During my 100 date experiment back in 2011, I quickly discovered that the first date bill could be pretty awkward. Some guys had no problem picking it up, while others wanted to awkwardly split it. Even today my clients continue to ask me "Should a guy pay on a first date?" or "is it ok to split the bill on a first date?"
It’s been a question for ages, so what’s the right answer - who pays on a first date in the Bay Area, men or women?
As a San Francisco dating coach, I’ll get right to it: men in the Bay Area should pay for the first date bill. Before you protest, let me give you 3 reasons why men should pay, some helpful first date cost strategies for men, and then some important first date considerations for women.
3 Reasons Why Bay Area Men Should Pay on a First Date
Cost of Dating Prep: For starters, women spend much more money on appearances than men. Women are expected to look amazing with hair, makeup, and nails - things men generally don’t have to worry about. These costs can be anywhere from a $50 nail appointment to a $300 cut and color. So I ask all you men out there – how much are you spending on first date prep? Doing the math, it’s probably 70-80% less than the woman you are about to meet.
Pay Gap in the Bay Area: Another motivation for men to pay is the pay gap between men and women in the Bay. There is sadly still a gender pay gap alive and well in the Bay Area ranging anywhere from 10 to 15 percent higher salaries for men. Although that gap may be smaller than previous decades, it is still prevalent in the Bay Area and should factor into your decision on who pays on a first date.
Be a True Gentleman: And my third reason for men to foot the bill on the first date: to set themselves apart from the crowd. These days, it’s easy to go on a casual date, split the bill, and never meet again. Just because the norm these days is for men to be non-chivalrous, doesn’t mean you should follow that trend. The simple gesture of paying the bill on the first date can impress a woman and make her want to go on another date with the respectful man who did so. Maybe this is a reason why you haven't found love in San Francisco yet.
First Date Cost Strategy for Bay Area Men
Even though I always encourage men to always pay on a first date, it doesn’t mean he is responsible for taking the woman out to a three-course meal. In fact, it is best to keep first date cost to under $15, as this is a first meeting. Anything more than $15 is a bit too much of a financial commitment for a person that is so new in your life. Make her earn that fancy dinner on date #3.
In addition to spending less than $15, I always recommend NOT mentioning your Ferrari or how many start-ups you might own. When you do this, it will keep her around for the wrong reasons. Keep your financial triumphs to yourself until you’ve had several encounters with her.
There are a lot of great options for budget conscious first dates in the Bay Area. As an example, there are a number of coffee and tea places in San Francisco like the Samovar Tea Lounge, which are perfect for a casual first date. For a coffee/tea date, I always recommend grabbing a drink to go, and taking a walk with your date in order to stimulate those endorphins.
So men, after reading these cost strategies, are you still debating “who pays on a first date?”
First Date Considerations for Women
This all being said, the biggest mistake a woman can make on the first date is not offering to at least split or pay the bill. Not offering to split the bill can make you look disrespectful or entitled, neither of which lead to a second date. Even if the first date is just coffee or a drink, offering to split is a nice gesture. When you offer to split the first bill, you are communicating to the man that you aren’t looking for someone to spend lots of money on you - you’re looking for a real connection.
For all you men out there: when a woman offers to pay or split a first date bill- this can often be a trap. If you accept her offer, chances are she will not accept another date with you. It's really an unconscious test; she wants to see if you’ll take the bait, and if you don’t, it communicates to her that you cannot protect or provide for her.
Now, consciously this might sound a bit far fetched to some, but our brains have evolved from a history of men providing safety and security and women providing creativity and nurturing energies. Our conscious mind may say traditional roles are outdated but our bodies are still running on prehistoric conditioning (the reptile brain that makes unconscious decisions about feelings).
Now maybe this sounds a little bit anti-feminist to you, but hear me out. Equality is important in the workplace but to create sexual tension on a date, you need the masculine and feminine dichotomy. If both roles (masculine and feminine) creep too close to center (neutral) then the tension between the masculine role and the feminine role evaporates. This can create what some people refer to as “the friendzone,” which is exactly what you don’t want on a first date.
My answer may seem strange to some because San Francisco is a very modern and open minded area. However, the Bay Area is filled with men in the tech industry, an industry that still struggles to correct the gender balance in workers. In an area so forward thinking and tech savvy, it is nice to remember chivalry and use it in our dating lives. It can be refreshing for a woman to have a man offer to pay for a date, even if it’s something little because a little bit goes a long way.
Serious About Reaching Your Dating Goals?
Like anything else in life, dating is a skill, and it must be learned. If your goals this year include getting a girlfriend, finding a life partner, or just dusting off some old dating cobwebs, I can help you speed up your progress.
I offer private 1-on-1 dating coaching sessions/programs via Skype. If you are interested, head over to my calendar and book a new client session with me today.