When a guy I know got back from what looked on social media like an amazing trip to Germany and Austria, I asked if he would show me his photos. We agreed to meet at a bar in town, for happy hour, a few days later. When I showed up there, the bar was empty, and I could tell he felt a little awkward.
We are both 29, and we’re both single, and we have similar jobs, and I could tell that knowing all of this led Mack to think that I might interpret this meeting as a date, which he wanted to be clear was not.
So, when the bartender took my drink order, she asked, “Can I put this all together?”
While Mack huffed and hawed, I said, “Separate is great,” and I gave her my credit card and opened my own tab.
I could almost feel Mack ease up next to me. I had successfully killed the “Does she think this is a date?” Question. Then, I could enjoy his photos and stories about Austria in peace (by the way, what romance is there in swiping through someone’s photos on their phone?? I’d rather go back to the old slideshow in the garage with all the neighbors thing).
It left me thinking, though: did I suck the potential for romance out of this non-date by insisting on paying for myself? What would the dynamic have been like otherwise? Women have all kinds of anecdotal opinions on paying for themselves, but what is the real consensus on the end-of-date paycheck “dance,” as Ted Mosby once called it, just before revealing that he broke up with a girl for not doing the dance with him. Even if it’s not a date, are men and women really at a point where all things are equal?
I would first take into consideration who invited whom.
The first time I had lunch with Mack, he was asking me all about how to set up an LLC, and he offered to pay because he said I was “really giving him a lot of value” (I know what you’re thinking–that’s why I knew this photo thing wasn’t a “date” date). He might have thought we set a tone where he would offer to pay. It’s awkward enough with an acquaintance, but I find this lately even with friends, where we both feel generous and want to do something for the other person. The best I can do is remember who paid last time, so I don’t feel bad backing down when a friend offers to treat.
There are times to pay, and times to be paid for. Do you always do the dance for the check? How well do you know someone before you let them foot the bill?