Question: I know I am older and have been out of the game for a while, but something really confuses me. I met a couple of guys over craigslist and we agreed to meet for the first time for coffee.(OK maybe using craigslist was my first mistake). The first one met me in front of a Dean & DeLuca. When we went inside he got a tray and got on line in front of me, and did not ask me if I wanted anything. He got himself a piece of cake and a tea, and paid for them, and stood there and waited for me to do something. What I wanted to do was leave, but I took a breath, bought something and joined him. We found a place to sit and talked a little. A week later he called me and said he had tickets to a play. We met for dinner first. When the check came, he said, “Do you want to split this?” I paid for what I ate. We went to the play and he did not ask me to reimburse me for the ticket I used. During intermission he went to the bathroom and I looked at the ticket stubs. They said Complimentary. Oh well, at least he thought of me. He called me again, I did not get back to him right away because I was not feeling well, I got another call from him and from his tone he sounded insulted that he hadn’t heard from me in a while, so I never contacted him again because I don’t like possessive men. The second guy asked if we could meet in a Barnes & Noble which we did. We went to an Au Bon Pain nearby and he did the same thing. Did not ask me what I wanted, got in line in front of me, bought himself a tea and sat down, like I was supposed to know what to do in this situation. I think I got a free water or something, I was feeling kind of dazed. We talked a little bit. He called me about two weeks later basically asking to have sex with me. I declined. What is up with these guys? I am not a golddigger but at the first meeting you cannot buy a girl a coffee? I’m sorry but I’m not used to this. I guess because they were younger guys. I am going to stick with men my age or older from now on. I just found all of this extremely rude.
Well, you hit on my first point. Free dating sites tend to attract a lot of people who aren’t terribly invested in the process or looking for anything substantive. Sure, you might pull up a great big fish once in a while. But for the most part the free sites draw the people who are on there for kicks, for sex or just to get out and go on dates with no real interest in anything more.
I’m torn between calling these guys out for being cheap and saying that nowadays people just aren’t investing much money in to dating because many aren’t looking for anything too serious anymore. Again, I’ll cite this as another trend borne from online dating. People are just so tired of going on date after date, shelling out their hard earned money, only to be disappointed. So, they’re choosing to date on the cheap until they know there’s a pay off, be it in the form of true love, companionship or sex. Are these guys cheap? Or are they just being smart? That’s what is up for debate.
I know you weren’t expecting these men to treat you to a meal. I understand why having a man offer to pay for your tea or sandwich is important. You want to feel valued and that they are trying to impress you. That’s what we equate with genuine interest. By not offering to pay the tab, what the other person is saying – or at least what we hear in our heads – is, “Not Interested.” It’s hurtful. That may not be how the other person intends to come off, but that’s what we end up feeling. Hurt. Maybe even a little embarrassed and confused. Anyone remember that old SNL skit Caveman Lawyer? Caveman Lawyer, having been frozen for hundreds or thousands of years, is thrust back in to the real world and practices law. He’s thrown by how society has evolved. (“Your world frightens and confuses me.”) That’s what it’s like to be in the dating scene now. Things are changing quickly. Nobody knows what to expect. Traditional rules have fallen away. That has people so turned inside out that they no longer know what the protocol is. I guarantee you there are men out there not offering to pay because they think it’s the right thing to do, and that there are women out there offering to split the bill because they think that’s appropriate. That’s A LOT of mixed signals and misinterpretations., which only leads to frustration and confusion.
The problem is that we use the wrong things as a barometer to gauge interest and investment , ignoring everything else. You and your date could have had easy conversation, they could have seemed very sweet and nice and attractive, but if they didn’t offer to pay the full bill or pay their share, they’re almost always immediately crossed off the list. If he texts instead of calls, he’s lazy. Bottom line? We’re just all too damn scared to take the leap of faith anymore. That’s what it comes down to. People are exhausted. We either have developed abysmally low expectations or ridiculously high ones. That’s what is up with these guys, OP. That’s what’s going on all over. Not just with the men.
My suggestion to you is this:
1. Sign up for a paid online dating site.
2. Take a more proactive role in planning the dates. Don’t sit back and let the guy decide. Come up with suggestions. None of this let’s meet at an Au Bon Pain junk. Not because that screams Cheapo! but because that’s just not the right environment for a date.
3. Meet someplace where you can talk that won’t cost a lot of money. The first meeting from an online dating site isn’t really a date, anyway, so the who pays issue should be moot. You should both plan on paying your own way. Men our age aren’t looking for a woman who can’t support herself. At 25, that’s all kinds of adorable. Not at 35, 40 or 45 and older.
4. Realize that you’re both there to impress each other. Just looking good isn’t enough. Letting a man pay doesn’t make you look feminine or vulnerable. It means you’re letting him pay for you. That’s it. That is not a statement of your character. Just like whether or not he pays is not a statement of his.