Our Readers on Reading the Coffee Grounds

More on deciphering the meaning of who pays on dates

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If a woman insists on paying for her $3 coffee when she’s on a first date with a guy, does that mean she’s probably not that into him? Longtime Busted Halo reader, Phil, wrote in with that question a few weeks back — read the original piece here — and you replied with some great comments:

“The reciprocity heuristic is pretty hard-wired into most people… [and] for a dating female, the stakes are higher,” counsels Karen. “I pay my own way, and find ways to get to know you to see how I like you. By the way, I work to stay even on a gesture-for-gesture basis, not strictly dollar-for-dollar. So: you get the movie tickets, I’ll get the popcorn and soda. Please, please do not be ‘persistent’ on paying. It sends the complete opposite message you intend.”

“If a woman doesn’t want the guy to pay, it’s a sign of something. ‘A sign of what?’ you ask. Who knows? Everything that happens on a first date is a sign of SOMETHING or other,” quips Matt. “In Phil’s position, I’d pay more attention to how she said it (including both tone of voice and the selection of phrasing she used — ‘no, I always pay’ is very different than ‘this one’s on me’ which is different in turn than ‘maybe next time’). If you’re otherwise interested, it’s worth exploring the source of the issue over time.”

And advises Theresa, who has both been on the dating scene herself and watched her son struggle with these question: “I always told my son to rely upon manners, when unsure. If he asked her out to coffee, he’d pay, but if she insisted on paying for her own, see nothing negative in it. She’s treating you as an equal and that’s respect. If she asked him, he’d still pay his own, allowing her the dignity of saying ‘halves’. The real message is all about respecting each other as equals but different in needs and abilities.”

What’s the bottom line?

57% of women (and an even higher percentage of younger women) always offer to pay, even on the first date, but 46% are bothered if he accepts the invitation. Translation: Most women will offer to pay, and most women are OK paying. But a sizable minority are doing that just for show, so it’s a good idea to test the waters a bit.

So does a woman’s insistence to pay for her own coffee mean she doesn’t like a guy? Bottom line is no, it probably doesn’t mean that at all.

While a lot of girls like it when guys pay for early dates, it’s not an indication that’s she’s uninterested if she wants to pay her own way. Is she laughing and smiling? Is she talkative? Does she seem to enjoy spending time with you? Those cues are much more telling than her money choices.

Still, Phil is right to make the offer and at least say, “No, really, I can pay.” Surveys find that 57% of women (and an even higher percentage of younger women) always offer to pay, even on the first date, but 46% are bothered if he accepts the invitation. Translation: Most women will offer to pay, and most women are OK paying. But a sizable minority are doing that just for show, so it’s a good idea to test the waters a bit. Don’t be insistent, just go through the dance to make sure.

Interestingly, in a survey specifically geared to teens on Studio2B.org, younger daters seem to be split over who should be on the hook, the guy, or whoever asked for the date. But since guys do the asking the majority of the time, I think we’re still pretty traditional on this front.

Good luck as you continue to read the coffee grounds and decipher the crazy world of dating, Phil (and all the other guys out there pondering these same question!) And to the rest of you Busted Halo readers, keep the questions coming!


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