Who’s Supposed to Foot the Bill?

I don’t know where I got the idea that the guy is always supposed to pay or foot the bill. I’m not sure if it’s from the exposure to movies and soaps when I was young. Was the guy always the one paying in popular media? I think so. I think it’s a cultural thing that’s also been embedded in me subconsciously somehow – the way the father is always supposed to be the primary breadwinner of the family; the way boys are always supposed to be the one asking the girl out on a date and should therefore foot the bill all the time; the way a suitor generally sends the gifts over and it’s the girl really enjoying all the benefits. I really have no qualms about this – I love treating the girls in my life – whether we dated, were in an actual relationship, or are just friends going out and eating dinner and having a good time – I enjoy being the one to foot the bill. Heck, I even like doing it even when I’m with my guy friends – the point is I don’t really have a set rule in my head about who I treat. I just like being able to treat people, period.


What brought to mind this particular question, the one I’m ruminating about – is because I’ve sometimes come across people who EXPECT me to be the one to foot the bill. I really don’t understand where this phenomenon has come from. Is it because of the cultural bias towards guys always having to be the one to foot the bill, and just because I was born with the body parts that classify me as male, I should automatically answer for the check? Is it because I did it once, and because I offered to pay the first time, or I turned down your offer to pay me back for that meal that I had to charge for whatever reason – that it will be expected of me ALL THE TIME? I’m not so sure if I’m just being overly sensitive about this whole thing. Because as I said, I really don’t mind about the money I shell out – I love doing it actually! What I don’t enjoy is how taken for granted it is, no questions asked.


Am I weird? It’s immaterial to me whether I end up paying or not – but it means the world to me that you actually offer to split the bill with me, regardless of whether I actually let you. I remember an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted was saying that of course he would be the one to pay, but wanted the girl to do the check dance at the very least. “Guys wanna wave the girl off, and look like a big shot,” he said. When someone – whether a guy friend or a girl friend, automatically assumes that I answer for the bill, they don’t just deprive me of the chance to at least look like a big shot (which is really peripheral to the point, if I may say), they let me feel like it will always fall on me to answer for the bill – and carries hand and hand with it a really huge pressure I didn’t sign up for. It makes me wonder if I should have even been generous the first time to begin with – because people come to expect it of me as if I’m programmed to be in charge of their free lunch. This especially applies to friends, and dates that haven’t solidified into a committed relationship. I just say this because in a committed relationship, the experience is usually that we have an agreement already as to who pays or how the bill is split. (But if my girlfriend on the outset automatically assumes that I foot the bill ALL THE TIME, without her ever bringing the topic up, I would feel a bit bad. In which case, since she’s already my girlfriend, it would be easy for me to broach my concern in the loving way couples would reach an understanding about the things that bother them or the things that matter to them. You could understand how it’s a much trickier concern compared to friendships I may have, where it’s not as easy to tell my friends to not assume I foot the bill in a certain scenario just because I did it once or I turned their offer down the first time. It’s awkward and it’s as if I’m accusing them of taking advantage of me, which I really don’t, because I do get some treats from them sometimes too.)


So yeah. There are so many different ways now that the footing of the bill could go – especially since paying has evolved and advanced technologically. Sometimes, the one with the credit card offers to charge the whole bill for the points he gains, and then the others would just pay him. Other times, it’s the one with the bank or app that the merchant accommodates that pays. Even in these instances, it’s such a tricky thing to follow up when someone forgets to pay, especially if you’re not as tight as friends yet. There’s just an inherent trust that comes with the gesture, that breaks your heart when it’s not fulfilled. But in these cases you live with it – there are instances that being confrontational is much riskier than how it may look to a third person’s perspective. Individual relationships have so many specific nuances, it’s almost impossible to establish a parallelism regarding a certain situation when applied to one friend versus when applied to another.


In relation to that, because of the specifics of certain relationships and the nuances applied to each one, I’m sure even girls have this problem too. Maybe they’ve offered to pay once or refused an offer to pay them back in one certain situation and their friends have expected them to always answer for their shell outs from that point onwards. I feel somewhat upset by this thought – if any of my girl friends have experienced being in this kind of situation, because for the most part I think girls deserve to be treated like a princess and as a guy, I would always want to contribute to that. The millennia of collective oppression that women have experienced and the weight this has contributed to their collective consciousness, and how it manifests in the culture as well as their shared experiences – are painful and undeserved to say the least. Best efforts towards chivalry is the least that we could do for them. I mean, boys, it’s better to be turned down a thousand times every time you offer courtesies – it’s much more ideal that they feel your intention to take care of them and hear their “no thank you’s” every time instead of your lukewarm energy towards making an effort to make their lives a little bit easier.


I don’t know if the topic just opens up so many schools of thought and so many philosophies, cause this has turned out to be more thoughts that I expected. But I think it’s worth contemplating, really. More than the money, I think it’s the thought and the general sensitivity and awareness to others’ needs. We can take it for granted and let it evolve into an animal that’s out of our control, that serves to eventually eradicate the social or moral fibers of society… or we can be meticulous and curate towards an energy of respect, love, thoughtfulness, and attentiveness. The way we treat each other is the way our children will treat each other, and will create cultures generations after them.


On another note, it makes me wonder how much of my parents’ efforts I’ve taken for granted, how many times they just answered for everything and how I took it as automatic. Do they feel the same about my lack of sensitivity about this too? I just assumed they would answer for my needs because they could, and I couldn’t in the beginning, and we’ve grown accustomed to that practice. I didn’t really hear much about it from them. Does the gentlemanliness apply to child-parent relationships or is this a different animal altogether? Maybe it is… though I’m sure the gestures of kindness and generosity would make their day, too. I wish I could be that magnanimous one day – and not even need overt displays of courtesy to soothe me, and make me feel that my gestures are well-appreciated. But for now, I hope I do make a fair point.


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