Who Pays on Guy-Guy Dates?

shlevy asked this question today on Twitter. There are three scenarios I’ve experienced and here they are:

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: No, thank you. Want to just split it down the middle?

Dude 1: Sure, that works.

RESULT: They split it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  Dude 2’s tone might indicate that he didn’t have a good time and so his offer to go dutch MIGHT be seen as a subtle rebuff against future dates, but not necessarily.  If I were in either dude’s place, I’d probably toss in a “I had a great time this evening” or a “I’d like to go out again soon” just to show him that splitting the check didn’t mean anything.  If he reciprocates my enthusiasm for a second date, then I know we’re set to go out again.  If he doesn’t, then I might press more overtly for some indication of his intentions, but I’d take it as a sign that he’s not interested.  And if I’m not interested, then I probably started signaling my lack of interest right around the time we ordered appetizers and I will continue to make clear my intentions until we part ways, which means I will neither suggest nor accept invitations for future dates.

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: Thank you. Want to just split it down the middle?

Dude 1: I wouldn’t hear of it.  It’s the least I can do for asking you to put up with my bad jokes all evening. By the way, did I tell you the one about the mad scientist and his frog?

RESULT: Dude 1 pays

Here, Dude 2 could have insisted on splitting the check.  Dude 1 might have insisted back.  If Dude 2 insists on splitting it a second time, courtesy dictates that Dude 1 accept it.  The same things apply as above regarding whether or not this is an indication of negative interest because some guys just don’t like to let other people pay.  Some people only let very close friends/boyfriends pay for them.  You don’t know their story, so you can’t really judge.

If I were Dude 1, my second instance of insistence would have included another reason or a counter-offer such as “I asked you out, so I’d like to pick up the check,” or, “how about you pick up dinner next time?”  That second one is very clever because it gives them an opportunity to clearly state whether or not they’d like another date without any awkward moments later where they aren’t sure if I’d like another date. (I think I make my intentions pretty clear, but I’ve noticed a lot of people lie and some people are just nervous.)

In this scenario, it’s also possible for Dude 2, to intercept the offer and take it from Dude 1 and insist on paying himself.  All the social dynamics are the same as the above, it’s just a matter of charm and sophistication on the part of Dude 2 when it comes to wrestling away the check.

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: No, thank you.

RESULT: Dude 1 pays.

I’ve encountered this only rarely.  It’s generally considered impolite for the other guy not to at least offer to split the check even if he doesn’t want to.  Unless you’re very well off, it’s seen as presumptuous to simply allow the other guy to pay for you.

I add the caveat “unless you’re very well off” because I was watching the Real Housewives of New York the other day and the Countess made a big fuss that if you ask someone out for some activity like surfing, drinks, or lunch, then you are offering to pay.  She regarded it as stingy for Bethenny to even suggest that they go dutch.  Countess is simply out of touch with regular people if you ask me.  Not everyone can comfortably buy all their friends lunches, drinks, and surfing lessons every time they want to spend time together and the amount of money you spend on your friends should not serve as any indicator for how valuable they are as a friend.

I will say that Dude 1 can ask Dude 2 to pay.  He doesn’t have to pay just because he touched the check first.  He could place it on the table between them and say, “Are you OK splitting it?” Or he could make a show — although I would regard this as being snotty, passive-aggressive, and rude — and say, “Do you mind if I pick up the check?” There are even more, less polite options, but I’ll stop there with the assumption that no one reading this blog would resort to those.

When men have pulled this on me, I’ve paid without further mention of it, but it definitely when in my mental ledger as a strike against them.  True or not, among the reasons it counts against them are:

  • I think it’s presumptuous of them to assuming that I would pay for them for some reason, particularly if they didn’t seem to restrain themselves on what they selected from the menu. (I will point out that in the above scenarios, I’ve assumed the meal orders are nearly even and that neither party has made any overt display of ordering small, cheap dishes or something like that which sometimes indicates that someone doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. Not wanting to spend a lot of money is not a moral failing or anything. It can be social awkward, but I believe a gentleman can tactfully avoid any awkwardness by simply being observant and sensitive to that possibility.)
  • I think it’s un-masculine.  I don’t think it’s feminine.  I think it’s un-masculine.  I’m not sure how to best put that, but those are the words that come to mind.  I ask myself, not in so many words, but, “What man is going to let someone just carry him like that? How can his independence, self-regard, or just plain personal wherewithal allow him to act like that?”
  • It seems insensitive to what my financial situation might be. While I spent some small portion of the meal taking note of things that might indicate that they’re looking for a relatively inexpensive night out, their actions seem to say that they didn’t do the same for me.

And here’s a few scenarios I’ve never encountered before (at least not on any first, second, or third dates):

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: Thank you, daddy.

Dude 1: uh…

Dude 2: Damn right you better pick up that check if you think you’re going to get any of this tonight.

End Scene

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: I will set you on fire if you think you are going to try to trick me into another date by paying for this dinner.  But don’t get me wrong.  You will be paying.  Let me make this perfectly clear for your stupid ass: you have wasted my time tonight.  With your lameass jokes and your bustedass outfit. PSH! Homo you didn’t show up on a date with ME looking like you swam over here from Williamsburg in those tightass jeans that you can’t even pull up past your bony hips and that Che Guevara t-shirt. I should teach you a lesson in “cultural diversity” with a slap upside your head, but I am wearing my good rings tonight and I am not trying to wreck the settings just because you bumped your head getting out of bed this morning.  I don’t know who you thought you were coming out with tonight, but you have reached above your station this time, child. You better get me another drink before you check out so I could calm down. For real. Shiiiiiit. I’m going to the bathroom to powder my nose and pray to Jesus that I don’t have to cut you tonight.

End Scene

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening!

Dude 2: [Flips the table over and runs for the door]

End Scene

Dinner ends
Dude 1: [reaching for the check] Thank you for joining me for dinner this evening! Do you want to split it?

Dude 2: Oooooooo… yeah, seeeeee… I left my wallet, um, at my dealer’s house today. Spot me?

Dude 1: Call him.  Tell him to bring it here now. You can use my phone.

Dude 2: Whoooooaaaaaa… dooooooooood…

End Scene


  1. Qwertz March 11, 2010 12:40 am

    That second “other” scenario makes me think you’ve had your share of bad dates with guys who look like they swam here from Williamsburg in their tight-ass jeans they couldn’t even pull up past their bony hips.



    • Trey Givens March 11, 2010 7:14 am

      hahahahahaaa… Never in my life, but I am prepared.


  2. kelleyn March 11, 2010 10:16 am

    Thanks, Trey. I appreciate discussions about the nuts and bolts of social skills. Much of this is applicable in a wider context, for instance, when two (straight) girlfriends do lunch. We used to just toss the appropriate amount of cash on the table, but since nobody carries cash anymore that is becoming less of an option.


  3. Richard March 11, 2010 11:38 am

    I find the “guy should pay” tradition annoying. Is there any rational reason this should be the case? I wouldn’t want to just presume it as the norm.

    • Trey Givens March 11, 2010 11:58 am

      As far as I can tell, it is simply a matter of culture/tradition/practice/custom etc. Such rules are arbitrary to a certain extent even if they are based on a long tradition of certain ideas whether or not they’re rational.

      The rational reason for practices such as these is to facilitate our interactions with one another within our society. I think that’s the reason we have “courtesy” and whatnot.

      As for the “guy should pay” tradition or practice, I think it is fading a bit among some groups, but it’s not dead. If I had to offer any advice, I’d say one should err on the side of being too polite and assume it to be true. Personally, I don’t find it annoying. In the words of one of my coworkers who is also a southerner, “The asker pays and picks the venue.” I think that can work well for both men and women.

      Of course, if you don’t like this, there are many ways of politely and inoffensively communicating your desired outcome, such as simply asking if she minds splitting the check, but if she’s old-fashioned she may, rationally or not, take you for a cheapskate.


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