The debate of who should pay on a first date has been raging for decades. However, the answer remains the same as it has always been, despite a multitude of advice to the contrary: you should pay.
This isn’t a whole the guy should pay due to social construct nor is it in anyway an implication that the girl can’t afford to pay, doesn’t want to contribute, or expects to be treated “because she is the girl”. The reason is much simpler: being cheap and/or poor is unattractive. And when you try to split the bill on a first date, or worse, have her pay for the whole date, you send a clear message that you are either cheap, poor, or both.
The History of Guys Not Paying for Dates
Twenty years ago, it was pretty much accepted that the guy pays (as it still is, for the record). However, the “Pick-Up” movement developing throughout the 1990s and early 2000’s, the birth of “The Game” and culminating in The Mystery Method, espoused a view that you shouldn’t buy girls drinks and that you shouldn’t pay for your date’s drinks, even on a first date.
The logic went something like: “When you buy her drinks you are essentially trying to win her approval, putting her on a pedestal whereas if you make her pay for drinks, you flip that dynamic. You show that you are the prize, that she should pay because she is the one getting rewarded by your company etc.”
And this…is where cheapness became (or pretended to become) a virtue.
Naturally, men seized on this point to justify being cheap and saving potentially a lot of money. But as we all know, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And not buying girls drinks, making her pay for her drinks, and the like, fall firmly into that category.
What Really (Probably) Went Down
Here’s what really went down in the 90s and early 2000s.
Mystery and gang, in the house in the Hollywood Hills, were for the most part, dead f*cking broke. At the same time, they were going out all the time, meeting tons of women. They simply could not afford to buy girls drinks.
However, Mystery and co knew that being poor and cheap is unattractive, so they looked for a workaround–turning the purchase of drinks into a “sh*t-test”, a “validation”, or a battle of “frame”. While I can’t speak for the gang, I am pretty sure none of them actually believed that not paying for your dates’ drinks in anyway, shape, or form, confers non-financial benefits over paying–There is no girl on the face of the earth who will like you more if you don’t pay her share.
But, they wanted to go out. A lot. And meet girls. A lot of girls. They had to find some way, some justification, to not pay for drinks they couldn’t afford while minimizing the fact that they were simply too poor to pay for drinks. They did that with the rationalization described earlier: Frame. “I am the prize” mentality, and the like.
And look, it works much better than the alternative: “Can you buy the drink because I’m broke?”. There is also no doubt that you can be highly successful with women without paying for the full first date and without ever buying a woman drinks. But, it remains sub-optimal. That means, you would do even better if you paid for drinks.
In Spite of, not Because of
The common defenders of not paying on dates, or not being willing to buy a girl a drink at a bar for that matter, will point to the fact that they and others have been successful this way. And it is true. You can be very successful without having to spend a dime. However, your success is in spite of acting cheap, not because of it.
This is a crucial point to understand when it comes to unattractive qualities and actions like trying to convince a girl to buy you a $15 drink. Success is not a culmination of every single action you took. Success is a culmination of actions that she found attractive offsetting actions that she found unattractive. Being a cheap bastard falls firmly into the unattractive category–and every girl knows when you try to get her to pay, you’re being cheap, no matter what spin you put on it.
So, if you want to save some money, by all means, try splitting the bill, and don’t buy girls drinks at the bar. But don’t say you haven’t been warned: you are hurting your chances with women by doing so.