Sex and the Sixties Girl: Bring Back Men Paying For Dates

Anna David is the executive editor of The Fix, as well as being the author of Party Girl and Bought. Her newest book, Falling For Me, wherein she tries to follow the advice in Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl, is due out October 11th. She tells us about some of her adventures in this column, Sex and the Sixties Girl

I realize that what I’m about to say would get me kicked out of any club for feminists but the former trend I most wish was still around is the one that involves men treating us on dates.

I know it’s not appropriate to admit such a thing. I get that oftentimes we make as much as, if not more than them so it doesn’t make sense that they should be stuck footing the bill. I get that as a woman, I should want to fend for myself and show that I don’t have to be dependent on anyone.

I still wish they’d pay.

It’s ironic that I’m writing these words, seeing as I’m the most compulsive wallet-reacher in existence. I’m essentially planning when I’m going to dig into my purse before the waiter has even brought the bill, and have been known to offer money at times when I’m wholly positive it won’t be accepted. The last thing I ever want to be is presumptuous.

But there’s one main reason I miss the old way of doing things—and when I say “miss” and “old way of doing things,” I’m really talking about a tradition that died long before I was born so I miss it in the same way I miss dressing up for flights or other things I only heard about but never really did myself: it got rid of a whole lot of awkward that now exists. Initial dates can be uncomfortable already; must we really add a financial negotiation to them?

When I committed to embracing all of Helen Gurley Brown’s recommendations in Sex and the Single Girl, I understood that I was going to have to modernize ideas that seemed the most dated. In other words, I took her concepts about paying on dates (“Never go Dutch treat,” say, and “A lady’s love should pay for all trips, most restaurant tabs and the liquor”) with as much of a grain of salt as I did her most famous dieting recommendation (“A tiny touch of anorexia nervosa is necessary to maintain an ideal weight”): as the rantings of a woman slightly out of touch.

Still, it made me long for a time when these things were a little more clearly defined.

Rest assured, I don’t think men should pay forever—just at first. The first two dates—or maybe the first three. Then a woman should start covering or at least some splitting up should occur. So all I’m advocating for, really, is a brief wooing period that involves actual wooing. Because here’s the thing about the bill: if it’s a first date, I’m going to offer to pay but judge the hell out of you if you actually take me up on it. I’ve had it happen and then felt sorry for the men for not understanding that I was actually testing them in a way, that their honest answer to what they surely assumed was a genuine question had docked them points.

When I’ve dated men who haven’t let me pay for anything, I’ve been delighted. I haven’t wanted to be delighted but the fact is that I have been. And it’s not about the money; it’s more that I’ve delighted in the feeling of being taken care of.

Conversely, when I’ve dated men who have said, when I offered to split the bill, “No, that’s all right, you can get the next one,” I’ve wilted a little—wanting to perpetuate the illusion that I’m being taken care of rather than receiving a reminder that we have an arrangement and the only reason I’m getting this treat is that I’m willing to get him back the next night.

Like I said, this isn’t about money—it’s about the fact that we’re at a bizarre time in history where these rules aren’t defined. I’ll never forget a first date when I lived in San Francisco and didn’t offer to split the bill (this was before my compulsivity about the issue had developed, though in retrospect it may have been why my compulsivity about the issue developed). The guy, as he was getting out his wallet, said, “So, is this how it’s going to be, then? I’m just going to pay for our meals?”

I swear to God he said this. And I don’t fault him for it, either. Or, I did fault him for it but I also understood it. We’re all a little confused by How Things Are Supposed to Work Today.

Part of me wishes we could just come to a consensus about this. I’d just sort of like to sit down with all the single guys and girls in America and talk it out; we could all explain our various feelings and issues and grievances when it comes to paying for dates and eventually decide on a standard that wouldn’t leave anyone feeling uncomfortable, guilty or presumptuous.

You guys up for it? Food and drinks on me.

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    • RosiePosie

      My belief has always been that the person doing the asking (especially for a first date) should pay. If you don’t think my company is worth the price of a meal you shouldn’t be asking me out.

      Oh and this, “So, is this how it’s going to be, then? I’m just going to pay for our meals?”… really!?! I hope there wasn’t a second date with this passive aggressive jerk face. If he wasn’t comfortable with your assumption he could have voiced his concerns, you know, like an adult. Instead he went the trying to guilt you into coughing up some cash route, real mature.

    • Dawn

      *sigh* And those of us who date people of the same gender just…what? Oh yeah, don’t exist. S/he who asks does the paying on a first date.

      And your desire to be “taken care of,” or at least have an illusion of that, is disturbing. You’re an adult – take care of yourself, and find somone who cares about you. It’s not the same thing.

    • Baker Girl

      I agree with Ms David, its nice to feel taken care of … but … I do insist every once in awhile. My BF gets a little awkward about it, but I put my foot down. But, I also will spend $60 or more on a meal when I go all out cooking.

      Also, RosiePosie – Your rule of who asks is the one who pays is BRILLIANT

    • Catherine

      I hate when people get super defensive about articles like this. It’s ok to have an opinion! As far as my experience, in New York City every guy I’ve ever been out with has paid and adamantly refused when I even offered. I mean, I’ve only lived here about a year…but still. I think the wallet reach is a safe, and polite thing to do these days. But, I don’t think that the days when men paid are a thing of the distant past, at all.

    • Andy Bates

      About the “desire to be taken care of”: Yes, women (in general) have that desire, just as man (again, in general) have the desire to take care of and protect. You can’t just wave away millenia of societal evolution with an offhand comment like, “You’re an adult; take care of yourself.”

      Anna, you seem conflicted about the desire to be taken care of, and that’s fine. Personally, I would rather hear about your thought processes than not; it’s more honest that way.

      • Elle

        If men have a desire to take care of and protect others, then why do so many of them rape and beat women? Why do they abandon their children? Why is it that the woman always ends up having to care for the kids, or for aging parents? And why do so many men abandon their sick wives, but women are much more likely to stick around with a sick husband? Because evolutionary psychology is retarded. Shut the fuck up.

      • Canaduck

        @Elle: Well, that was totally unwarranted.

      • B

        @Elle: Perhaps you should be introduced to a better class of men. Hello, my name is Bryan. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

        Truly though, the men you describe are only just men (and barely that) and are not gentlemen. I do wish that the qualities of the gentleman would make a comeback. It would make this a nicer place to live, no?

      • Erin

        Hey, @Elle:

        I agree that evpsych is often used to rationalise all kinds of stupid crap. But you’ve just generalised in an even less scientific way about an entire gender based on a few of the worst exemplars of behaviour by individuals from that gender.

        Let me represent for you the flipside, the tip of the iceberg of the vast majority of men who AREN’T rapists. At my university, there’s a group of students who started a tumblr to represent that men can stop rape. is full of pictures of men on campus and around town holding signs about respecting women’s equality, that rape is caused by rapists and not by risky outfits, and ‘I can take no for an answer’.

    • Anthony Mark

      First of all, when go out with a woman, I always pay, for everytihng. I do that with sincere joy.
      A few weeks ago a lovely lady who is on a tight budget had to pay to park her car, she refused to allow me to pay for that, at the end of the evening she drove me home, I left $30 under the passenger seat of her car.
      she left me no choice , she called to tell me she got the money
      Also, Anna David is very consistent, in May 2009 during an interview promoting “Bought” Anna said the same exact things she wrote in this column today.
      I agree with Anna, its always my pleasure to pay for meal, the show tickets, the ball game tickets, the parking, everything .
      It makes ME feel good to do that.

    • j.cruel

      I’m with Rosie, who asks pays. Offering to pick up the next time is the polite way to indicate you would like to see someone again (they asked first so you have to put your cards on the table for the second date). That said, one should really consider what “being taken care of” actually entails. Being taken care of doesn’t mean that all you desires will be satisfied–it’s a trade off: your material comfort for your independence. A quality relationship requires that you take care of one another so demonstrate your willingness to do just that and pay his way every once in a while. Jeez. I’d like to live in a world where someone else (man or woman) always pays for everything I want–until I actually think about the consequences of that arrangement.

    • Marc

      I always pay on the first few dates. For me it’s part of the show. I’m not expecting anything at the end of the night, and I figure that if the relationship blossoms that things will even out.

      It’s simply the classy thing to do.

      You asked – her – out. She has captured your imagination. She said yes to the date. Ball (and billfold) are in your court all the way.

      It’s not being old fashoned, and it’s not an issue of control. It’s just what cool guys do. Then again I know many women who don’t like classy or cool men, but that’s another column…

      • B

        Finally another guy who believes the way I do. It may be sexist, but I think women are special and should be treated as such. They should not pay for anything during an evening out with us. The offer to do so may be nice, but it should never be accepted or expected. And as for the idea that the one that asks is the one that pays, it’s rubbish. Why is it so unthinkable for us as men to be chivalrous?

    • Eve

      I’ll jump on the “who asks, pays” bandwagon and add that, according to Miss Manners, reciprocal treating has always been expected. Back in the day, a woman might reciprocate by making a home-cooked meal for her date. Men can pay at a restaurant or cook; women can pay at a restaurant or cook. The idea is that if someone treats you to a meal, you treat them the next time. And that is traditional.

    • Charly

      I’m paying. End of discussion.

    • Matt

      I have never had a woman on a date offer to pick up a tab or even split it. There has been the occasional offer to cover the tip, but never a bill.

    • Benita

      First date, I don’t care who does the asking, I always insist on splitting the bill. After that, whoever does the asking pays although if he pays, I leave the tip.

    • Mike (Chi_Mike)

      Clearly defined. Magic words and I agree a thousand percent. Those days were so much easier. If I ask, I pay. If I didn’t ask, I’ll pay anyway. I was always taught to be a gentlemen and that includes holding open a door, giving up a seat on the bus and paying the check. I suppose it would be a nice thing to have a woman ask if she could donate, would probably score some points, but I would kindly refuse.

    • Andy Bates

      Elle, is that really your response? Some men rape women, therefore men shouldn’t pay for dinner? I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with your generalization. Maybe if more men learned to respect women, there wouldn’t be as many rapes. Paying for dinner is just another facet of that respect.

    • Heather


      I appreciate your response. I truly hope your wife appreciates you. sincerely hope that if you have children, you are raising them to be chivalrous just like you were raised. Your Momma raised you right!!

      • Shannon

        His mother did not “raise him right” for living in this generation.
        He is a Mangina, a man that believes the purpose of his existance is to take care of a woman. It demonstrates an exceptionally low self-regard.
        Not merely is he treated like a dog, he thinks he /ought to be/.

        If a woman said I think I should be submissive to my husband, would ypu reply ‘Your father raised you right!’

    • Sam Ich Bin

      As long as there’s the reciprocation of sex, then sure, why not?

    • AgentDuke

      I think the issue of who pays is sexist at its very heart (noting that I have paid *every* single time in my 30-some-odd year history). It traces back to when the norm was a man working, providing for a woman, who took care of the household and the children.
      That still holds true for many. For many others, though, those days are long gone. And with them is the natural consequence of that – uncertainty of ‘who will take care of whom?’
      My wife (now married 15 years) has never *had* to work a day in her life. Now, she does work very, very hard, both inside the home and without. But never for the family support – all hers goes to entertainment or extra things – fun things. So that sense of taking care of her is there, and always was.
      If a woman were to make more than a man, and with that carry a sense of her own independence, I’d say how you work that out during dating will likely reflect how the relationship will work. That is to say, some men may take care of you, and others you may end up taking care of. The point is, which of those would you rather live with? Because they aren’t going to suddenly change when they decide to tie the knot…

    • Todra Payne

      @Dawn, the article nor the comments were meant as a slight against “those of us who date people of the same gender.” The columnist and most of us responding are heterosexual, as is the theme of the article. So, it makes sense that the responses reflect that.

      As for what the article is addressing, I like for a man to pay for me on our first few dates because it is part of the wooing process, not because I necessarily want to be taken care of. If he’s cheap on the first day, I’m not interested in a second date.

      Once we’re a real couple (if it gets to that), of course, I’ll treat sometimes. And do other sweet surprises for him.

      • Carolyn

        nicely said

    • Carolyn

      Thank you Anna for writing this article. When you are dating, money is SO AWKWARD and I hate that we’re supposed to pretend that it’s not! It’s really not about the money, (since I would gladly pay my own way for each expense that comes up) it’s about not wanting to violate anybody’s expectations or insult anyone, or make the other person feel uncomfortable. You don’t want the guy to feel emasculated or like you’re trying to take over on his role during the first few dates… Maybe we ARE in a revolution and changing of etiquette (from “the guy always pays” –> “its equal”) but we are all at different stages of that transition. So its AWKWARD.

      And yes, I agree that it’s nice to feel wooed and taken care of. You can be an independent woman and ALSO embrace traditional gender roles.

    • janis

      I TOTALLY AGREE with the author. It isnt about ‘how much’ is being spent. Its about the man being a man and not a boy. an alpha male. he plans the date relative to his budget, granted no money requires real creativity, picnic under a tree in the park is very nice. Its about the man putting forth INTEREST AND EFFORT. if he asks for money, it tells me he is not very interested in me and thats fine, the same holds for me too …if I whip out my wallet, I am not into him romantically.

      To add to that, there will never be 100% equality between men and women, never mind females earn less for the same job done by men. never mind that. Presentation in the grooming, birth control (the RISK and RESPONSIBILITY) and all the other beautiful things that make men and women different.

      Most self respecting women will agree. Its very nice to be treated like a lady when either of you is interested in more than just being ‘buddies’. nuf said.

    • Hanna

      Whoever and whatever sex / gender you are, I think it’s normal to offer to pay at least your share. It’s nice if the guy does it on a first date because for me that signals that there is going to be another where I pick up the tab. If I don’t want to see him again, I pay for myself.
      As a rule, I don’t look kindly on people disrespecting me. A guy forcing his money on me is patronizing to the extreme, suggesting I can’t take care of myself and my needs.
      How about people stop making such a big issue? It’s just money. It should be easy to handle for a grown-up. The first kiss on the other hand…

    • Kristin

      My thoughts exactly :)

    • Adrock

      It’s refreshing to have a woman say, honestly, that when a man pays, there’s a feeling of being taken care of. And that it feels good for her. It’s funny, maybe if a woman just said that to me on a date–that she likes that feeling of being taken care of– the expectation that I was going to pay would be less bothersome. There really aren’t settled rules, because I’ve met woman who really don’t want me to pay for them and ones who don’t know what they want and ones who want to be taken care of.

      At the risk of saying something that gets me in trouble, as an early 30s single male who has lived in NYC, LA and SF for the past 14 years, the women who pay for themselves have almost always slept with me more quickly. My guess is that they felt invested in the situation, and in a similar vein to the stereotype of how men think, they figured they might as well get something in return.

    • bob

      decide ahead of time what ur doin and how its paid for and drop all this me expecting me to pay for everything make me think the girl is a selfish golddigger who wants a free meal or whatever and might think fucking me is gonna refund my money.there are hookers for that ,or wives.and im sorry but if u agreed to a date with me and then suddenly didnt like me anymore cuz i want to split the bill,tells me youre shallow and selfish and greedy.anyone ever heard of the term group effort or team effort?trying to make a couple by doing the opposite of what couples should do is can split bills and custody and visitation and assets and whatever else there is to split the responsibility for in a relationship,but cant split the check on a date?seriously? thats ass backwards.relationships start many ways and i guess if they start or fail because of all the things u people have mentioned then i guess they were meant to be or not meant to be in the long run anyways.

    • Andrea Papke

      My sentiments are with you.

    • Megs

      I wholly agree with you here. If for no other reason that taking out the extra anxiety of “who’s going to foot the bill?”, I think men should pay for the first date, though I would usually offer (and expect to be turned down). Second or third dates are fair game for women to pay or split the bill.

    • DC

      Anna, I really appreciate your honesty. It’s refreshing. I can’t say I agree with you, but I do value knowing how people feel.

      In these times, there is the consensus you have wished for. It is that women are equal, that the traditions came from a time when women (though always capable of being equal) were not equal, and that women must now suffer (and enjoy) all the same experiences as men. In general (due strictly to ways of life rather than capacity) women were the weaker sex. At 49 I have been around long enough to experience both sides of the issue.

      My wife has a view which I have wholeheartedly adopted. Whomever asks the other person out should be the one to pay. We have been together for 11 years and still operate this way. This way, since men still do most of the asking for first dates, women will often still feel taken care of’.

      Try it! Next time you are interested in dating someone, do the asking, then pay. Even guys like feeling taken care us. It makes us feel special. I can almost guarantee you (assuming the first date turns into a second) that the person you just took care of will be dying to reciprocate. Win, win!

      DC :)

    • Mark

      Bring back women who are submissive, do laundry, cook and clean.

      Either bring back the ’60s, or hypocrisy will be thy name.