Culture & Ethics Icon Culture & Ethics
Evolution Icon Evolution

An Evolutionary Guide to Paying on Dates

Bruce Chapman

evolution

George Gilder says that the political Left is brilliant. “With the climate change argument, for the first time in history they have figured out how to blame conservatives for the weather.” 

Something similar goes with modern social etiquette. An article in the Wall Street Journal on the apparently difficult question of “Who Pays on a Date?” elicited several expert opinions, including one from Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at (where else?) the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University: “Women want to know if a man will spend his resources on her…For millions of years they needed a partner to provide for their young, and they keep looking for that signal.”

Evolution Is Such an Amazing Concept

Now, for at least decades of years in my life (not millions of years, I acknowledge) etiquette books have indicated that considerate men who invite a woman on a date should pay, and the woman (whether or not she offers) should say thank you when he does pay, and maybe arrange for another time when they can have a meal or coffee or whatever on her. It’s thought to be good manners. But now we learn from Dr. Fisher that it’s only evolution speaking.

A letter to the Journal from Laslo Bencze of Roseville, CA, replies:

If a man doesn’t pay, there’s an evolutionary reason for that, too. He is conserving his resources until he has established the worth of the woman as a child bearer. If, as a result of this, the woman shoots the man, then the reason is obvious: Via group selection, she improves the lives of all women. Evolution is so very wonderful. There’s simply nothing that it cannot explain.

Except for another part of the original Journal article that reports on “a study of more than 17,000 unmarried heterosexual men and women published in November 2015 in Sage Open, an open-access academic journal.” That study tells us that 

76% of men said they feel guilty if they don’t pay on a date. Yet 64% believed women should contribute to the bill, and nearly half would stop dating a woman who never pays….Meanwhile, 40% of women said they were bothered when men wouldn’t accept their offer to pay, 39% wished men would reject their offer, and 44% were bothered when men expected them to pay.

It must be hard for young daters to follow that. It’s an even bigger challenge to square it all with Darwin’s theory of evolution.

As several Journal readers commented (men and women), it was so much easier in the old days. Bring back Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, I say. Meanwhile, I will continue to pick up the check, as I have my whole adult life. (Sigh…) Of course, that’s only when my wife and I go out.

Image credit: mohamed_hassan, via Pixabay.