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Date night expectations.

By Eric Leech

In this issue of ATX Man, we asked our ATX Man and AW Relationship columnists, Eric Leech and Kaneisha Grayson, to go head to head in a “he said/she said” showdown, answering one reader’s question on expectations of who pays on a date and what it means to the relationship.

Question: I am recently divorced and in the early stages of a relationship and am unsure about who pays when we go out to dinner. In the past, if my date paid, sometimes I felt that he was looking for a payback (sex) at the end of the evening. While I am open to taking our relationship to another level I would rather go Dutch than be obligated to sleep with him. The other problem is that I don’t want to offend him or appear too independent if he offers to pick up the check. Help!

ericEric’s Answer: A first date is a lot like buying a used vehicle to a guy. He will look around for signs of damage and excess mileage (baggage) from the previous owner. He will take her out on the road, and may even put his foot all the way down on the accelerator (sexual tease) just to see what kind of a reaction he gets. He’ll wonder what’s under the hood, but will settle for listening to the purr of her engine (imagining the sound of her voice in bed).

Assuming the check engine light does not make an early appearance, he’ll end the evening having made the decision to buy (make a second date), lease (recommend to a friend), rent for the day (one-night stand) or go home and think about it (“I’ll call you”). Regardless of what he decides, at no point during a date does a worthy man expect sex. In fact, there is an unspoken rule that the person who initiates the date should also be the one who foots the bill. Period. End of story.

However, in Texas, where the buffalo once roamed and the gentleman cowboy still exists, a first date may be a man’s way to demonstrate generosity, reliability and his willingness to be a team provider in the relationship. This does not mean that a woman should assume the man should pay. Many men actually enjoy the moment when we have to insist. This allows a woman to demonstrate her independence while also allowing the guy to override that with a bigger statement as to the value of her company. In today’s modern world, women are growing increasingly insistent to go Dutch because they feel like a guy is looking for payback after the date.

However, what she is sensing is his assumption that she wants him simply because he’s a sexy beast. This is according to Scientific American, which has suggested almost every guy a woman has contact with will at some point assume she would sleep with him. It’s just the way men think. So, what can a guy do to ensure a woman is comfortable with the idea of him paying for a date?

First, he can loosen up, be relaxed and just have a good time. Next, he should avoid trying to impress her with a lavish plan, and instead focus on finding a quiet (inexpensive) place to get to know each other. Another important point is to learn to pay attention to signs of disinterest, so he’ll know whether she wants to extend the evening. The problem is most guys are terrible at reading signs. This is why it is important for women to also understand the signals they are giving off. In the primate kingdom, an exposed rear end is like a cattle call, screaming, “Come and get it!” Your average guy understands provocative dress to mean there is a chance he’ll get lucky.

A woman should focus on flirting with their mind rather than attracting a man with her assets if she w ants to avoid giving him the wrong idea. Men are also drawn to a woman’s touch to his arm, hand or shoulder. Men assume this is an open invitation to touch her back. Many Austin gentlemen enjoy paying for a first date. It is instilled in his heritage. However, to avoid any date becoming a play for power, a man may be insistent once and then demonstrate compromise after that. Generosity is only valued if it is welcome.

Kaneisha’s Response: Though I’m throwing huge amounts of side eye to the comparison of women and used cars, I believe Eric and I on the whole agree. Worthy men don’t think they’re entitled to sex on a first date, and as a more than worthy woman, you will encounter many men who want to sleep with you—but it’s not because they paid for your date; it ’s simply because straight men like to sleep with women. That’s what they do.

kaneishaKaneisha’s Answer: First of all, you are never obligated to sleep with anyone, whether they’ve paid for your dinner at Bess Bistro or taken you on a 10- day trip to Tuscany. Despite the primal desire to jump in to bed as soon as possible , most men who are sincerely interested in having more than a casual, sex-centered relationship with you are willing to wait until you’re ready. Any man who makes you feel like you owe him since he paid for dinner is a cheap creep that you want to get away from as soon as possible.

As for who picks up the check in the early stages of dating, I tend to prefer a 3-to-1 ratio: for every three dates you go on, you plan and pay for one of them. Once you two are in a committed, exclusive relationship, I think it’s fair to do your best to plan and pay for roughly half the dates. If you want to financially contribute to the date, you can tip the waiter or the valet.

If you feel really uncomfortable with the man paying but he still insists on covering the bill, tell him that the next date is on you, and then really follow through with planning and paying for the next date. Men generally aren’t offended when women offer to pay on dates. Many talks with my male friends reveal that men are offended when women don’t even bring money on a date (which sounds very strange and kind of dangerous) or when they do the fake reach, a slow-motion search into the bottomless hole that is y our purse in a half-hearted attempt at helping to pay for half the bill. Either sit there gracefully with a smile and say, “Thank you,” as he pays, or whip that cash out so fast that he knows your intentions to contribute are genuine.

Some may argue that the question of who pays on the date is a generational issue, but I beg to differ. I think this is a power issue. You should never feel like someone has power over or the right to your body just because he has more money (which wasn’t actually confirmed as the case from your question) or some other possibly en viable quality like attractiveness, youth or sexual experience. To make sure I wasn’t getting all “I’m the millennial woman. Hear me roar,” I consulted my 80-year-old neighbor, Joe, and this is what he had to say about it:

“What? No way! That’s like saying, ‘I bought you a hot dog. Now let’s jump between the sheets.’”

Now, I’m hoping your guy isn’t taking you out for hot dogs, but I’m in exact agreement with Joe. Just because a guy takes you out to Uchi doesn’t mean he gets the, well, you get the point. If you want to sleep with him because you’re ready for that level of intimacy with him, by all means, get your freak on.

But if you’re dropping your panties because he dropped his American Express, you’re moving forward in to the dating world with your priorities all mixed up. You want to be with a man who not only can’t wait to shag you, but is also kind, generous and respects you. In the post-divorce dating world, it may seem like these kind of guys are few and far be – tween, but you deserve to give yourself as much time as you want to make up your mind about a guy before sharing your heart—and your bed— with him.

Eric’s Response: If only all men had a 79-year-old wingman like Joe. Hot dogs (or coffee) aren’t such a bad date idea in the early stages of a relationship. It handicaps the ability to use money as a play for power and forces you to get to know each other without any external glitter to hide a lesser obvious red flag. My dad used to say, “You can’t put diamonds on a (insert your chosen object of disgust here).”


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