Real Simple etiquette expert, Catherine Newman on who should get the bill.
Q. I am a 21-year-old junior in college and only recently started dating. I have been out a few times with one man, and I think a relationship is possible. When we go out, he generally pays for both of us. However, once I surprised him by taking care of the bill, and he told me he felt embarassed and that I should never pay again. Are there rules when it comes to who pays?
A. The only rules you need to know are these: (1) Relationships should feel good, and (2) mutual graciousness is always in style. Old-fashioned chivalry may seem appealing, but rigid genderbased conventions—the kind that determine who makes decisions or acts in certain ways—are outdated.
If your date were a real gentleman, he would thank you for picking up the check; if your generosity upsets him, then something isn't right. Try discussing the issue with him. "It's nice to be treated to dinner, but it's nice to return the favor sometimes, too," you can say. "Let's try moving forward without strict rules about which of us does what." If he responds negatively to this request, then you might want to second-guess the potential of the relationship.
After all, chivalry—as it extends to, say, opening doors—is fine, if that's what you want. But a man who feels the need to scold you for a well-intentioned gesture is probably not somebody you want to be with.
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Want to Ask Your Own Etiquette Question?
Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at realsimple.com/modernmanners. Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.