Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Blast from the past: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

I’ve traveling today, so no new post. Instead, here’s an oldie but goodie:

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

This is not a new topic, for me or for anyone else.  But it keeps coming up. And maybe now that our entire financial system is collapsing and so many of us have less disposable income than we used to, it’s an even bigger issue than before.  I don’t know.  I just thought it’d be good to address it head on, instead of as part of another post.

It kind of does matter who pays.  Or if bills are split or if you take turns paying.  It does.  I don’t know if it should, but it does.  And I don’t know if this cuts across demographics.  Is it different for people in their early 20s or daters in small towns?  How the hell should I know?  I’m no expert.

can tell you what I know about me, and how has and can affect my dating life/.

It turns out that for me there’s really no black and white on this issue.  Just a lot of gray.  A whole lot of gray.  I approach each date, each guy differently, because each situation is different.  Not everyone earns the same amount of money.  And I live in New York City, a city where incomes vary wildly.  One week I might be dating someone who has to borrow money from his friends and family to pay the rent.  The next week I could be dating a guy who owns his own townhouse(No, I’m not exaggerating.  You should know by now that I have no need to make shit up.)  The amount of money a guy has or makes doesn’t interest me.  In fact, having too much is likely to be a turnoff as guys with a lot of money seem to not be able to keep themselves from bragging and that makes me not want to be around them.

The point is, I’m not going to let some broke guy spend his money on me. I will, however, let Mr. Moneybags pick up the check almost all of the time.

You’ll note I said almost. That’s right. Almost.

A few years ago I went out with this guy for about a month. He had money. I don’t know how much but I do know that his apartment had to cost at least 4K a month* (probably more) and by googling him I knew that he owned a successful business. So I knew he had a lot more than me. Back then my feelings about money were slightly different. Men with money could pay all the time. I didn’t feel weird about this (go ahead, write the nasty comments). I realize the idea that the guy pays is anachronistic and anti-feministic or whatever. I don’t care. It is what it is. Two people spend time together. One has lots of money, the other doesn’t. The one with lots of money pays. That’s the way I see it. Well then I ended things after a month because he was kind of arrogant and some other things that I don’t need to go into here. And he sent me a rather nasty email saying rather nasty things (dontcha love those?). Among those was that I was a horrible person for never paying for anything.

He was sincerely offended that I’d never offered to pay. Or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he just wanted to make me feel bad and thought it was something I might feel bad about. It did make me think. I realized that by never paying I was tipping the balance of power and responsibility in a way that I didn’t want it tipped.

So now, even if a guy has lots more money than me, I pay sometimes. And some things I will always pay for/never let him pay for. If we’re eating take out at my apartment, for example, I will pay for it. I have had several guys try to pay the delivery guy and I shut them down. It’s my apartment – I pay. And I will NEVER let a guy give me cab fair to get home (eew), I don’t care how expensive the trip is or how broke I might be. And then, additionally, I will make sure that I pick up checks sometimes (again, we’re now working on the assumption that I’m dating someone who has/makes more money than me). Sometimes I will invite the guy out to some of my favorite (not expensive) places knowing specifically that I will pay. Because I want to feel like there is some kind of balance or attempt at balance in the relationship.

I have dated men who earn less than me. When that happens I pick up a lot of checks. A lot. But I try to do it subtly. Then, I work on the theory that “you ask, you pay”. So if I ask him out to dinner (my choice of restaurant), I pay. He asks (his choice), he pays.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned splitting checks. I hate going dutch. Hate it. I’ll do it if I’m with a guy who’s really into the who “equity” thing. But it drives me nuts. Friends split checks. Not lovers. Yeah, go ahead, call me names. That’s just the way I feel.

As for first dates, well, I usually do have the guy pay. Because he usually grabs the bill. But then, I’m a supercheap first date. I frequently drink nonalcoholic beverages, even at bars, or if not just one real drink and then a switch to water. I want to be super sharp and I’m a lightweight. Sometimes, especially if the guy seems like he might not have much money, I’ll show up early and pay for my drink before he gets there (most of my first dates are at bars).

I titled this, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. No matter how much we wish it didn’t, money does affect our relationships. When a guy starts to spend a lot of money on me (taking me to expensive places, which is always his choice, btw) it puts stress on the relationship. Or on me. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. That meal does cost me something. Maybe not monetarily, but something. And so then I take him out to brunch the next day, or to a less expensive place for dinner a few days later to try to take the stress off.

Let’s face it, dating is complicated enough without worrying about who pays.

*he lived in a building of “luxury rentals”

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1 to “Blast from the past: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”

  1. Thanks for the great blog.

    I agree with your general view that paying does create pressure. The interesting part is that as a male with decent resources, if I offer to pay I only do it if I feel good about it and am willing to walk away from the cost of the meal. In other words, no expectations and any man that feels otherwise is not someone you want to be with anyway so enjoy the free lunch! 😉

    On the flip side, I have noticed that many women do feel like they “owe” me something if I pay. In those cases, I would definitely recommend that women pay as the mental burden (even if it is only based on their own perspective) is not worth the value of a meal. In other words, if you as a women are not going to feel like you owe them something, then accept the free lunch.

    If not, why place any additional burden on yourself for a $30 tab? Pay your half and focus on first dates at lunch time when splitting the bill is more cost effective!