Who should pay on a date?

Jan 6, 2010 at 12:07 p.m. ET

Who knew there was an issue? I sure as heck had no idea there was such a debate about who picks up the check. You see, I come from a place where men are men and women are women.

Couple on a date

I suppose my mother raised me to be old-fashioned, so I always assumed it was the man's job to pay for the date -- the first, second and third date, at least. I would never even make the reach as an adult. I've never had a man get upset with me for that. In fact, I've always been asked out repeatedly by said men who would pay. (Or maybe, they secretly hate me or think I'm a loser?)

Sure, when you become a committed couple, it makes sense to take turns. It's only fair. But when it comes to the first few dates before you and your honey become exclusive, what do you do about the check? Does he pay? Do you pay? Does it matter who asked whom out? Or, should the man always pay? And if so, should you even offer? I asked some single buds to get their take...

Old-Fashioned yet slightly judgmental

According to John Sinclair, a single man from the east coast with a great sense of humor, agrees with me -- the guy always pays. 'That's why we're all broke,' he jests. Although Sinclair is old-fashioned when it comes to picking up the bill, when it comes to the girl, he can't help but judge her if she doesn't offer. 'If she reaches her hand into her purse, [she gets] bonus points,' he says. 'If she just assumes and lets me pay without saying anything, [she gets] negative points. And if she doesn't say thank you at all, there will be no second date.'

Men pay, she bakes

For Ellen Pates, a vivacious single lady from Los Angeles, there are certain conditions that come into play when it comes to who pays for the date. 'If the man asks you out on a date, then he pays. If I ask him, then I pay,' she explains. Pates will usually offer on the third date, but in her gorgeousness, she seldom pays. But make no mistake -- she contributes in other ways. 'I return the generosity by cooking dinner or baking something he likes,' she adds. 'I think real men still want to be the provider for women, so I make sure I let them win and make them feel like men.'

At least say thanks

Eugene Oh, a single man from Seattle, thinks the man should always pay for the first few dates. 'Anyone who doesn't is in the minority,' he points out. 'I will highly agree with John -- an offer to pay and/or a thank you goes a long way in saying something about the character of the girl.' If the girl offers after the first couple of dates -- like the third or fourth -- Oh will let her pay. 'Her cooking dinner or baking something is just as thoughtful and goes just as far as her paying for a date,' he adds. 'Girls who don't offer to pay after several dates or say thank you, I say, 'Thank you and goodbye' to them.'

Always make the reach

Anita Cheung, a sassy single from Los Angeles agrees with Sinclair and Oh. 'Any girl that doesn't reach or offer is high maintenance, lame, needs to learn some common courtesy or all of the above,' she points out. 'Run the opposite way unless you want her to empty your pockets dry.' By the same token, Cheung believes that many a man who lets a woman pay for him on any of the first few dates needs a good smack upside the head. 'And then, the girl should run,' she adds. When it comes to going dutch, Cheung believes that might be an indication that the man in question might not be all that into the girl.

Paying says a lot

Although Cheung believes women should always offer, she also realizes that a man's generosity on the first few dates is indicative of the future. 'I do agree that even in our modern society, real men still want to be able to take care of women. And vice versa, most women I know -- regardless of how successful and put-together they are -- still want to know that a man can provide for them, even if they are perfectly self-sufficient,' says Cheung. 'As women, it's our job to foresee into the future as to whether or not you can provide for us. It's what we do.'

At the end of the day, Cheung says that she's 'nobody's princess.' I'd have to second that. Although I expect my date to pay for the date and have, in the past, forgotten to make the reach, I do know how to take care of myself. Yes, the man should pay on the first couple of dates, but after that, you should take turns. Or at least, that's the overall consensus. But girls, make the reach and say thank you -- you should always be polite at all times.

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