March 20, 2003
Your Dime or Mine?
Mike was the kind of blind date I couldn't wait to meet. He scored Kobe-size points on my over-the-phone potential meter.
You hang at Q's? I hang at Q's. You're from the Midwest? I'm from the Midwest. You like the Green Bay Packers? OK, so he had one flaw. But he made up for it with his twisted sense of humor and his stockpile of crazy stories.
Wearing my new black skirt and tight lavender tank, I raced from work in the Valley to drinks on La Cienega Boulevard. I was really late. Mike was really sweet. He asked about my day, pulled out my chair and bought me a drink. And how did my blind date look? Let's just say I'd let Michael row my boat ashore.
We moved from the bar to a table. Our food was good and our flirting was great. Over cashew chicken and spring rolls, Mike listened to my stories, laughed at my antics and started talking in the "we." Holy blind date, Batman! This night's going well. But then the check arrived.
To pay or not to pay, that was the question.
I have lots of male friends and I hear their morning-after rants:
"I dropped 80 bucks on our date and she didn't offer up a dime."
"She expects me to pay every time."
"I'll see Elijah before I see her pay for dinner."
Ask these guys what they thought of the girl?
"She was great."
"She was hilarious."
"She was better than 'Cats.'"
But they weigh these positives against the cost of seeing her again. If the average dinner for two costs $50, and drinks or a movie another $20 and he sees her twice a week for a month -- he's at $560. Toss in parking and he's spent a cool $600 on a girl he's just getting to know. That's rent money; car payments; the Bowflex complete home fitness system; an all-guys weekender in Vegas, baby, Vegas. Suddenly, the cost of dating this girl is outweighing the benefits. Especially if those benefits aren't coming quite as quickly as the guy would like them to.
Dating is tricky enough without this gelt dilemma, so I always contribute to the cause. If he gets the meal, I get the movie. If he buys tickets to the game, I buy the beer and nachos. I even spring for extra cheese. And since Mike paid for drinks, I thought I'd pay for dinner. My way of showing what a great time I was having. So faster than a rabbi can bench, I swooped up the check, pulled out my Visa and handed both to our overly chatty waiter, Fred. Bad move. Big mistake. Huge.
Mike freaked out when he realized I'd paid. He couldn't get over the fact that I'd thrown down my card. He said my money move made him uncomfortable. That it was the man's place to pay on the first date. And, like a blind mohel with a super-sized knife, I'd threatened his masculinity.
I give up. If a girl doesn't pay, she's seen as the kind of high-maintenance wallet drain even "Jew Millionaire" can't satisfy. If a girl springs for dinner, she's accused of de-menching her man.
So what's a Jewish girl to do? I guess not look hot, act sweet and offer to be your sugar momma. Was I supposed to run through the restaurant, flag down Fred and reverse the charge? Apologize for my generous gesture? Let Mike reimburse me? Perhaps I should have done what other girls do -- pretended to go for my wallet, with no intention of actually paying. But I'm not like other girls. I don't fake things.
For now I take it one date at a time. One guy I'm seeing will only let me pay if I initiate the date: If I ask him out, I pick out the place, I pick up the bill. All other nights are on him. Another guy prefers that we split each check straight up, 50-50. A third guy tried to complicate things with a coupon. I didn't see him again.
As for Mike, maybe he panicked when I paid because he wasn't sure what it meant. Understandable. We girls are complicated creatures. Sometimes we pay to say there'll be no end-of-the-night nookie. Sometimes we pay to say you're the one that I want. And sometimes we pay so we're not a financial burden. I never want a guy to feel like he can't afford to get to know me.
Maybe Mike felt I robbed him of his opportunity to make a good impression. But he could have impressed me by accepting my assertiveness. The guy for me will welcome my confidence and energy. He'll relish my firecracker spunk. And he won't feel intimidated when I pick up the check. 'Cause to be honest, boys, if the night's going well, it shouldn't matter who pays for dinner. What matters is who's up for a little dessert.... Â
Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.