The Editors Debate: Should You Pay For Your Boyfriend’s Dinner?

This week, editors Jennifer Wright and Ashley Cardiff were inspired by this piece about dealing with finances between partners, specifically over the tab at a restaurant. It quickly devolved into accusations and name-calling which revealed incredibly stupid, misinformed opinions about feminism. Also Ayn Rand.

Jennifer: So! Dividing expenses with your significant other! I will begin, because perhaps people do not know how we handle this differently. When you go out with your boyfriend, who pays, Ashley?

Ashley: Whoa! You can’t deflect! Don’t put this on me.

Jennifer: No, no, but, really – you and your boy go out for a night on the town. The check comes. Barring the possibility that you play dine and ditch – wait. Dine and ditch? Next time we go out let’s just do it! Let’s just be like Thelma and Louise! I’ve never seen that movie!

Ashley: Well, my boyfriend makes more money than me, so it doesn’t make sense to split things 50/50. But I also don’t need him to support me and I don’t want him to feel like he needs to, so: if he suggests a place, he usually gets the tab. If I suggest a place, we usually split it. Occasionally, I will get it because I enjoy taking him out. Because he is awesome.

Jennifer: That sounds very rational. What’s it like being a boner killing feminazi?

Ashley: There’s a lot of free dinners, weirdly. Anyway, what’s your arrangement like, you callow, parasitic infant?

Jennifer: Well, Ashley, it’s great being the baby queen of the bug people, because typically he pays. Like… pretty much always. But that goes along with the fact that he pretty much always picks the restaurant. I mean, he doesn’t say “tonight, Wildwood barbeque, that is where we are going, woman.” Usually there’s some element of “I feel like Italian” and I maybe suggest something, but usually it’s up to him, and it’s pretty clear that he is taking me out. Also, our incomes are unequal. I earn my salary from editing this blog, and writing for a newspaper and freelancing for magazines, which puts me in a nice little ballpark. He works in finance which means that my ballpark is the ballpark his people send their children to for little league practice.

Ashley: That was good. How does it feel to set women back? I bet it’s relaxing.

Jennifer: It’s a little tight, but the corset is so sexy! I will say, I was out with an old friend for dinner a while ago and she brought her new boyfriend and the check came. And I paid my portion. I assumed he would get the check, if only for my benefit, because I was sitting there wearing a sundress and cardigan and am clearly someone who enjoys traditional norms and would be impressed by that. But he did not. “Oh, okay” I thought, “they go 50/50. Well, I suppose the major victory of 1970′s feminism was the dutch treat so…” Wait. You’re not going to respond to my hideously offensive generalization about feminism in the 1970′s? Really? Work in a jab so I can continue with the story.

Ashley: It’s like you’ve hit me between the eyes with a hammer.

Jennifer: So, I figured they’d split the check. But instead, he figured out precisely how much each of them had spent and made her put more money in. And pointed at the paper with the numbers on it. With his big hairy terrifying new age finger. That he probably uses to anally stimulate donkeys. That’s what they DO, Ashley. That’s what people like that DO.

Ashley: He was probably one Birkenstock’ed step away from handing you a peace pipe full of reefer, Jennifer. He was probably gonna share some quinoa with you and maybe even offer to burn you this really great Disco Biscuits bootleg he has. The world can be a lawless place. BUT!


Ashley: Well, if you think women should make as much money as men, you’re a feminist. That’s it. And I know you believe that. Consequently, when was the last time you shaved your legs? It’s gotten disgusting.


Ashley: You’ll never be pretty enough!

Jennifer: Actually, that kind of factors into it, economically. Look, I assume my boyfriend and I both enjoy traditional gender roles. I like that he takes me out to dinner. Likewise, he likes that I look pretty and uphold the standards society sets in that regard. Let’s factor in some costs from that perspective:

- My freakishly excellent pilates class. $35 a session. Twice a week.

- Brazilian waxes. $40. Every 3 weeks.

- Japanese straightening treatments for my hair. $500. Every six months.

- Eyelash extensions. $70. Every two weeks.

So, at a minimum I spend around $460 a month. To look pretty. In a traditional, culturally normative way. So, admittedly, he takes me out to dinner a lot. I’m certain the balance still comes out in my favor because we go out to nice places, but it’s not as though I’m not investing my own finances into the relationship in other subtler ways. Oh! Wait! I forgot expenses related directly to him. Buying his favorite brand of scotch to have in the apartment. Making sure the fridge has some things he likes to eat in it. Let’s kick it up another $100. $560 a month. No offense, but I could buy A SHIT TON OF DINNER with that money.

Ashley: Well, you’d do that anyway, all the upkeep. Because the only reason you wake up every morning is to Snag! Your! Future! Husband! But don’t worry: I, too, reinforce traditional gender roles by cooking all the time.

Jennifer: Would I? Oh, probably. There’s more pressure from women than men in that regard. But I think my boyfriend is the one who appreciates it the most and certainly praises me the most for not looking like “that grotesque, hairy leg behemoth wandering the hovel streets” (that’s our pet name for you).

Ashley: You forgot to add $400 per month for weekly massages to alleviate back pain from supporting the patriarchy.

Jennifer: What if Atlas just… shrugged? Then he’d have bad posture and not be so pretty anymore!

Ashley: Ayn Rand hated the patriarchy but probably only because she wasn’t conventionally attractive.

Jennifer: She had a very young male friend. But she also wore a dollar bill pin on her lapel. I get the feeling she was footing the bill, in spite of HER ENTIRE PHILOSOPHY.

Ashley: She supported her diminutive sex friend? She had a philosophy?? I wouldn’t know because I don’t read anything by female writers.

Jennifer: You love the patriarchy. But really. Let’s say $30 a meal. I could buy myself 18 nice quality meals with the money that goes to procedures I use to give men something pretty to look at. I SHOULD GET TO CHOOSE ALL THE RESTAURANTS!

Ashley: You have no soul. Also: if you took Ayn Rand to dinner, do you think she’d put out?

Jennifer: I think that’s… probable? Though I don’t think she would let you pay. Or would she just be doing that fake-out where someone PRETENDS to reach for their wallet, fully knowing the other person will step in?

Ashley: That’s the worst. I think we’ve talked ourselves into a corner. What were we arguing? About how my approach to life things is more rational?

Jennifer: Well, yes, but I’m prettier.

Ashley: It’s probably ’cause your boyfriend buys you more stuff.

Jennifer: That’s what inner beauty is.

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    • Nikita

      Where in New York do you get eyelash extensions for $70? Everywhere I look, it’s always around $120, which I feel is a bit too much for something I already have (but would like a bit more of).

      Also, I usually just let my gentleman friend pick up the check but I’ll pick it up once in a while to let him know I’m an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to pay for everything…but only once in a while because I like free food.

      • Jennifer Wright

        Oh! Wink eyelash. It’s on 36th and 6th. They do a great job, and the retouch is $55 for 35 lashes on each eye, and $70 for 50 lashes on each eye (I’m sure they also have higher levels, but I do the 50). That doesn’t include tip, so it works out to more, but it’s still more reasonable than anyplace else I’ve found.

    • Lexie

      I either split or pick up the entire bill every time. I’m also making next-to-nothing in an expensive city.

      This may be why I’m perpetually single, and also, broke.

    • Eileen

      I’m still reeling at how much Jennifer spends on beauty stuff.

      • Jennifer Wright

        I have never thought about it until this moment, but yes, that is apparently where a huge chunk of my monthly income goes. It’s shocking, right?

    • M

      I think if it works for you, do it. I am not exactly conventional: female in a male-dominated labor industry, suck at cooking, think kids are annoying and to be avoided, dress like a guy [it's cheap and comfy and all my clothes get holes and oil stains anyway so why spend more money on nice girly clothes?], yadda yadda. But back when I used to Actually Date [and yes I'd wear female clothes for that], I would offer to split and if the guy said ‘Oh no, I’ll get it’ [read: almost every time] I would let him. Especially because I mostly dated older guys with established careers so they had money, and being a college student in one of the most expensive areas in the country means I’m extra-broke and therefore too poor to have pride [not that it's something that would affect my pride anyway], and also doesn’t free food taste the BEST? With my boyfriend, whoever can afford it more pays. Which is me more often than him at this point because he’s even broker than I am; we’re both poor college students but at least I don’t have any loans out and my job’s been treating me well.

      I dunno, I’d like to think I’m not too judgy about it. The only thing that sometimes gets me irritated is chicks who Really Really Expect the guy to foot the bill; at least be prepared. My guy friends have said the same thing: they’re more than happy to pick it up [especially if they asked her out], but they’d like her to at least pretend to offer to throw in for the tip or something so they feel like she appreciates it and didn’t just assume they’d pony up.

      • Hanna

        To pony up is the coolest expression I ever heard. I will use it daily from now on.
        I always offer to pay at least half. If I like a guy and I expect another meet where I can return the favour (meaning where I can pick up the check) I have nothing against him paying. If I really don’t want to see someone again, for whatever reason, I pay for myself. If I am really broke and they guy has money to burn I swallow my pride sometimes. You know, so I don’t starve.
        I would be a bit put off though if I offered to pay for everything (I do that) and he would just say “okay”. You gotta play the “no, allow me” game for a bit.
        If it’s something really, really small I don’t care. Like, a chocolate bar or something. If a guy wants to buy me that, I let him. Am I a bad feminist now? I mean, he may be a sexist bastard but he’s buying me chocolate…

      • Elaine

        Actually, if I find the guy heinous and irritating, I am more wont to let him pay. I consider it a charge for boring me for an hour.

        I used to be more insistent on paying my share, but met one too many pretend-chivalrous douchewillows who would loudly flaunt how they’d NEVER let a woman pay and how they have SO MUCH MONEY and did we talk yet about their amazing FINANCE INTERNSHIP? And I was like, meh. Okay. Go on ahead, fella.

    • Brett

      I love, LOVE the way these two women can justify anything they do. The old joke is, yeah, she’s believes in feminism and equality, until the check comes.

    • werbaz neutron

      “he makes more money than ME?” “ME?” Who would expect anyone to pay any attention to someone who uses that kind of english up front?

      Just a couple of airheads still playing junior high school Tiger Beat.

      My god, why did we give them the vote?

      • Jane


        I believe Ken Wilson sums it up best in The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (3):

        Than is both a subordinating conjunction, as in She is wiser than I am, and a preposition, as in She is wiser than me…. Since the following verb am is often dropped or “understood,” we regularly hear than I and than me. Some commentators believe that the conjunction is currently more frequent than the preposition, but both are unquestionably Standard.

        So I guess that’s why we have the vote?

      • Ashley Cardiff

        how does one play tiger beat?

    • werbaz neutron

      You mean, Jane, that you are smarter than me (is?…or is it am?). And my great old English teacher, Mabel Warren in High School so long ago….it appears you are smarter than her is.” Poor thing, she died early with a maligat in her year.

      Such slouching of the language – no matter who the new age authority you quote may be – is something up with which I will not put.

      Take your views to The View: there is ample such attitude there.

      Such slouching of standards is a result of giving women the vote.

    • werbaz neutron

      Please pardon my tone, Jane, for I should not have adopted that. I will comment, instead, that you people are on a slippery slope with your comment.
      That is only one slippery slope among many as we “slouch,” as a culture, toward you know what.

    • JJ

      I stopped reading the article after few paragraphs. Doesn’t interest me.
      But I do want to let everyone knows that,
      In Russia it is understood that the man should pay for the meals (unless the girl insists). Not because they are old fashioned, but because the men understand that girls have more expenses to look their best.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Why on earth would any sane man want to spend time with a woman so vain that she spends more money on propping up her image of her own beauty than on food?

      Sorry Jenny but it doesn’t take $450/month to keep looking good. Exercise is free or fairly inexpensive. Hell, you can buy pretty a nice bike at a bike shop for what you spend on pilates in two months. Many of your other vanity expenses seem completely frivolous. Are you saying that you’re not attractive without fake eyelashes? That without a pedo looking bald pudenda no adult male will want to have sex with you? The last time I took biology classes, pubic hair (and, before you say “ewww” about his back hair, male body hair) are secondary sexual characteristics. They are there for a reason. $1000 a year on having your hair straightened? Are there no attractive hair styles for curly hair?

      You say that you’re spending the money to look good for him, but it’s clear that it’s more about your own vanity and ego. Perhaps if you actually listened to men instead of thinking automatically that you know how we think and feel, you wouldn’t have to spend so much money trying to snag a rich alpha male who will then support you. Guys care far more about attitude than looks. If a woman is reasonably attractive, wanting to spend time with us, showing us genuine affection, being eager to have sex and enjoy it, most men could care less about how long her eyelashes are. When it comes down to it, being willing to be truly intimate with us is a lot more attractive to men than spending $5K/yr on propping up your own ego.