To the Editor,
I am writing in response to the two articles published in the most recent issue of the observer debating the topic “Impressing vs. Imposing: Who Should Pay for the First Date?”, for I disagree with the claims of both pieces, and I believe that it is typically appropriate for a man to pay for a first date.
The first article, titled “Should Men Pay for the First Date: The Courtship Ritual of the Satin Bowerbird,” likens a man paying on a first date to a male bird attempting to impress a female bird into mating with him by creating an elaborate arrangement, noting, “A man attempting to pay on the first date is likely just like the male Satin Bowerbird, trying to display his worth. He flashes a small, colorful piece of plastic in an attempt to gain approval.”
In the second piece, titled “Establishing Equality: Why the First Date Bill Should be Split,” the author argues, “on the first date, the tone of a potential relationship is already being set. If you don’t expect your relationship to be founded on the basis of equality, then by all means, allow the man to pay for you…[in] paying separately, you are establishing parity that will set the tone for the rest of the date and the rest of your relationship.”
The two authors share a fundamental conception of the practice of men paying on a first date as being sexist in origin and essence. The first article is just willing to excuse this behavior on the grounds of men’s silly, but goodhearted intentions, whereas the second holds that to start a relationship on such unequal grounds would be laying the groundwork for an unequal future. I disagree with both authors. The origins of the practice, which very well could be rooted in ancient hunter-gathering practices or medieval chivalrous ones, do not define, and should not affect, the practice of men paying for dates now. What matters now is the nature of the act itself.
To me, it seems that asking someone out on a date is like inviting them over to your house for a meal—you are hosting them. Just like it would not make sense, and would be rude, to expect your guest to pay for their meal, when one person asks another out on a date, they are offering to host them for a meal or an activity. Just like you might decline to come over to your friend’s house for dinner if you might be expected to pay for your half of the food, and you agree to attend on the expectation that you will not need to do so, if someone is asked on a date, it is reasonable for them to expect to not have to pay anything. Now, this is a result of the general historical practice of men generally being the ones doing the asking and the paying. However, I believe that whoever asks the other out should pay for the first date, although some women may feel uncomfortable asking out a man, and some men may feel uncomfortable being asked out. Further, discussing who should pay, and how much, before or during the date can inject unnecessary awkwardness over the whole proceedings at an often already rife time—date payment is just something to get past as smoothly as possible.
A man paying for a first date isn’t wrong. He’s just hosting the woman for a date, and it is, therefore, appropriate for him to pay. If a woman asks out a man, she ought to pay, for the same reasons. A man paying for the date, when he is the one who asked out the woman, isn’t perpetuating sexism, setting relationships off on the wrong foot, or impressing value—it’s just good manners.