One of my biggest pet peeves about first dates is the frequency with which guys tend to choose restaurants based on seemingly a wish and a prayer, and have no idea what they’re in store for – both in terms of their dining experience and the financial hit they’re about to take.
Now I’m all about trying new places in terms of cuisine, based on the recommendation of friends, or just to satisfy my own curiosity. However I’m enough of a foodie that I’m quite comfortable in any dining establishment, whether it’s two stars or five. I have dated people who clearly are not.
And it’s pretty much guaranteed that a date will not go well if you’re too busy worrying about which fork to use rather than paying attention to the person across the table. It’s also not wise at this point to start cracking wise about the “frou-frou-ness” of the place. Just keep your mouth shut, eyes open and do what everyone else is doing. Act like you belong – it’s much more charming than using humour to amplify your outsiderness. Remember, at this point as my date, you really doesn’t know if I eat at upscale restaurants all the damn time or not – but if I do, I’m highly unlikely to want to do so with you again if you seem obviously uncomfortable doing so.
The other side of this particular coin is that it’s fairly prudent to find out what you can expect to spend on dinner somewhere before making the reservation. There’s nothing worse than watching someone choke on his tongue when he opens the menu and sees the average entree price. Dropping a couple hundred dollars on a great dinner isn’t an everyday occurrance for me – but it’s not unusual either. If you suggest going to the most expensive restaurant in town, I’m not going to stop you. I’m also not going to hold back from ordering three courses if I feel like it (I usually do), or the wine I want, or espresso with dessert. I’d do it on any other date, or with friends, whether I was footing the bill or not.
I’m also a “modern woman” and will carry enough cash to cover my half of the bill (because as soon as you mentioned where we were going, I did my research and checked out the menu beforehand). And while I can cover my half of the bill I’d really rather not. Not because I can’t afford it but because it seems like a fairly juvenile concept to me. I’m a firm believer that by “keeping score” of equality on a case-by-case basis, nobody wins.
Because frankly, there are other ways to keep things “equal” that don’t involve splitting every cheque. I believe the person who does the asking should also do the paying. I have friends who will be visibly upset with me if I so much as attempt to take out my wallet after they’ve invited me out for dinner. So while the first date (I am not a first-date asker) will be on the guy who wants to take me out, I always make an effort to contribute to the relationship myself.
Perhaps I’ll ask him on a 2nd or 3rd date and pay for dinner and/or a movie. I might show up with ingredients and a bottle of wine and make him dinner. If I’m out shopping, and see something I’m pretty sure he’d like, I’ll usually pick it up and give it to him as a “just because” gift. Or, as things progress, I’ll make sure I do that thing he loves so much, that makes his toes curl and his eyes roll back in his head – whether it does anything for me or not.
And (with the exception of that last one) it’s how most of my friends and I operate. Someone will pick up the cheque for a few beers, and at some point in the future the other person will invite them over for dinner, or pick up a cheque somewhere else. Favours are reciprocated, not because of obligation or some score-keeping system, just because it’s the cycle of spending time together and how we operate.
What can I say – I’m a giver, which is truly its own reward. All I’m asking for is someone who is comfortable being a giver as well, without always thinking of a future reward or evening the score. And if that makes me a spoiled princess, I’m perfectly ok with that.