Gender equality: When a man and a woman are just friends, who should pay for lunch?

Last week I posted a poll on my Facebook page. Titled, “When out on a casual luncheon with a guy friend, do women still expect the guy to pay the bill? Do men get offended when a woman friend picks the tab?”

These are the choices I offered:

  1. It’s for a man to pay the bill
  2. Are you kidding? Why not the woman?
  3. It should be split
  4. Take turns
  5. Pay your own

Close to 50 people voted and 10 left comments. The maximum votes went to choice number three, with more than 50 per cent favouring to split the bill. The next favoured choice was to pay your own, followed by a preference to take turns. A few did poll in favour of a woman footing the bill while not even a single vote preferred a man to pay the bill.

The idea for the question came to my mind from my personal experience. A day before I posted the poll, I went out for lunch with a guy friend. We’ve known each other for a long time and have had coffee and lunch before. Our agenda is always to discuss ideas, issues, anything, but people. It’s always a stimulating discussion and our genders don’t dictate who pays.

This luncheon, I remembered he had paid last time, so I plainly reminded him and said it was my turn. Politely, he offered once, not in the framework of gender but in the context that it was his invitation. I still refused and he graciously accepted. We didn’t discuss this any further, but the conventional idea of “it’s for a man to pay” crossed my mind.

Given, the man and the woman are on a similar social footing; I find this “norm” to be unfair to men and insulting to women. But I wondered if the norm has been challenged generally or not. To find out, I posted the question, and asked readers to share their views.

Some of the comments left by readers on my Facebook page poll:

–       No split it. It doesn’t make sense if you’re not dating to have the man pay. It’s nice but I wouldn’t expect it.

–       Pay your own, unless you were sharing some of the food/ drink why would you split it?

–       I would presume to split it unless he offers to pay for it.

–       Depends on who’s turn it is.

–       Either split, or the one who makes an express invitation pays. Nothing worse than when you are broke and you think you were invited to lunch, and then it turns out you have to pay your share – regardless of the genders involved.

–       I think you just have to make up your mind as to whether or not you want to pay or go half. I personally think paying for someone’s meal is a wonderful gesture of kindness and should not be taken for granted and not be expected. Make it clear from the get go – I want to take you out for lunch means I want to pay for you. Just make up your mind and go for it. If the other person fights to pay half reassure them that you invited them and that if it makes them feel better, they can pay next time. Just some thoughts.

–       I never let a woman pay wouldn’t be a gentleman if I didn’t

–       Unless you have a problem with money…. whatever she wants…

I admit, I was pleased with the outcome of the poll. With such a small sample size it clearly doesn’t reflect the larger society, but still, it’s a welcoming result for gender equality. Why don’t you join the discussion and see if it changes the outcome? Leave your comments in the reply box below or join the poll on my Facebook page here.

Categories: Gender Equality

Tags: , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. The Person who invited should pay.

  2. I find it interesting that some of the comments that were left, even though they were on the side of equality (or maybe in this case “egality” is the better term), were also on the side that it was assumed that the man was the default choice. For example: “If you aren’t dating, why should he pay?” (so if you WERE dating, he should pay). “Presume a split unless he offers to pay it” (this is probably nit picking, but “he” instead of “someone” COULD suggest that at default if someone is offering to pay, it would be the man).

    I would be on the side of each pay for their own, or you take turns, and it depends on the person you’re eating with. I have some friends where we take turns, others where we each pay for our own, right down to the dollar if we split something.

  3. Dear Anu,

    Your posting did bring about an interesting question. Thank you for sharing. I think it does depend to some extent on your closeness as friends, how often you meet and the possibility of an occasion. For instance, if you and your guy friend meet, but he also just got a promotion the week prior, maybe you can treat him out. Secondly, if you are close and even meet often, I would assume you are comfortable enough around each other to not make any assumptions and come to mutual agreements each time. It might happen that one person ends up paying two times in a row, and the third time is a split; however, if you were close, there will be more times ahead for the other person to offer to pay for them.

    I think your post also brings out another important underlying aspect about gender equality. Whether you are on a date or meeting a guy friend, there should be no expectation of “oh, I am dude, so I should pay for the woman.” Or “why does she want to pay, is she insulting my manliehood, and implying I do not have a decent income to pay for food?” These should be taken out of our heads. From personally experience, I have a close guy friend who I see every now and then, but we are close enough to never make assumptions or fight over bills. If it is something like lunch we just tell each other, we are adults you take care of your own, and I take care of my own. Once in a while, I may have paid and a few months later, he paid. With coffee, it’s typically alternating between both us. Now, I do this with any girlfriends also. I feel once in a while splitting, but mostly, paying for your own saves a lot of remembering who paid last time and creates fairness. You have enjoyed each other company, dined well and the money part should not be something to argue about and take another 10 minutes out of valuable time. I think you have to do what you feel comfortable with given your level of income and your closeness with your friend. When it comes to who pays, why are they paying, gender should not be in question. As I said, I treat similarly my guy friends as I do girlfriends.

    • Amer- that was the underlying “norm” that had me thinking. I asked a plain question to know our subconscious views and majority of those speak of what you have mentioned. Glad you could connect at that level. Thanks for your comments.

  4. “I find this ‘norm’ to be unfair to men and insulting to women.”

    Precisely. And even in a dating setting the idea that one person should always pay seems absurd. Glad I haven’t had to face the issue in the past 25 years. Then again, my wife and I live in a community property state so there’s no such thing as my money or her money anyway. It’s all our* money.


    *Or, to put it more precisely in how we exercise our faith, it’s all God’s money!

  5. hmmm… paying by a man is presumption in Bharat, it is by default. Though totally absurd & some times result in friction (even between guy friends). Best is split until & unless invited, clearly mentioning “This is my treat”. And in many cases when a relation ends the tag “s/he used me” follows. Even if you yourself does not feel you were used, your “good” friends will make you realize it.
    Personally, I don’t think if someone is paying full or splitting makes any difference as far as their is level of comfort between two. It is third person who judges you – “oh man.. s/he made you pay bill? Raise your standards” But then, do you care about third one?

    Different scenarios, different options. Eat, drink, split & be merry.

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