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Never Upgrade Your First Date

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Photos courtesy of @alittlenudge

Okay. Let's unpack this.

Who pays on a first date etiquette dictates that the person who asks, should pay. That's reasonable. The rules are the same for who pays on a coffee date, too. In fact, who pays on a date really should only be a question for the first date. After that, there should be no confusion: split everything 50/50. Ideally, you want that to be for all dates, even the first ones, but I digress. (Reddit dating advice subs are great resources for first date tips, btw.)

In this scenario, the woman - despite not being attracted to the man - still expected him to offer to buy her a meal. To be fair, she's clearly over 60 at the very least. People in that generation still function under a lot of antiquated beliefs. However, I've seen the exact same attitude from younger women as well. Let me be as clear as I know how to be: nobody owes you a meal - or anything - because you decided to grace them with your presence.

This is especially entitled given that it was a coffee/lunch date. Anybody who has dated in the last decade plus knows coffee and lunch dates are for people who either a) don't want to spend much or b) aren't that interested in the first place. (While we're talking bad first date places, say no to Starbucks.) Coffee and lunch dates are usually in coffee houses where students and aspiring screen writers are banging away at their laptops. Lunch is typically in a crowded sterile diner or restaurant where the servers are desperate to flip your table so they can seat people who will actually tip.

Now let's address the advice given to the woman. While I agree that people are not mind-readers and we can not expect them to intuit our needs, in this context, the socially appropriate thing to do is finish your drink - stomach rumbling - go home and make yourself a sandwich. You do not announce you're hungry and wish to order something, even if you plan to pay for it. Here's why:

  1. Your date might not want to stick around while you eat - We have all been on that date where we walked in, saw our match, and knew immediately we weren't attracted to them. Typically, if someone doesn't ask if you'd like to order something, it's because they don't want to prolong the date because they know there isn't a spark.

  2. Your date might not be able to afford to pay for your meal - Yes, I know, you sad you'd pay, but put yourself in the other person's shoes. If it is a male/female dynamic, the man is going to feel obligated to pay EVEN IF HE DIDN'T SUGGEST THE DATE. In non-heteronormative situations, the person who asked will feel pressured to pick up the tab. By ordering food, you're creating possible discomfort for your date and possibly putting them in the hole financially.

  3. Simply put, it's rude - A drink or coffee date is just that - drinks or coffee.You do not, under any circumstances, take it upon yourself to upgrade the date to anything more than what was originally offered. It doesn't matter what they do for a living, either. If it's 'just' a cup of coffee then you shouldn't mind paying for it.

To summarize, always eat something before you head out to meet your date. Make it enough so that you won't be hungry on your date but not too much n case things progress and your date suggest you order appetizers.

If it's a case of not having time for more, understand that - by double-booking yourself - you'll set a very bad tone and make a poor impression. Schedule a date when you have time to relax and get to know someone. Nobody likes to feel rushed.

In closing, read the room. This is where social acuity is critical. You know in your gut when a date is going relatively well and when it isn't. If you're sure there will not be a second date, do not accept an offer for a second drink or food. Politely saying no is the sign to your date you're not feeling it. The same can be said if your date doesn't suggest a quick bite to eat or something similar to keep the momentum going.

Conversely, if the date is progressing nicely, suggesting a second drink or appetizer is a cue to your date you are having a good time.

It all comes down to appropriating your expectations and knowing your place.

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