UPDATE: 'I don't know how heterosexual men in America date without going broke'
By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
How to get to know someone without paying a dime
Charles Grassley, the longtime Republican senator from Iowa, has a theory on American men and how they spend their money. "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies," he said (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dont-benefit-from-estate-tax-repeal-sen-chuck-grassley-says-you-probably-blow-all-your-money-on-women-booze-and-movies-2017-12-03) in defense of the Senate tax bill that nearly doubles to $10 million the threshold for exemption from the estate tax and introduces massive cuts to corporate taxes.
He was, perhaps, paraphrasing the late New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Tug McGraw, who reportedly said, "90% I'll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other 10% I'll probably waste." But many people on Twitter were unamused by the Grassley remark. They thought it was more of a swipe at the spending habits of non-wealthy taxpayers. The comment by Grassley, like the one from McGraw, does raise a question: How much do American men spend dating women?
Alan, a combat veteran in his 30s, is a serial dater. He says he has dated hundreds of women since moving to New York eight years ago. "In order to date a woman in New York City, you have to spend $200 or $300. That's the 'trumpets and confetti' night out: Dinner, drinks at a cocktail bar, nightclub and an Uber home." And now? He has developed a strategy for cheap dates. For the first couple of dates at least, it doesn't cost him a penny. "I don't know how heterosexual men in America date without going broke," he says.
His strategy: He takes women for a walk around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. "The type of person that moves to New York City is often times beautiful and intelligent," he says, "and she is going on a date with a 6'3" Ivy League banker. In Central Park, I can distinguish myself in ways that I wouldn't be able to if I was stuck in a restaurant or bar. I'm an alpha male, so I can exhibit paternal skills with my German Shepherd and, don't laugh, my physical prowess by throwing a stick."
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Sarah Berger, the financial advice columnist at TheCashlorette.com, actually likes the walk-in-the-park as a freebie, and suggests free museum days -- "I love the Museum of Modern Art's free Fridays" -- or the beach. Other ideas (https://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicaprobus/a-cheap-date-is-great?utm_term=.alBlk6Pn63#.saoADlMqlr): Pretend house hunting together in a ritzy neighborhood, testing department-store perfume, hanging out at your local library and dreaming up new titles of classic books like Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens used to do (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeKS3BU3JxU) (although not on a date). Or, even better, writing new first lines of books to see if you can guess which are real and which fake.
Sometimes, a free date is only free for one party. Breffni Burke, a publicist, went on a dinner date with a guy who forgot his wallet. Whether or not he actually had forgotten it is debatable, but she agreed to pay for the meal. In a follow-up move that even took her by surprise, he asked Burke for the receipt so he could write the dinner off as a work expense. He actually made money on their date (they had ordered a bottle of wine). It came to around $90, she says. "The waiter made it better by only bringing me one complimentary after-dinner Sambuca and placing it squarely in front of me."
Some men spend hundreds of dollars in one month on dates
This 26-year-old New York male broke out his dating budget on Refinery29 (http://www.refinery29.com/dating-app-male-date-budget-nyc). He spent $771 on 14 dates in a single month. Date No. 1: wine bar ($91). Date No. 2: bar ($40). Date No. 3: dinner and drinks ($70), Date No. 4: ingredients for dinner at home ($40). And that was just the first week. "I had a pretty memorable bad first date over dinner. It was clear early on that we weren't going to work out, but with dinner you're locked in -- in terms of time," he told the site. "Trying to make the conversation drag on as long as possible so that we could order and get through it was like pulling teeth."
Costs-wise, this seems low to some singletons. When asked how much is appropriate for adults to spend on the first date, older millennials (ages 27 to 36) and Generations X-ers (ages 37 to 52) said they spend $100 per date -- that's twice as much as younger millennials and baby boomers (ages 53 to 71), according to a recent survey (http://www.thecashlorette.com/dating-and-money-survey-0817) of 1,000 people released by TheCashlorette.com, which is owned by personal-finance site Bankrate.com. And almost half of Americans (48%) who are married or live with a partner argue over finances. And what do they fight over? One person either spending too much or being too frugal.
Other dastardly ways of free dating are shocking, even for someone like Marisa Mackle, who makes her living as a writer of romantic fiction. Mackle, whose comedic titles include "Mr. Right for the Night (https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Right-Night-Romantic-Comedy-ebook/dp/B008GBCCTC)" and "So Long Mr. Wrong! (https://www.amazon.com/So-long-Wrong-Marisa-Mackle-ebook/dp/B0057CRUWW)," said a date once used a Groupon(GRPN)voucher for a steak house. "I've been a vegan for 30 years," she says. But that paled in comparison with the behavior of a skinflint pilot. "He took me on a picnic with a tray of customer sandwiches he'd robbed from the plane. That was memorable."
Women's blogs are replete with stories of men who refuse to pay for dinner. Erica R. Williams (https://twitter.com/journalisterica?lang=en), a television journalist, recounted one such story on MadameNoire.com (http://madamenoire.com/545325/when-he-doesnt-pay-dealbreaker/): " 'He's cheap.' That's how my friend described the guy she'd been talking to for the past three months. Although they lived in different cities, they'd conversed on the phone for a while before finally meeting. That's when she decided, because he didn't pay for a variety of things during their first weekend together, he wasn't dateable. Well, not to her at least. But should a man pay for everything when he is just courting you?"
There's a fine line between chivalry and sexism
It's a question that shows no signs of going away soon, notwithstanding the men who don't like to pay. After 50 years of feminism, men and women should be able to agree on who pays. It's still not that easy to break generations of tradition. There's a fine line between chivalry ("I should pay for her") and sexism ("He should pay for me"). Studies on the subject tend to favor men paying. In one such survey (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/who-pays-first-date-gender-roles-couples/) of 2,000 people by financial website NerdWallet, 82% of men and 72% of women said they think the man should pay on the first date. Roughly 40% of men and women said they take turns splitting the bill as the relationship progresses.
But some men don't want to be trapped in a bar or stuck at a table in a formal restaurant for two hours. During Alan's 45-minute stroll in Central Park, he and his date figure out whether they want to see each other again. "As a combat veteran, I like being mobile: I can go north, south, east or west," Alan says. "I know this turf. Why would I go to an unfamiliar place that would knock me off my game? If we hit four locales in one day, it feels like two dates. After our walk, I can then say, 'Hey, let's drop off the dog real quick at my place.' We spend three minutes there, tops, but now she can see how I live, and, the next time I ask, it won't be an unfamiliar environment."
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Such single men are the exception, rather than the rule, MarketWatch reporter Emma Court argues. There is still an "unbelievable persistence to the male-paid date," she says. Women use the gender wage gap to justify why men should pick up the check, she says. But Court believes it sets a bad precedent. "From who pays for the first date, to who buys the diamond ring used to propose, to who manages the money, every negotiation in relationships can seem weighted, even engineered, toward one inevitable end," she wrote (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/enough-is-enough-men-have-been-paying-for-dates-for-over-100-years-2016-05-21). "The man having -- and controlling -- the money."
The NerdWallet survey supports Court's theory. Even though 77% of men and women collectively believe men should pay the bill on a first date, "Pride and Prejudice"--style gender roles continue as the relationship does. Some 36% of the men surveyed pay 100% of household bills, compared with 14% of women. "While women are greater economic force in the economy and at home, financial decision making is still a male pursuit," it concluded. Having a coffee or lunch where both people can pay their way may be a better start.
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12-07-17 1927ETCopyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.