On being pursued

If a guy doesn’t offer to pay for the first date I never see him again, even if the date was really good. After about a month of dating it’s fine to split the bill, but until then it’s a deal breaker for me. My friend says it’s because I think they owe me for my time and I consider my time more valuable than theirs. It’s probably true and I’m embarrassed to be that kind of person. Thoughts?


Your friend is a closeted misogynist who thinks that all women are inherently prostitutes, and not in a cool way. Don’t listen to them.

The simple truth is that you were taught this rule, and you’ve never really bothered to question it. As you mature, you’ll start to realize that you were taught a whole bunch of rules that you’ve never really questioned. Some of them are useful. Some of them are shit. This one is a mix of both.

Courtship rituals are constantly evolving, but it is still reasonable to expect the guy to pay for the first date if he is the one who asked you out. That’s the underlying rule here: whoever does the asking out is the one who pays. It’s not about him “owing” you. It’s about a pursuer/pursued relationship dynamic implicit in the initial phase of the courtship ritual. It’s about you believing pretty strongly that you should not have to pay to be pursued.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking like this, but it’s a lot better if you understand why. The useful part of this rule is in respecting the relationship dynamics of a healthy courtship ritual. The shit part of this rule is that you can too easily make it about the money and not about the fact that your date isn’t pursuing you properly.


52 thoughts on “On being pursued

  1. Niceties says:

    Yes! Exactly! When you’re taking someone out on the first date, when you’re trying to romance them, woo them, you pay, you show them a good time, you make them feel pursued and desired!

    It drives me insane whenever people deny the importance (or fun) of the courtship ritual. I hate when men act like women are somehow manipulative, entitled brats for expecting a little romance, for wanting to feel pursued and desired.

    When I’ve taken business clients out to dinner, I’ve fucking paid. A lot of men love talking big about business, and they understand paying for a business dinner with clients to woo them– but they insist they’re not supposed to pay on a first date?

    Personally, I also don’t bother going on second dates if he doesn’t pay on the first date, because it has invariably either meant that he’s the kind of guy who has a huge chip on his shoulder about that kind of thing (which also stems from a lot of insecurity and entitlement towards women) or that he’s not someone who can charm and show you a good time. Many who don’t also lack common decency. And frankly, I’m sorry, but I do get a (very) decent number of matches, and at some point, guys just need to stop getting butthurt about the fact that, yes, they’re competing a bit. Furthermore, with the right kind of game, a guy could spend five bucks and give me a fucking wonderful date.

    The courtship ritual is the foreplay to a relationship, to a vacation fling, to literal foreplay. Sex is so much more enjoyable when I feel truly desired and pursued. I don’t know why some men don’t get that. (Or maybe they do, but they feel entitled to sex because their egos would be crushed by admitting that by actively pursuing, they make themselves vulnerable to rejection.)

    I’m rambling, but I’m just so excited you posted about this, CQ. Also, thank you for pointing out that the male friend is a closeted misogynist. I have so many friends like that, and it really made me think. I have a feeling your comments section might be in shambles after this, but I really do agree with you.

      • Niceties says:

        Bitch, I “don’t bother” because they ask me out again and I don’t bother to go. Does that not make sense to you? How the fuck else would I have the option of not bothering?

        Suck my ass and learn to fucking read, and then learn what quotation marks mean.

        • SJ says:

          HAHAHA. . You sound like a lovely person, not snotty or entitled at all! Enjoy being single, looks like you’re gonna stay that way.

          By the way, “don’t bother” and “couldn’t be bothered” are figures of speech (aka) idioms: Can’t be bothered: “Unwilling or disinclined to make the effort necessary to do or accomplish something. (Used in the present and past tenses almost interchangeably.) I can’t be bothered to clean all those dishes after dinner, so I’ll just leave them in the sink until the morning. A: “Did you go to Sarah’s party last night?” B: “Nah, couldn’t be bothered.” (Quoted from freedictionary)

          Those 1st date guys really dodged a bullet!

    • Chris says:

      Agreed on competing. I’m married and my wife could replace me (and I, her). So we work on it. Today I texted her, ‘where are you taking me tonight?’ And she let me know.

      For our last date, I left work early, got a haircut, the car washed, and bought a new outfit, including underwear and socks.

      A couple years ago she felt our interests were diverging too greatly, so she asked me to recommend a book. We talked about it for a week or more, and it was highly enjoyable.

      I didn’t know how to do any of this when we met, so I’m lucky I was hot and she was dumb, but my hotness and her dumbness are reversing, and, frankly, I’m not getting stuck with full custody of the kids, and a big stupid house to clean, so if I have to go dancing, so be it.

      • KittyNinja says:

        So much this. A healthy lasting relationship is choice with planned action.

        Want to have a bad ass frayund while shitting your britches? You gotta work for it, and you have picked up on some wisdom so many people don’t get until much later.

        • Chris says:

          Also, there are other, better people out there – they’re hotter, smarter, kinder, stronger, richer, and more fashionable. Forgetting that is the death knell, in my opinion.

          I’ve seen people not realize this. A woman I know, who is 40, is very displeased that her boyfriend hasn’t proposed marriage, and also she dislikes that he lives with his parents. If we were friends, I’d tell her, “look, you’re a sexy girl. But you’re not fun; you’re not rich; and you’re not thin. You have to have something to exchange for what you want.”

        • Chris says:

          I brought a joke with me that night, courtesy of

          Q: Why does Bernie Sanders only drink skim milk?
          A: Because he hates the 1%.

          You and @KittyNinja have made me think of something. We just lost our home in NC (we don’t live there, and have flood insurance). I was going to do all of the insurance and rebuilding hassles alone, but now am going to have her be a part of it. For example, do we take the money and sell the wrecked plot, take the money and build a cheap house that we sell or rent, build a four-plex, etc., and will learn things with me, instead of me learning them alone.

      • Niceties says:

        @Rex: Nowhere in my response does it either.

        I know you think you’re making some deep point, but this kind of first-grade feminism (I have a feeling you won’t wanna call it feminism, so SJW-ism or mode of thinking) is a little outmoded.

  2. AbelianGrape says:

    I don’t usually comment on here but while I’m down to support this (hell my high school friends and I sometimes implemented the “person who invites pays” and none of us were dating each other or interested at the time) I feel like I am quick on dates to offer to split (and am a woman)? Maybe it’s because I don’t really care about being pursued, but it has always bothered me that men are expected to pay, so offering felt like a subversion to me that was like “ha I have agency in this”. It mattered to me in the same way that it mattered to me that women also get arrested when I was a kid reading about suffrage. But now I can’t tell if I was doing this cool thing or just mitigating their misogyny?

    Like it would pleasantly surprise some people, they’d honestly treat me differently after. Not in a bad way? In a more deliberate and listening way. With more intention? Oh god, is this creepy?

    • Gluten Free Toaster Waffles says:

      I think it would come off fine. If I ask someone out, I’m kind of expecting to pay, but I also don’t like that “men are dominant and do the pursuing, women have to be pursued and shown a good time” thing. If I’m on a date with someone or in a relationship, I want the appreciation to be mutual. So if I went on a date with someone, the thing that would make it a good date would be if we had a good time, not if the other person played the rules right.

  3. RocketGrunt says:

    After dating a guy or two who felt that they were owed something from me because they paid for dinner or bought me gifts, I go on every date expecting to pay my own share. Guys seem to like it, although I’m not sure if they’re just happy to not have to spend the money or if they’re actually attracted to the, “I pay my own way and owe you nothing” chip on my shoulder.

    • Anthony says:

      I appreciate it when the other person expects doing separate checks, too. This way we can both order what we like without feeling like we’re imposing on the other person, or that we owe the other person anything.

      I *will* pay for someone I know as a kind gesture, but otherwise it just feels less complicated to keep it separate.

      EDIT: I’ll also note I come from a background without ever having much income, for various reasons. So this complicates things further. I’d *love* to treat other people, but it’s not exactly viable. So this post isn’t about me.

  4. Ultraslut says:

    Oof, a whole month though? I think the “courtship” aspect of one person persuing really only holds water for the first date, and even then, I tend to insist on splitting because I don’t like coming out of it feeling unbalanced–although I know feeling like I owe him something because he bought my $10 meal is also shitty.

  5. SJ says:

    I wonder how many potentially amazing relationships never had a chance, because an entitled woman thinks it’s still the 1950’s and the onus is on the man to pay. It’s weird- women squawk about and demand equality, but still expect their dinners to be free- I would hope my fellow women have the dignity to at least offer to split- most men demur, but appreciate the offer.

    When I was single and dating, I recall many of the first (and sometimes second and third) dates we split the bill, or I offered to pay the next time. What’s the problem with that? It prevents the guy from feeling like he was used, or the girl from feeling like she “owes” something. It also works as an immediate smackdown of the type of guy who thinks a nice dinner requires you to put out… if that type of guy actually exists. Plus, I felt more comfortable ordering whatever I actually wanted (ie) $40 steak frites, not the $16 hamburger.

    Dating requires an investment of time and money for BOTH parties- why should the guy be on the hook for everything. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s a lot more fun aspects of the “courtship ritual” (barf) than buying me fajitas, or whatever.

    Even now that I’m not single, and my boyfriend probably makes about $60K+ a year than me, I still treat sometimes because we’re a couple, and I am a grown-up and I don’t need a man to buy me food to show me that he is interested in me, is trying to woo me, or loves me.

    • Comeonnow says:

      You have the same mindset as my girlfriend, and we are 3 years strong. I might’ve bought her 1 drink on our first date.

      She respects the fact we both earn our own money, and even though I make more (social work versus corporate shit) she’ll occasionally treat me to a dinner, or something special. And I’ll do the same for her. But typically we split it down the middle. This is how we rolled from the very start.

      Now we live together and split the rent 60/40 (my idea). Given our incomes I consider this fair and am happy to do it.

      I also had the very same “1950s” thought. The mindset to claim you want equality or are pro equality…UNLESS it’s removing an advantage from your world? Oh okay. Cool logic.

      How about: Open your mind and heart. Value other peoples time and money. Buy your own shit on a first date (be grateful if he tries to), and most importantly be a thousand times more grateful if your first date is a wonderful time. Seriously don’t let who paid your portion of the tab stop you from falling in love.

      Fer’ fuck sake.

      • SJ says:

        Totally agree! Best wishes to you both. Your girlfriend sounds awesome. Mad respect for social workers! A diffcult, but extremely rewarding field, I’m sure.

        • Comeonnow says:

          Thanks! Best wishes to you both, as well. And yeah, no doubt. Requires a special person to embrace a career as a social worker!

    • heebie says:

      You raise some valid issues, SJ, but I feel like you’re missing the point of this post. The principle of treating someone after asking them for their time is a nice rule of thumb to go by, especially if you don’t know somebody very well. This could well apply across all new relationships, friends and colleagues included.

      OP may be a bit extreme in giving it a whole month for potential partners, but let’s imagine that they accept the consequences of the kinds of person that they allow into their lives given this rule of theirs, ostensibly among others. (Also, we don’t know how many dates they tend to go on with someone per month, so there’s no available math to judge on dollar values here.)

      Of course, the deeper you get into any particular relationship the nuances emerge. Can’t deny that some will feel entitled to things that their partner is not willing to give if they’re footing the bill, but that raises the necessity of communication and clear boundaries — and the willingness to bounce if certain lines get crossed. However, relationships are about give and take, and both partners should be investing in a way that speaks to the other, that shows that they are desired and cared about. Good for you that you don’t need your man to pay for you constantly to feel loved.

      But please, when you phrase things like “women squawk and demand”, it suggests you may have some internalized misogyny yourself that has yet to be examined.

      • SJ says:

        I know misogyny is a buzzword right now, and someone will find something offensive with any or everything- surely someone else will take umbrage with your use of “rule of thumb.” My bad- “squawk” is a term my sisters and I used a lot with each other growing up, and I still use it.

    • Cuttlefish says:

      Your obvious disdain for women in general aside, Coke didn’t say the dude should pay, she said the person who did the initial asking out should pay, regardless of gender. I see no issue with that, at least on the first date, but treating the dude not paying as an across-the-board dealbreaker does strike me as extreme, petty, rigid, and frankly idiotic.

      The idea that, in hetero pairings, men should automatically be the ones doing the asking is obnoxious and certainly needs to die, and continuing to expect the initial pursuer to pick up the tab after the first date is just plain dumb. I’d say the OP’s dates are probably dodging a bullet for the most part–if she’s this tediously inflexible about first dates, even those she purports to have enjoyed, she’s probably not much fun to date, period.

      • SJ says:

        That’s a little hysterical- or is that disdainful to you, too? (Kidding) If I have and disdain it’s for entitled behavior by whichever gender. I never posted, or implied that Coke said that, and while I think it’s fair to say it’s generally understood that the person who does the asking pays, and I too, don’t see an issue with it, and I agree with your comments that it’s petty etc.

    • Chris says:

      There’s an episode of “Master of None” where he shows up to a date with a woman who is Internet dating just to get meals from places she doesn’t want to spend money on before knowing if she likes it. I think she gets the meal to go without touching it, because she’d eaten on another date the hour before.

    • Niceties says:

      The only “immediate smackdown” needed for that kind of expectation is to know that you are never obligated to grant anyone access to your vagina, ever, under any circumstances, and especially not because of some barter system they’ve invented in their heads. You don’t need to go dutch for that to be true. You don’t need to do shit for that to be true, because it simply is.

      If a guy “feels used” after paying, he shouldn’t have offered to pay. He can do that. After all, it’s not the 1950s.

      “Equality” is much bigger than paying for a first date. Maybe you like splitting the bill, fine, whatever, but stop shitting on and generalizing women. (I mean, “squawk”? Really?) We get it. You’re the cool girl who’s not like other girls. Great. Enjoy your half of the fajitas.

      • SJ says:

        You’re awfully “butthurt” about all this. I’m not shitting on women, just pointing out that you came across as an entitled asshole, and not a pleasant person. I know guys who are just as rigid as you are about first dates, like, they always plan to pay, but if the girl doesn’t offer to pay, that’s it- no matter how intelligent, engaging, pretty, etc. With at least one of them, it was a result of being expected to shell out a couple hundred bucks on a date every week and they got fed up of it.

        • Niceties says:

          Girl, you literally typed “It’s weird- women squawk about and demand equality, but still expect their dinners to be free”

          That’s generalizing.

          By the way, if a dude doesn’t want to pay the whole bill and wants to split the bill, HE CAN ASK TO SPLIT IT. He doesn’t have to test women with sneaky bullshit.

    • Gluten Free Toaster Waffles says:

      I think there’s elements of a straight male fantasy here. Also a female fantasy, I guess, since 50 Shades was a bestseller.

  6. Asker of question says:

    Who would have thought a post like this would be so polarizing. Coke’s argument just seems like common sense to me, but there are people all over this post venting their spleen. Weird.

    • Chris says:

      You’re basically Hitler.

      Edited to Add: haha, based on your name, I thought you asked the Q. But I see below it was Purple. Gotta run and call her Hitler. Talk later.

      • Asker of question says:

        No, I started using this name after responding to a different post last week and I just never changed it. I guess that is confusing.

    • Gluten Free Toaster Waffles says:

      I think because there’s a bunch of types of people who are regular readers. Coke’s image, to me – a party girl (well, former party girl now, I guess) who is really into fashion, has fancy manicures, wears potent perfume, but is also an intellectual – attracts a pretty disparate crowd. I’m both a nerd and a slacker, I don’t know how I found this column, but I’ve been a reader for the better part of a decade. I guess part of it is because almost no matter who you are, you can connect with something or another, while getting a glimpse into a different world and mindset. Which is to say that a lot of different types of people come here.

      • Chris says:

        I found it because I was searching for new advice column. Google auto-filling for “Dear A…..” “Dear B……” etc., brought me to Dear Coquette.

        • Gluten Free Toaster Waffles says:

          That’s an idea… I’ve never explicitly searched for advice columns that way. I think I found this column back in ye olde Tumblr days of yore, and it was reblogged to my dash.

  7. Purple says:

    I’m the person who asked this question. I want to thank Coke for her ever amazing answers and I can honestly say a large amount of the person I am today is because of what she has taught me.

    My opinion since asking this question has changed, in that I no longer expect people to pay past the first date, as I may have preferred before. I will happily be accountable for that and admit it was ridiculous. However, my rule that a man should take care of the first date will never change, and I am happy with that being a hard rule. Whilst some people may find it petty or what have you, I think plenty of people have various petty deal breakers (a lot of people don’t want to date someone who lives too far away from them, who is overweight, who has blonde hair – who knows what else). My opinion still is that if a man asks me out, he should pay. This goes both ways – if I invited a friend, client or potential date out to dinner I would insist on paying too. If it’s generally understood that the person who asks the other person out pays, there is no reason why it can’t be a deal breaker if they insist on splitting the bill on the first date.

    The people commenting that I’d be difficult to date etc – that’s fine – but the fact that you can judge someone so quickly from a question is just mere projection anyway. It’s also frightening that some women don’t want to feel like they owe men sex because he paid for their meal – that’s not the woman’s fault for having that opinion, more a result of social conditioning and the idea that sex is something men are entitled to for making a series of nice gestures. You never owe men sex for anything that they do, let alone at $15 salad. And if a man felt “used” and offended because he paid for my $15 salad, that’s not the kind of man I want to be with anyway.

    I won’t be checking back on these comments, but it is interesting to see just how passionate and angry some people are about such a simple question. As Coke said, it’s fine to have this rule as a respect to initial courtship, just as long as it’s not about the actual value of the money. It isn’t about the money – I can pay my own way, but if you ask me out, it’s the polite thing for you to pay.


  8. Derpy Bear says:

    I hate going on first dates for meals because it makes me feel awkward. I offer to split when I do but it’s nice to be treated sometimes. I like to treat people when I can too.

  9. flblbl says:

    love how it’s always mundane questions about lifestyle like this one that catch the most heat and make the comments section spill their guts so profusely. there are some really not cute personalities down there for sure.

  10. Barefootsie says:

    I feel like once I embraced my bisexuality and started going out on same-sex dates, this principle came into sharp relief. Because I didn’t want the paradigm to go along the butch/femme dichotomy. It seemed unfair and a totally heteronormative idea. If I’m asking for a little of someone’s time, a coffee or a drink is low-risk and we can each leave at any time if we’re not feeling it. Also gets away from the higher pressure of a meal and staying for its full duration, or any bullshit “pressure” that someone owes anyone anything if they buy a person a steak.

    • WrkrB says:

      I wonder if part of Cq’s enduring appeal is that she has strong backing from bisexuals (who make up the biggest population of nonheteronormatives in the world).

      • lolitsjesus says:

        s/o to all the fellow bisexual/queer readers. I first stumbled across CQ when I was 19, newly out and googling random phrases on bisexuality.

  11. Iana says:

    I think this rule works out no matter which side of the fence you are on because the women who want to be paid for on the first date would want to end up with men who feel the same and the women who want to split would want to end up with men who feel the same, so really everything works out for everyone in the end 🙂
    I like being wooed personally, but am always prepared to pay. I think the rule of “whoever did the asking pays” is a good way to go, as that way no one is confused. However, if you don’t want to/can’t pay or want to split the bill, you should be able to speak up like an adult instead of sulking about it.

    • Chris says:

      Agreed. I’d probably pay, even if I was asked. I’ve done it in business. Plus, it’s good to be generous.

      Having said that, I’d like to be wooed, myself. Women can sometimes forget that a man needs to feel special and wanted, too. That was something that was missed in the Robin Williams film, “RV.” He complained multiple times that he felt used, or like an ATM. And when it all came out that the family vacation was a secret work trip, he confronted them that they were all draining him dry. Their response? They turned their backs on him.

      • Iana says:

        That’s fair. I’ve treated a boyfriend before, but not withing the first few dates usually. I also treat my friends fairly regularly.
        I did buy a cute guy a drink at the bar once and that worked out well. Maybe I’ll try it more often 🙂

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