down payment; rather, it’s a way of saying: I want to take care of you. Not financially, but in all the ways we support each other in healthy relationships. The man has to make that declaration first, just as it’s the man who has to ask for the date, call after it, and make all the pursuing moves. It’s been roundly established that feminism hasn’t altered that, nor should it. Feminism is about women having choices. And I choose to date a generous man.