It’s a debate as old as time – should you let your date pick up the bill, or offer to split? For years, chivalry has dictated that men should be the ones to cough up, but in recent years the tables have been turning – and it seems we are all obsessed with discussing the politics of who should pay.
Just take the reaction to this now viral TikTok, which shows a woman, whose username is EquanaB, explaining how she was left to pay the bill after eating 48 oysters on a date.
She revealed in the video that when the bill came, her date, who had only ordered one drink, made an excuse to go to the bathroom and never returned, leaving her to pay. In total, it amounted to $184. ‘Running out on a tab is crazyyy,’ she texted him, to which he replied, ‘I offered to take you out for drinks and you ordered all that food. I can Cash App the total for the drinks.’
The date took place at Fontaine’s Oyster House in Atlanta, Georgia, where a plate of frozen oysters costs $15. The woman ordered a plate of a dozen oysters, followed by three more. ‘When the fourth one came out he was looking at me crazy, I didn’t give a f***,’ she said in the TikTok clip. ‘I had to. It was so good.’
The clip has divided users in the comments, with some agreeing that the date was right to leave after she had racked up such a huge bill. ‘Yeah no he was definitely not in the wrong […] I would’ve ran out too,’ wrote one user. Another wrote, ‘I’m glad he left. I hate it when women take advantage of first dates assuming the guy’s gonna always pay so they go all out on ordering.’
Others weighed in with advice, with one user writing, ‘Before ordering food you should have said “I know you offered to take me for drinks but I think I’ll get some food also, I’ll pay for what I get.”’ Others found the incident hilarious, with one user writing ‘Omg I have never laughed so hard!! […[ The clip I didn’t know I needed you are a queen!’
We have some thoughts on this, too. While it is not ok to walk out on a date, it does seem a bit extreme to expect someone to pay for such an expensive meal, especially if you had agreed to go out for casual drinks.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the conversation about who pays the bill has reared its head. In the most recent season of Love Is Blind, Stacy Snyder and Izzy Zapata triggered a viral debate on social media about splitting bills 50/50. Stacey admitted she thinks the man in the relationship should always pay for dates, and Izzy thought they should split the bill. ‘I know obviously you own the home but I like to do 50/50… we kind of just do it together’ said Izzy. When the topic of splitting dinner bills comes up, Stacy said ‘Dinner’s not 50/50. The man pays.’
Meanwhile, on this year’s Love Island, Tanyel Reven made a strong statement about the fact that men should pay on the first date. During one of the early challenges, a secret statement about an islander read ‘This girl offers to pay on her first date and if the boy accepts, she will not see him again.’ When it was revealed to be Tanyel, she explained, ‘If he offers to take you out on a date, then you’re taking ME on a date and should pay. If you can’t provide for me then how then will you provide for a family one day? Why would I even go on a second date with you?’
This sentiment was echoed by an anonymous woman on Mumsnet, who took to the Am I Being Unreasonable forum to ask whether she was in the wrong for not wanting to see her date again after he let her pay for a £110 dinner bill. She wrote ‘At the end of the meal when he asked for the bill, I said “You paid last time so I don’t want you paying again.”’ She added that her date ‘misconstrued’ this, assuming this meant she would settle the whole thing when she wanted to split it. She explained in the post ‘I don’t know him well enough to determine and honestly it’s put me off...I don’t think I want to meet up again.’
Others have a more regimented approach. When asked about her opinions on bill splitting, former Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield said she sticks to strict rules. ‘My rule is whoever initiated the asking should pay! So whoever invited the other first,' she explained in several posts to her Instagram story. ‘Then if you get dessert or something small after it flips. So if I ask a guy to do something I always pay, then let him get dessert or vice versa!' She added that this was something her mum had taught her: 'Never make someone pay for something you've invited them to!'
So, in 2023, why can we still not over the politics of who should pay on a date? Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple factors that can influence how we approach the debate – from whether someone on the date earns significantly more to who ate/drank what (note – oysters are expensive) and what number date it is (generally, it’s agreed that after the first date, paying should become more equal).
I put the question to some friends to find out how they approach the dilemma. ‘I definitely would split the bill, them paying feels so old fashioned and also makes you feel awkward and obliged to go on another date,’ says one friend. ‘But I would never do itemised splitting, so like manually counting who had what and “someone owes £2 more” vibes. That’s also awkward.’ Another said that she doesn’t think she’s ever been on a first date with a boy who hasn’t paid, but she always offers to split anyway. When it comes to long-term relationships, she added ‘I always do one pays one time and the other will pay the next time.’
It seems the cost-of-living crisis is also having an impact on how we view splitting the bill. A recent study by the dating platform Match found that a significant number of singles were put off by fancy date suggestions, with 22 per cent saying it shows that they are not financially compatible. Others, however, are happy to cover for their date. ‘I’ve had it where someone’s skint, so I’ve been paying the bulk,’ one friend tells me. ‘I’m happy to do this, and when they’ve got more money, they can just get me back.’
And what do the men think? According to figures from Match, only one fifth of men (20%) think a bill should be split equally on a first date. Moreover, just over half think they should pick up the full bill, and only four per cent of men think a woman should pay on a date. But this won’t last forever – apparently, over half (59%) of men are happy to ‘go Dutch’ once they know their partner better.
So, as with many aspects of modern dating, it seems anything goes when it comes to who pays. It’s a nice gesture when it happens, but we shouldn’t go into a scenario with that expectation, particularly at a time when lots of us are struggling to make ends meet. And when it comes to the oysters, err on the side of caution. Slurping aside, it might mean you’re left to pick up a hefty bill.