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Lego date

There are certain questions that have haunted humanity for all of recorded history. What is the meaning of life? Why can’t chickens fly? Who Framed Roger Rabbit? All valid queries, but for the purposes of Heart Attack, there’s one big question that needs to be addressed: Who pays on a first date?

I’d like to think of myself as a gentleman, both in the fact that I am gentle and I am a man. As a gentleman, I think it’s my responsibility to not only ask the girl out on the date, but also to pay. There’s a cause-and-effect element there. If I’m the one doing the asking, I’m doing the paying. That just seems like common decency to me. By asking you to dinner, I’m asking you to give up your night to be with me. As such, I’ll foot the bill in exchange for your time. As the asker, I’m the host of the date and like any good host, I’ll take care of the arrangements both technical (reservations) and financial (cheddar). To put it more simply: I wouldn’t invite a friend over to my house to watch a big game and expect them to provide the TV. The same goes for a date.

But it gets a little trickier when it comes to “just drinks.” I understand the need for just drinks. It’s the same reason why I don’t always offer to pick up my dates at their homes anymore. If this is your first time meeting, you don’t know if your date is going to be a total weirdo (or vice versa), so it’s safer to lessen the commitment. Drinks can last half an hour if things aren’t going well. There’s an escape hatch built in – it’s the bottom of your glass.

“It gets a little trickier when it comes to just drinks.”

Let’s say you’re on one of those “please stop talking about your ferret” kind of dates. It’s going terribly and you can’t wait to leave. Who pays? Like a horrific episode of Jersey Shore, the answer lies in “the situation.” If you asked her out, no matter how bad it is, you should cover the tab. If it was a blind date set up by mutual friends/acquaintances/mailmen and you’re ready to bolt, then I think splitting is in order. The general rule is, if you want to see her again, you’re paying. If this is a one-time deal, it may be time to venture to Splitsville, USA.

The splituation (wordplay!) is a tough river to navigate. No matter what, don’t just come out and ask her to split it with you. Wait for the tried-and-true fake reach for the wallet to broach the topic. If she doesn’t reach for her wallet and you’re not going to see her again anyway, just pay the check and chalk it up to a costly mistake. If you can’t afford to pay for a date, maybe you shouldn’t be dating anyway. If she does reach for her wallet and you’re not going to see her again, go ahead and call her bluff. Splitting here is the right thing to do. Things didn’t work out and she offered to pony up, so there’s no harm in going Dutch.

So what if she asked you out? When the check comes, just make a half-assed reach for your wallet and see what happens. Gender equality works both ways, my friends. Things get very tricky on dates when money is involved. That’s why I only date prostitutes now. With hookers, it’s much easier to know who pays.

Jason Kessler’s column, Heart Attack, appears every Thursday on Food Republic.