For all the hurdles of a first date that can turn a straight millennial into a sputtering, sweaty-palmed raw nerve of a human (what to wear! where to go! what to talk about!), one of the worst parts usually comes at the end: the reach for the check.
For many couples, figuring out how to split the bill on a date can be tough. In a world where men and women are ostensibly supposed to be equal, it's still difficult to escape lingering gender norms — like the ones that dictate a "real" man should cover the cost of everything, even when outdated expectations make many millennials a little uncomfy.
But the old way of doing things doesn't seem to be unnerving enough to make splitting the bill the new normal, apparently. According to data from okCupid, a majority of men still pick up the tab on the first date — and it kind of seems like they're cool with it. What they seem to be less OK with? Splitting the bill, or having women pay for the whole thing.
OkCupid asked users what they do when the check comes at the end of a first date. Do they split it down the middle, pay the whole thing, or have the other person pay? Or do they just toss a coin in the air, call heads or tails, then fight over whether it's rude to include it in the tip?
When it came to pursuing that first option, women seemed to be more on board with dividing the bill equitably: 43% said they go 50/50 on a first date. Similarly, 17% of women said they typically have their date pay, while 36% said it doesn't really matter how they split the bill in the first place.
Men, however, had markedly different responses to this question. A significant majority of guys (62%) said they pick up the whole tab the first time they go out, while very few men said they were OK with having their partners pay, indicating a reluctance to reverse roles. That reluctance carried over into the "split the bill" question as well: while many women said they were cool with going dutch, only 17% of guys were OK with it.
It's worth noting that OkCupid's data specifically polled men and women about first dates; according to past research, men clearly don't want to pick up the tab all the time. In a Chapman University study of more than 17,000 participants on who should pay for dates, nearly two-thirds of men who date women said they expected a partner to cover at least some dating expenses, while 44% said they'd stop going out with someone if she never paid.
If the OkCupid findings are any indication, however, women are having a surprisingly hard time paying the whole tab, or in some cases, even contributing at all. According to Janet Lever, one of the authors of the Chapman paper, that makes sense: as she told Elle, "There are a lot of things that are unfair about womanhood, so women are thinking, this is the one perk I get; I'm taking it."
It might not be so simple, however. Lever and her colleagues also found that while many men want their partners to pay for dates, 76% feel guilty taking money from women. It's possible even when women give up that final perk of chivalry and fork over their half of the bill, as nearly half of the women in the okCupid study did, a lot of men might not want to take them up on the offer.
Of course, it's also worth noting that significant portions of men and women were pretty much like ¯\_(?)_/¯ about figuring out who should pay for a first date. But men do, indeed, seem to care: Maybe it's because they have fraught feelings about being emasculated if they don't pick up the tab, or maybe they recognize they likely make more than their female partners and they want to even the scales.
Either way, for heterosexual couples who do want to even the p(l)aying field, it might be easier if everyone just reached for their wallets at the end of the date and stopped taking the "men pick up the check" trope for granted. Even guilt about the wage gap doesn't have to stop people from splitting things fairly.