50/50 Culture: Who Should Pay on the First Date?
Welcome to Gen Teafication, where Esquire’s Gen-Zers explain the insanity that is internet culture. Bussies, Rizz, Big Boys, and more–we’re breaking down every new (and sometimes cringey) trend to hit this cesspool we call social media.
Kids, prepare for hot tea, hot takes, collective anger issues, and maybe a lesson or two. And Titos/Titas, buckle up. Get ready to feel your age.
This is a safe space to feel and to vent. For today, a user asks:
"I met a guy on Tinder recently. (A) is nice, and we really hit it off the past few days. We followed each other on Instagram so I guess that's a big deal. Valentine's Day is coming up, and we decided to go on our first date. There's a restaurant (A) suggested and it looks great. By great, I mean it looks expensive. With that said, I have no problem with it but it did get me thinking about who pays the bill? I've always been for the 50/50 thing, but he tells me that he'll take care of everything. Should I say no to that, as a feminist myself?"
Who should pay on the first date?
First, I want to know when this became such a controversial question. My two cents on this is that whoever asked for the date covers the date. Honestly, there’s no hard and fast rule about this, but there are unlimited opinions. I can only say what I’d prefer for myself, based on my needs and preferences, and that’s that the man pays for the first date. Before the sigma males come after me in the comments section, just know that having a preference doesn’t revoke my feminism card. There’s more nuance to it than that.
I don't necessarily think there's a right or wrong answer to this. I guess the old-timey gentelmanly thing to do is to say he's got you. If we look at various surveys, the prevailing sentiment is that the guy should pay for everything on the first date, but maybe there's a western bias to that somewhere. But then again, if you're not comfortable with the idea (or if you feel like you don't want to incur a moral debt, so to speak), you can say no. Nevertheless, the general rule to me is, if you guys aren't exclusive, then the one who asked the other out should take care of the bill. But 50/50 isn't something to be ashamed of if both parties consent and agree to it.
Does letting the woman pay for 50 percent make you less of a man?
Short answer: no. But, remember what I said about nuance? Well, this is where that comes in. Letting the woman pay 50/50 on the first date doesn’t make you less of a man, but it might make you look less (or more) desirable in the eyes of a woman–depending on her preferences. The first date sets the tone for a potential relationship. Some women want a man who covers dates, some women don’t care either way. If the man pays 50/50 on the first date, then most likely, they’ll be paying 50/50 on rent, groceries, and food in your potential relationship. If that’s no problem with the other person, then paying half the bill on the first date shouldn’t be either. But if they want to be taken care of (and there’s no shame in that), then 50/50 is a red flag in their eyes.
On another note, let’s just take a moment to recognize the state of our society at the moment. The truth is, a lot of women follow the 50/50 rule because they don’t want to feel indebted to a man they don’t know. Because let’s face it, some men feel entitled to something after they’ve paid for the food. So maybe, if a woman takes you up on the offer to cover her whole meal, it’s a sign of trust instead of princess behavior.
It shouldn't. The only dudes who'd think that way are men with fragile egos. If everyone is comfortable with the 50/50 thing, then it shouldn't be a problem. The next question might be: would she think less of me?
Well, I'd like to think that in most dates, we tend to go out with people with the same value system as us. If that value system entails a 50/50 way of going about your companionship, then it's good. Of course, this value system, most of the time, doesn't get talked about in the early, flirty stages. So, there's that chance that she'd expect to be taken care of. There's also a chance you might disappoint her. It is what it is.
If a guy does decide to pay for everything, he should be aware that this doesn't entitle him to anything. Remember that.
The Rise (and the Inevitable Fall) of the Situationship, Explained
This Is Why You're the Toxic One in the Relationship
Does letting the man pay for the date make you less of an independent woman/feminist?
No, it doesn’t. Don’t listen to the anonymous trolls. We can already hear them shout, “It’s 2023, women should pay for their own shit!” Some (not all) men like to pull the feminism card when it suits them, like avoiding paying a full bill, but then they’ll turn around and catcall women on the street or share lewd stolen photos of women. As for women, they’ll hear that phrase and think that feminism isn’t just about equality, but equity. Fairness, not sameness. A man might pay for the date, but if the date progresses into a relationship, the odds are that the woman will be the one who’s expected to cook, clean, and take care of the kids. So yeah, in retrospect, it seems like a fair trade.
As a man, I don't think I could ever speak for what women want or should do. Any good ally or feminist knows that. But I just want to say that letting the dude pay for the date shouldn't make you feel any less about who you are or your values. You can still be the independent woman you know you are while letting the guy take care of the bill. That much I know.
This thing where the man wants to be the "provider" is so last century ago anyway. There's something to be said about breaking heteronormative gender roles, too. But insisting on being taken care of (considering this is the first time and that he was the one who asked you out) romantically doesn't take away from your feminism, I'd like to believe.
So what’s the right choice: chivalry or independence?
In all honesty, I don’t think there is a right choice for everyone, just the right choice for you. It’s really a case-by-case basis. In 2023, your relationship is up to you, not whatever gender roles society imposes upon us. The answer to the debate on 50/50 dates should be situational, not societal. Whatever works for you, go for it. There’s no one stopping you. The keyboard warriors might have a lot to say about it, but at the end of the day, it’s just the two of you in a relationship. And if the way they answer the 50/50 trick question doesn’t match your values or needs, then the solution is easy enough. Don’t go on a date with them.
Again, this goes back to that value system thing I mentioned earlier. You just have to be on the same page and that you're comfortable with what's agreed upon. It's a first date so I'm sure nobody wants to disappoint, but something as simple as who pays can set the tone for the (prospective) relationship.
I think chivalry isn't dead or anything, it's just that it's evolved to take into account the woman's selfhood. These days, to be chivalrous is to respect each other's personal freedoms and ability to choose. If the man insists on paying and you don't want that, he should honor your sentiments. If you, on the other hand, want to be taken care of for your first night out, you shouldn't feel bad about wanting that in the first place.
All this is basically me just saying to each their own. Go figure.
All opinions in this column are our own. The replies are written by u/saltysis (F, 26, PH) and u/mommyissues (M, 26, PH), two writers in the midst of a quarter-life crisis caught in the passive-aggressive war between millennials and Gen Zs. Alexa, play “Middle Child” by J. Cole.
Got something on your mind? Send your questions to [email protected]. It's cheaper than therapy and, let's face it, way more fun. (For us at least).