Having dinner on the first date is often awkward. My  first (official) post-divorce date was dinner and a movie. I ordered pasta. What an idiot. There I was, nervously trying to make conversation, trying not to slurp my noodles or get food on my blouse.

Why You Shouldn’t Choose Dinner for a First Date
  1. Dinner can be a long drawn out affair if you and your date aren’t hitting it off. You’re stuck until the meal is finished!
  2. It’s awkward eating while trying to carry on a conversation with someone you’ve never met. There you are trying to make a good first impression with a piece of spinach in your teeth or trying to discreetly spit out a piece of gristle. Not pretty.
  3. In many restaurants, the tables are so close together that your private conversation can easily be overheard.  I had (just) one date with a man in that kind of situation. The diner to my right was so close that we could have touched elbows.  My date, who’d already surprised me by being 2-4 inches shorter than stated and at least 4 years older, started talking about his three wives. And, proceeded to tell me he had sex over 10,000 times with wife #2.  I was speechless and embarrassed as he went on to explain, once in the morning, once in the evening and ……
  4. The money issue. Who pays for dinner? Are you splitting the check? Expecting your date to pay?
Dating myth:

A man who pays for dinner expects sex in return. I don’t think so. And, less likely for the over 50 age bracket. Not to say that men and women over 50 aren’t as interested in sex as our more youthful counterparts.

Should the man pay? Is that what women expect?  Men in their 60s and older, particularly the traditional types, are more likely to insist on paying for dinner. But the process of asking and anticipating and negotiating is awkward.

I had a first date recently that ended up being a dinner date. We started with cocktails and appetizers, then moved on to dinner with several glasses of wine, ending with dessert and coffee. It was a long leisurely affair and expensive for a first date. He paid. In this case we discussed it before even getting to the restaurant.  He suggested dinner and I agreed, then he brought up the issue. He was newly separated and, I think, a bit uncertain of how to proceed.  I suggested we “Go Dutch”. He insisted on paying so I smiled and said yes. I offered again, once the bill came, but he still wanted to pay.

Then he said something interesting. If I had insisted on paying a portion of the bill he would have interpreted it as a lack of interest on my part. A way of avoiding any unspoken obligations.

We’re all a little uneasy about how to handle the bill on the first date. Ego, tradition, expectations, finances…. they all get in the way and have to be handled delicately.

What should you do? If you’re a woman, always be prepared to gracefully pay your share. Bring money or a credit card. If he offers to pay you can decide how you want to handle it. If you feel awkward then insist on sharing, but know that he might be offended. If the topic of who’s paying for dinner is important to you then plan a discussion before you even get to the restaurant.

Conversation starters for Who’s Paying for the Dinner
  • Yes, dinner would be nice. Shall we go Dutch?
  • I think dinner is a nice idea, how shall we deal with the check?
  • Let’s have dinner, maybe some place not too pricey and we can share the cost.
  • I would love to take you out to dinner. Will you let me treat you? If you feel uncomfortable with that, you can pay next time.

The key is to feel comfortable. Roles are changing and men aren’t always sure how to respond. Some women expect to be treated. Some women expect to pay their way. It’s similar to holding the door open for a date. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

You can avoid the whole issue by suggesting a coffee date for the first meeting. It’s simpler and cheaper. You can leave faster if need be or linger if the chemistry feels right.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a preferred method for handling dinner dates?

7 Responses to Who’s Paying for Dinner? Online Dating Tips

  1. […] See original here: Who's Paying for Dinner? Online Dating Tips | The Diva of Dating […]

  2. Jeanzart says:

    It is a challenging and somewhat confusing topic, that I have a hard time talking about on a first date.  I’ve read some forums on my online site and many people (mostly men) suggested that they definitely pay for the first date/meeting, which is usually coffee or a drink.  After that, most people seem to reason that the person who has initiated the date should pay for it.  And, for me, if the man has been paying for most of the dates, I will usually buy the popcorn at a movie, or a drink later in the evening.  As a single working mom, I have little disposable income, so I wouldn’t be able to date much if everything was Dutch.  So thank you to all men for your generosity!  It is much appreciated.

    • Walker says:

      I hear you about the dilemma and challenge of trying to keep up with the financial end of dating!  I do think that many or most men do feel some obligation to pay on dates. I don’t know your age, but I wonder if it’s different for the 20 or 30-some crowd when it comes to paying?
      So glad you stopped in to read and comment.

  3. Eleanore Wells says:

    If we go Dutch, that is, we each pay for our own dinner, then I don’t consider it a date. I like it best when he pays…but I am willing to take turns.
    -The Spinsterlicious Life

    • Walker says:

       I like it best when he pays too!  And, I don’t mind taking turns, but I was raised as a traditional Southerner and there’s something about the gentlemanly manner that I find appealing.

      I hadn’t really thought of it as not a date if he doesn’t pay. Do you feel that way even on the first meet?

  4. SUZY says:

    This has been a difficult part of dating for me. I just went out on a second date and when the bill arrived to the table he just left if there and didn’t reach for it. It was clearly a test (I hate games). When I asked what he wanted to do with the bill he stated “it’s up to you”. I, of course, paid for the bill because I felt odd saying “fine, you pay”. HOWEVER, while he was testing me he failed my test (did I mention I hate games). I had mentioned when he paid for the first date I stated “thank you, I’ll cook dinner for you”. Second date and bill arrived and he wanted, obviously by not reaching for the bill, me to pay. Tonight is third date and I had intended to invite him over and to cook a nice dinner for us which would be the first opportunity for intimacy…BUT…now I don’t want to invite him over. When I said I’d pay for the second dinner he stated “great, we can alternate who pays”. NOW this has turned into a tit-for-tat situation and I’m turned off. We are both over 50, both have good jobs, and at this point in my life if I have to pay for every other dinner I’m CERTAINLY not going to be inviting him over and cooking for him, too. He took what could have been a lovely beginning to a relationship and turned it into buddies. I’m not attacted to my buddies. If I’m going to play the traditional “woman cooking” role.,.I expect him to do the traditional “man paying for dinner out” role.

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