Who pays? In a world with fewer rules and more freedom to create your own path, there is bound to be more confusion. One of those areas is etiquette. The feminist male who wanders into the world of dating has to decide how to approach this with care. When the bill comes, my approach has always been to put my card down and wait and see. If the waiter comes comes and the bill is settled. I have my answer. If she puts her card next to mine. I have my answer. Some ladies want you to then say, no let me get it. Some ladies will get offended if you say that. I choose not to second guess. A friend of mine cheekily suggests you cover your bases and say, 'No, let me get this. You can get breakfast.'
Then there is the bravado dilemma when a group of people go out, and one person insists on paying. A discussion ensues where a couple of people are saying they would like to be the one to pay. They certainly can't accept the other one paying for their meal. One of the sneakiest players of this game I have seen stirred between two of the arguers. In the mean time, he 'went to the loo'. He returned and stirred some more. Peacock feathers on full display he stirred some more. Then suggested we go somewhere for a drink. Apparently, someone had already settled the bill.
I have never been in a situation where someone has argued that the other person should pay. Sometimes, a person will wonder off to look at something or simply make no movement towards the bill as if it hasn't appeared, but I have never seen an argument. It is much easier to offer than to ask.
Because money simplifies things to an exchange, and most things are offered by the market, asking isn't really a skill we feel all that comfortable with. Beyond asking, accepting an offer is something that seems to be hard to do to. I was chatting to a new Mum recently asking whether she was able to team up with other new parents to grab a few hours here and there. Dropping little man off with another parent for just a little while could allow a regathering of energy. She said that there were often offers but people seldom took each other up. Accepting an offer can feel like an imposition. Even with close friends.
I love the Jewish term of a 'Mitzvah'. The way I understand it, you are giving someone a gift by giving them the opportunity to help you. It is a Mitzvah for them to do an act of human kindness. This makes sense to me. Whether it is paying for a date, paying for a group of friends at dinner, doing some babysitting or helping a friend move house - there is pleasure in feeling like you have helped someone out.
Doctors in South Africa do a couple of years of community service. Lawyers are known for doing Pro Bono work. The Yoga centre I go to is run completely by volunteers. Even the full time staff only receive a nominal allowance rather than compensation. Doing something without it being an exchange feels good.