The Art of the Dinner Date

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 4, 2010 · 77 comments

in A Man's Life, Dating, Marriage, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joe Weber.

Eating is instinctual. And like a lot of instinctual things (ahem… the bedroom) men often go on autopilot when there’s food in front of them. Now that’s all fine and good when you’re standing over the sink eating cereal by the handful and straight from the box, but if you’re out with a woman who got all dressed up for this… it’s time to change gears. The meal you’re about to share isn’t a necessary chore for survival. It should be an event. And your attention to a few key details will help make it one.

Mastering the art of the dinner date isn’t hard, and it’s not all about proper etiquette like which fork is for what (start at the outside, work your way in), or when you put your napkin on your lap (just do it when you sit down), although that certainly helps. Remember these simple rules before you head out to that fancy restaurant and she might even be excited to share a dessert with you.

1. She goes first. With everything.

And that goes from the moment you pick her up. She’s the first to get in the car because you’re holding the door for her. Same goes for walking into the restaurant. She’s also the first to take her coat off because you’re assisting there too, and the first to sit down at the table. She looks at the wine list first, and orders first (unless you’re sharing a number of agreed upon dishes- then it becomes your job to order for the both of you). She also gets to pick the first piece of bread or whatever appetizer shows up before the entrée. As men, we’re selfish. We’re used to fighting for that slice of pizza or the last beer amongst our equally selfish man friends. Show her that she is your priority. Not the wine, not your steak, not the crème brulee. She is.

2. Pace yourself.

In general, men eat at a faster clip than women. They’re on a stroll. We’re at a solid trot. Slow down. There’s no deadline for you to finish your meal. Plus, if all you’re doing is shoving food in your mouth, how are you going to be able to carry on a conversation? Which leads us to…

3. Listen to her.

A great way to slow your eating down is by listening to what your date has to say. She’s probably pretty interesting (or better yet, very interesting). Of course you don’t want to over do-it and make her feel like she’s delivering a lecture to a hall full of grad students, but pay attention to her, not the other guests in the restaurant, your oddball waiter, or any of the other distractions flying around the room.

4. Look the part. Wear a sports jacket or blazer.

As long as it’s not a total dump, you should be wearing a jacket. And get it tailored. Why? Because when you sit you take a major hit to your shape. Women like guys with shoulders. And when you’re in a chair (or worse yet, some kind of booth), it’s easy to look like you’re collapsing in on yourself. A tailored, natural shoulder jacket will help you maintain that athletic V-shape. It doesn’t have to be wool, and it shouldn’t have rigid shoulder pads. Even Old Navy sells casual cotton blazers for around fifty bucks that when tailored will do the job. Plus, the inside jacket pocket gives you an easily accessible place for a card case or the other supplies in your gentleman’s arsenal. So at the end of the meal, you’ll get to effortlessly remove your chosen form of payment from your jacket instead of from under your rear.

4.5 And when it comes to the payment…

You’re paying. All of it.

5. Two drinks. Max.

Chances are you’ll be having a nice glass of wine. So enjoy it. If you want another? Go right ahead. But having a third drink over dinner almost guarantees that she won’t be up for another cocktail once the check comes. And even if she is, you won’t be at your best by then.

See? Easy stuff. And unlike the specials and the orders the wait staff have to commit to memory, these shouldn’t be too much to remember. Get all of these right and you might even land a second dinner date. Even if you spent half the meal with a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth.

Remember, these rules apply even if you have a dinner date at home.


Joe Weber is the Director and Editor of where affordable style is the one and only focus. He believes that living right, living well, and looking good doesn’t mean you should go broke in the process.

What tips do you have for pulling off a successful dinner date? Share your advice with us in the comments!

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patrick October 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Good advice, especially the whole going first part. Although you have to do that in the right way to make you come across as a gentleman (I assume, haven’t been on a date with a girl in a long time, and never anything like this).

2 Doug October 4, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Don’t forget to tip! No woman wants a second date with a man who is stingy. At least 20% but calculate the tip in your head (no calculators) and round up to the nearest dollar. Cash is great. Writing it in the CC slip is not preferred.

3 Jack Scott October 5, 2010 at 12:03 am

Brilliant article! If only you’d written it last Friday!

In regards to Doug’s advice to tip, remember that it’s a cultural thing. I know that in the USA you do *have* to tip, but you’ll look like an oddball if you do it in Australia, where I live, unless you got absolutely fantastic service.

I can also vouch for the fact that a dinner date makes for an excellent first date. There’s the opportunity to talk, which you just don’t get if you go sit in a movie theatre. And a guy who talks (read: listens intently and nods) is a winner. ;)

4 Travis October 5, 2010 at 12:04 am

Wanted to second what Doug said about tipping in cash. If you can do it smoothly (i.e., have the cash you need in your wallet already, including correct denomination), you can look really good. Especially with dates who have waitressed in the past; cash tips generally don’t get taxed, so servers prefer them. This shows that you’re concerned to make sure that your server gets your tip. Bonus tip: if the girl has never been a server, you can explain your somewhat odd action (cash + card would be strange if you didn’t understand the reasoning), and still look extra nice.

5 Natasha October 5, 2010 at 2:10 am

All good advice, although I have to admit that I’m a little puzzled why the insistence that the man pick up the tab for everything still persists. Maybe I’m more liberal than most women about that, but I never, ever expected my date to pay for everything! He almost always did, of course–largely, I suspect, because of the expectation that he do so, but I always at least made the offer to pick up my own tab. Or I would offer to pick up coffee after the movie he paid for, etc. Some guys took me up on this, and I never thought less of them for it. Anyone else feel this way? Just curious… At the very least, I think it’s fair to take turns after you’ve been seeing each other for a while. Even something simple as dinner and a movie can get pricey, particularly for a young guy who is just getting started in life and not flush with cash. Just me, I guess…I like being egalitarian! I feel like splitting the cost of things prevents one partner from having a sense of ownership over the other.

6 Bryan October 5, 2010 at 5:18 am

Well written as always Joe, and good pointers too.

In regards to Doug’s comment on tipping. If you aren’t great at math you can still easily calculate a 20% tip. Just remember that 20% is double of 10%, and 10% is perhaps the simplest calculation ever. Your bill came to $45.83? Chop off that last 3, and move the decimal to the left 1 place. That comes to $4.53 for 10%, so double that to get just over $9 for 20%. In most cases I round up, but in this case ($9.06), I think a straight $9 is plenty good. This whole process becomes second nature pretty quickly. I calculate my tip almost instantly going solely on instinct at this point. Server did a great job, or you’re out with your buds and she was hot? :) Throw in an extra 5% (half of your original 4.53), or even a full 10%. It’s simple!

@Natasha, I like the way you think. :) I am by no means cheap, and always pay on at least the first couple dates. But if a girl offered to pay part or all of a date once we are a few dates in? I’d probably protest, but eventually give in a little if she persisted :). Just keep that in mind, I best most guys will protest. If you really want to be fair, offer to pay for the whole meal. Then when he predictably protests you can offer to “compromise” and only pay for your part. In a lot of situations that may be the best you can get, and the guy will probably secretly appreciate it.

7 Gina October 5, 2010 at 6:10 am

Wow. Great article. Thanks for posting this.

8 Rachel October 5, 2010 at 7:01 am

Fantastic article, as usual. Another point – I’m sure no manly man would ever be rude to a server in the first place, but just in case: in a survey asking women what their biggest turnoffs were on a first date, being rude or dismissive to the server came in as the number one turnoff by a landslide. Be friendly and polite to your server (and anyone else you interact with!), and your date will notice.

9 Dónall October 5, 2010 at 7:53 am

Another tip is to always make your date sit with her back to the wall. That way you won’t be distracted by people walking behind her, people outside, other diners, etc. A girl likes it when she is the centre of your attention and she notices when she’s talking but you’re watching something else.

10 Jordan October 5, 2010 at 8:54 am

Just a thought on the dinner date:

If it’s your first time meeting her, don’t do an elaborate dinner date. Go for a walk in the park and pick up an ice cream cone or cotton candy or something cheap. If you can afford to do an elaborate dinner on the first date , frankly, you’re not dating enough.

11 Steve October 5, 2010 at 9:26 am

And men please , please take off your hats! I am always in awe how no one removes their hats. I can be at a fine NYC restaurant and the person next to me is eating with a silly looking baseball cap on. Incredible.

Great article.

12 Reverend Cowboy October 5, 2010 at 9:29 am

Speaking from experience, following these tips will get you huge brownie points with any young woman; When she goes home and tells her parents about the great date she had with a polite young man, I guarantee they’ll beg her to have you over.

13 Steve October 5, 2010 at 9:32 am

@Natasha I believe a man should always pay. Period. Most fine restaurants in NYC will promptly deliver the check to the gentleman at the table. Demand the respect that you are owed as a woman.

14 Jim Price October 5, 2010 at 9:33 am

It is also worth mentioning that when you are trying to impress a lady at a restaurant, stay away from messy food. She might like your expensive suit but she ain’t going to like it if sauce from your buffallo wings or spaghetti drops onto it.

15 Amano October 5, 2010 at 10:20 am

Just want to correct : Men go first when entering a restaurant or a bar, that’s the rule. It was set when men had to check if the place was safe when entering a public place, before letting the woman in. I know it doesn’t sound right, but if you follow the rules of etiquette, that’s what you should be doing.

16 Trevor B October 5, 2010 at 10:44 am

I would like to note, you may score even more points if you cook the food yourself. As a bonus this makes the date a lot cheaper. You don’t have to cook anything fancy, just something nice and good. I think there was an article on “man recipes” on this site recently.

17 Alan October 5, 2010 at 11:30 am


Natasha’s point about paying her share is fundamentally about respect. Think about it.

18 Cameron T. October 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

@Amano: that may be the “rule,” but in practice it doesn’t work. In general, women are not versed in old-fashioned etiquette rules. In today’s world, for most people the rule would be let the woman go first. If you go first to ensure the place is “safe,” the girl may be confused or think you are being disrespectful.

19 Nick Lowery October 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Great article, but you left out all the hard parts!
What about the actualy conversation, what do you talk about with a lady you do not know very well? Icebreakers? Some of us are quite awkward.
How about choosing the dinner location? Should it be somewhere you’ve been before so you know what to expect? Or somewhere exciting? Or McDonald’s? Do the lyrics “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal, if her daddy’s poor, just do what you will.” ring true?
What about after the dinner? Is it move making time? Is it peck on the cheek time?
I know these are age old questions, but it seems like there must be some common respectful way to do them, not every girl is a weirdo sadistic or dominatrix type who you can’t read. Just tell us how to deal with the nice girls. What are the rules?

20 BenR October 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

This is unrelated to the post, and I apologize for that, but have you guys (meaning both AoM and readers) ever checked out the Duluth Trading Co? (Link in sig.)

They seem to supply many of the things that AoM recommends at reasonable prices… pine tar soap, safety razors, manly bags, classic hats, functional boots and workwear, etc.

Check out their “bashful billionaire” briefcase, for example, which compares pretty favorably with Saddleback Leather Co’s products at a fraction of the price.

It seems like Duluth Trading is right up AoM’s alley but I’ve never seen it mentioned on the site, so I thought I would give it a little plug.

21 Craig October 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

@Natasha: I wouldn’t want to go on a date with a woman whom EXPECTED me to pay. I think women should always offer to split when the check comes. That being said, I enjoy treating a girl that I’m interested in. So normally after they offer to split it I smile at them, tell them “I asked you out so I get to pay. If you want to pay for the next date then you can ask me out on one.”

Once the relationship gets legs I like having the “custom” that whomever initiates the date is the paying person. I like to take my girl out and I’m sure she likes to take me out.

22 bill October 5, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I know the subject is dinner dates, but so many responses refer to “first” dates. I would recommend that first dates be breakfast dates. Reasons: 1. This eliminates the reliance on alcohol as a social lubricant. 2. You can make it open ended if your date is enjoyable or have “things to do” as an exit strategy. 3. It’s an inexpensive initial date and less awkward for the paying host or the guest. 4. It reveals if your date is a able to rise and groom ( worker-types) or a sloth (stay-up-late-party-then-sleep-late type). 5. You’re less likely to have the good-night porch-kiss or the “can-I-come-in-for-a-drink” moment ( there’ll be time for romance later if your date is the right person). 6. Daylight dates are always a safer time of day to be out on the town, especially if you’re so attentive to your date ( as you should be ) and have your observational awareness of your surroundings thus compromised. 7. By the time you’ve eaten, all the other venues of entertainment will be open for your continuation of the date ( museums, bicycling, walk in the park, etc. ) These are but a few of many advantages of early day dates.

23 Ryan October 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Maybe it’s the culture, maybe it’s the climate, but I almost never see anyone going out on a date with a sports coat on. I know it’s a good look, but most dates I’ve been on were not that formal. People around here just don’t dress up unless it’s for a wedding.

24 David October 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

For my part, I would not go out with a woman who did NOT expect me to pay.

25 Chris Kavanaugh October 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

What are the rules, if any for a ‘date’ without sharing DNA and perpetuating the species as unspoken goal? I was on 4, not inexpensive dates with a woman. A mutual acquaintance revealed she was lesbian with a girlfriend. I realised I was merely a ‘beard’ forgotten slang for a false partner to present an illusion of dating status. I was 5 minutes at work when the ‘other woman’ came in making a scene. My gay supervisor, friend of 8 years and several other gay coworkers of long friendship turned their backs on me faster than a dishonoured Klingon. I lost my job,she was promoted.
We may all curl up sunday night for the next MADMEN episode, but enfranchisement of some people has led to disenfranchisement of others. Short of looking for PRIDE beads a few conversations need to take place before springing for steak and a tailored sportscoat.

I still hope Sal returns to the series ;o)

26 Jason Broadway October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Where does smoking a stogie fall in terms of “appropriate dating behavior”? I know it’s probably a no-no, but isn’t it best to introduce her to your real habits from the get-go?

Just don’t blow the smoke directly in her face, haha.

27 Brett October 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Re: the point of paying for the bill, raised initially by Natasha
My girlfriend actually told me on our second date that she didn’t like it when guys always paid for her because it made her feel inferior or feel like she had to pay me back. Even last night, we were out having drinks, her total was $12 and she only had a $10 in cash on her. When I flipped out a $5 to cover the rest and tip, she apologized to me profusely.

So while I would like to take care of everything on dates, I agree with Alan’s point that letting her do what she wants to do is indeed about respecting her. And just maybe, whether you’re the type who ninja-pays tabs pretending to go to the washroom like I sometimes do, or covers the bill with your credit card so as not to let her see whatever damage it may have caused, or even splits it with her reluctantly after offering to take care of it, the semantic intent probably gets across: you just want to take her out on a nice dinner date.

28 Jay October 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Wonderful article!

I just wanted to further emphasize a few points. You can not overstate the importance of a 20% cash tip. No woman wants a to date a cheap guy! Secondly, Natasha’s point could be included in the woman’s version of this article. A modern woman should always offer to pay and should have absolutely no intention of doing so. A man can take this gesture as a sign of interest as well as an indication that his date is not a moocher.

As to the point of breakfast dates early in a courtship, I say do brunch at a nice spot with a full bar. Brunch is just more fun that a boring convo over toast and oj. This brings me to my most successful tip, unless you and your date are completely boring people, you should avoid chain restaurants at all costs!!! Find the cool, delicious neighborhood spots that you know she’s never heard of, and take her there. Not only will you look cool, you can talk about how great the restaurant is instead of having awkward convo about the weather. (Always try it b4 going with a date)

29 ARP October 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Re: who goes first. If you’re holding the door for her (you are, aren’t you?), by default, she’ll enter first.

Re: Who pays. I usually prefer to pay AT LEAST the “bulk” on the first few dates. Meaning, if we get dinner (I pay) then get a drink at another bar afterwards and she insists on paying, that’s fine. For a movie and dinner, I’d pay for the movie and dinner, and if she asks to pay for the sodas, fine. I think there’s a few reasons for this: 1) Most women make their own money, so they want to contribute and be generous as well; and 2) Some women are worried that they feel like they “owe” something to the guy if he pays for everything (BTW- if you say something to that effect or even think that during the first few dates, you’re probably an as*hole). After a few dates (you’ll need to feel this one out), it moves to the typical give and take of a relationship- I still try to pay the majority of the time (e.g. 2 to 1).

30 Steve October 5, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I suppose that I am just very old fashioned in my views. After reading the responses about allowing women to pay, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. I see your points, but this is where the breakdown and why there are few gentlemen today. Just an opinion.

31 Ian October 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I, like several people above, try to make a point of paying for the large majority of a date, especially a first one. These days, it’s simply good manners for a woman to offer to help out with the bill for dinner. In these situations, I usually shrug it off and say “nah, I invited you, but you can get me a drink afterwards if you’d like”. This is of course dependent on the date going well enough to lead to after-dinner drinks. If so I think it’s a great way for her to feel like she’s contributing to the date and shows that I see her as an equal who is perfectly capable of paying her own way, while still making it clear that I think enough of her to invite her out and treat her to a nice dinner. Be forewarned though, in my experience if the woman is REALLY pushy about paying for her portion (or all) of the meal, it’s a sign that she’s not interested and is desperate for a way to escape any kind of implication that might come with you paying for everything.

@Steve, while I don’t want to make generalizations, it’s safe to say that most young (30 and under) women these days don’t appreciate being put up on a pedestal to that degree. For the most part, it makes them uncomfortable and might even be insulting to certain women. I think making the move to foot the bill is absolutely always the right thing to do, but a strict “always pay” policy will at best make a man seem old fashioned (in a bad way) and at worst insult her and undermine everything she and women in general have worked over the last 100 years.

The practice of paying for everything evolved as a convenient means of showing your potential suitor that you had the resources necessary to provide for a family. In this day and age, it’s not as though paying for a meal is something women are incapable of anymore. The value then lives on in the gesture of offering to pay (with maybe some stern insistence early on), because you’re making it more about what you’re willing to sacrifice rather than the actual exchange of money.

32 Steve October 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

@Ian What you said is very thought provoking and well put. Maybe it is because I am older than most on this great site, but I was brought up to put a woman on a pedestal. Your comment is well received. Thank you.

33 Samantha October 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I’m a highly educated and independent woman. I’m also 23.

But as a woman who understands and observes other women, I would say to be very wary of a woman who would try to go Dutch on a date, would be insulted if you paid, and did not expect you to pay. They’re going to suck-truly.

34 Athene October 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Just some more imput from a late twenties woman. I always offer to pay, but do not expect to pay until the third date or so. At this point I know I’m interested and willing to make each date a split, or a “let me get the tip” kind of date. However financial situations, espically in this economy, play a part. If I know my date is a bit hard up, I will insist on going on a nice walk in the park with ice cream instead of a four star restraunt. I think that is common courtsey. The most important thing in my opinion is how my date treats the wait staff. Treat them like an equal. Say please and thank you, don’t use their name excessivly, and for heaven’s sake don’t snap at them or yell for them. Waiting patiently until they have a moment says a lot about personality. I also agree about the tip. I always tip at least 15%, usually 20%, and I expect my date to do the same, unless the service and food are very, very bad. Remember you’re not just tipping the waiter.
To the gentleman who asked what to talk about, how to end a date, etc: Start off with her interests and work, then go from there. Ask questions, add interesting or funny stories about the subject at hand, talk about food, travel, restraunts, what you like to do, what funny thing happend to you last week- just let the conversation find it’s own way. If you can’t find anything in common then a second date won’t be fun for either of you. After the date, if it went well and you felt a real conection go in for a kiss on the cheek, if she lingers and leans into you a peck on the lips is fine, it may turn into more, but never ask to come in. If it didn’t go well then shake her hand, tell her you were pleased to get to know her and wish her luck in whatever she told you she was going to be doing in the future.
I find breakfast dates weird unless you spent the night together, but a nice brunch is always welcome! Lunch and coffee dates are always good as ice breakers before a fancy dinner date.
And for Heaven sakes please don’t shovel your food into your mouth, chew with your mouth open, have too much to drink, or slurp. If you have a question about the order of the forks, or other fancy restraunt thing, ask your date, she may not know either and you can have a laugh together, or if nessissary excuse yourself to go to the restroom and corner a waiter or sommelier, they’re usually very well versed and won’t laugh at you for asking.
Thank you for posting such an informative article. Most men wen’t taught these things growing up and it is so nice to be on a date with a gentleman instead of the usual d**che.

35 Andreas October 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

This was an excellent posting, but I want to bring up some variances on item #1 that I’ve learned in male etiquette classes in the past.

a) It is appropriate for a man to go first into the restaurant, as opposed to what Joe writes above. The theory is that he makes sure that the restaurant is safe and it’s worth staying there. I think this is one of the few deviations from the “ladies first” rule. The other one is entering a car in the back seat. The man should enter first when a driver opens the door so that the woman does not have to slide so far across the seat when entering and leaving. If the driver is not handling the door, the man should get out on the driver’s side to open the door for the woman (like in a cab). Sounds weird, but it’s appropriate. So, go first in the restaurant. No door man? Open the door for her and then lead the way into the restaurant when being seated.

b) Wine list. Are you kidding me? She sees the wine list first? A man gets the wine list and impresses his date with the wonderful wine he picks. Certainly it’s OK to get her confirmation on your choice, but — jeez — man up! A man gets the wine list first. In every high-end restaurant I go to for dinner, the waiter gives me the wine list.

c) Ordering. Classically, the man orders for his date (I still do this for my wife after finding out what she would like). However, I would feel my date out on this a little. If she likes real men, then go ahead and order for her. If she’s not accustomed to a real man, you can decide what kind of man you want to be. Don’t force the “sale.” If you want to set the right tone for your relationship and want her to know what kind of man you are, order for her once you know what she wants. If this isn’t a big deal for her, go ahead and invite her to order first. In most high-end restaurants I’ve been to, the waiter will usually comes to me first to find out the order.

I wouldn’t wuss out here. There are MANY women looking for a real man, and these 3 items I wrote are important ways to differentiate yourself.

I agree with everything else, including the drinks. 2 max, not just to keep your wits, but also to show her how in control you are.

36 Alexander Verbree October 5, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I appreciated this article. Very concise, and to the point.

I have a comment regarding the much debated topics of tips and the bill in general. I’m a student, and while I have a job, the vast majority of my cash comes from a student loan. I am by no means alone in this situation, and often, the women I come into contact with on a daily basis are in a similar situation. This situation brings the ideas of the bill and the tip into a new light.

In general, unless I am at “my” bar (an irish pub downtown where I feel like I’m at home, and tip around 20%), or the service has been completely phenomenal, I tip between 10-14%. if the service has been especially poor, I leave a $0.02 tip, to show them what I think. The only part of this situation that changes when I am on a date is the poor service clause, though if the server was especially rude to my date, then it may indeed be enacted.
I am of the belief that the tip is something you earn by doing a good job, not for just showing up, and I say this as someone who works in the food service industry part time to help with my student loans. Yes, server’s wage is less than many other minimum wage, but the reward comes from doing your job to the best of your ability, a virtue often extolled on this website.

On the topic of the bill, I honestly need to feel out the girl. if the server comes to me with one bill, and my date shifts uncomfortably, I’ll ask if she wants to split the bill. I will contradict what someone said earlier about thhose girls who want to split also wanting to “split” from the date, as most relationships i’ve been in where the girl expected my to pay were the ones that were also the shortest lasting.

Does all of this make me a cheapskate? perhaps, but we must cut out clothes to the cloth we have.

37 Mary October 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm

My first dates last week-after having gotten out of a long term, committed relationship-proved to be less than sparkling. Imagine my surprise when my date delegated to the waitress which items we were to split payment! and all before asking me! I was horribly uncomfortable.This occurred at an eatery of HIS choice, one to which he declared his desire to “take” me to.

38 Byron October 6, 2010 at 2:18 am

I hate to say this, but “mastering the art of the dinner date” is like “mastering the art of suicide.” You might as well reject yourself. Unless you are over 35 or are asking out the shyest girl in town for whom a trip to the grocery store is an adventure, dinner for a first date is one of the worst things you can do to impress a girl. She doesn’t even know you yet, she probably has at least two other options of where to be that night (if she’s an attractive woman), and she’s already been asked out to dinner twice in the past month, she probably doesn’t feel very attractive when she eats in front of a man she doesn’t know, and after dinner your chemistry and sense of adventure will go down the drain as you leave the restaurant feeling bloated.
No. Don’t do that. Seriously. Do something fun, during the day, that reveals some playful and interesting quality of yours. Leave her feeling great, energized, intrigued, full of energy for the rest of the day and eager to see you again, NOT tired, full, at best relieved, wondering if she displayed proper table manners. Save the dinner date for later. And get oysters and feed them to each other, mmmmm…

39 G October 6, 2010 at 2:53 am

Must you pay when she asks you to dinner? If you ask her out, I understand but her offer seems like she should pay.

40 Steve October 6, 2010 at 8:16 am

@ Mary You have encountered a true jerk. That’s just an indication of what the future would have been like. I hope you sent him home to mommy.
@ Samantha I hope more women follow your lead.

41 Aaron October 6, 2010 at 10:40 am

@Craig – That is a slick move. One of the best recommendations I’ve heard for offering, and expecting, to pay while at the same time allowing the recipient, male or female, to reciprocate. What a great way to open up the option for a second date as well.

42 Nancy October 6, 2010 at 10:56 am

A woman who insists on splitting the check or paying for her share is lacking the art of graciousness. It changes a treat to a transaction. Worse, there’s nothing more tedious than the, “I had the steak and you had the fish….” comments. Leaving the tip is the worst option of all; it’s neither egalitarian or grateful and it presumes a knowledge of total cost that a good guest should pretend to ignore. Let him pay. As/if the relationship progresses, create opportunities for treating him. It doesn’t have to be in kind, although it can be. And if you’re seeing someone who insists on picking up the check even on your invitation, it’s easy enough to make arrangements ahead of time with your credit card, or to slip it to the waiter on a quick trip to the rest room.

43 MIke October 6, 2010 at 11:09 am

@Byron: I’m not sure where you read in the article anything about a first date. It’s about a dinner date, that will happen in any relationship fairly early, while preferably not on a first date. Keeping in mind these rules can be useful on a non-dinner first date also.

For example I usually choose a local teahouse as the spot for my first dates. They don’t serve food or alcohol, only tea, which makes it very casual in comparison with a dinner date (also lot cheaper), while still not looking like you want to get her drunk. Many of the same mechanics apply as to dinner dates though, It’s inside a building, there is a waiter, a check and a menu.
I usually prefer weekday afternoons, so there is time for a few drinks afterwards if she insists, while still having a good excuse for leaving if not. I live in a smaller town, this I can see being not doable in a large city.
The dinner date dynamics are very strong, so if you can find a way to keep them without an actual dinner you will have a good chance to impress.

On the topic of going inside first / second: In my experience social norms are somewhat different depending on your geographic location, even while staying within the boundaries of western type societies. While you going in to the restaurant / teahouse / bar first may confuse women in one location (US as someone suggested) it is pretty much a given here in central Europe.

44 ARP October 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Andreas- you are correct that that is the traditional etiquette for dates, but we’re in a more complex society now, where women often make more money than men and may view your behaviour as being demeaning. While the Art of Maniless is about tradition, its about the “right” traditions.

BTW- saying that if we don’t follow your rules, you’re not a man or a “real man” makes you less of a man.

45 Steve October 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Married to the same woman for over 28 years, I still open doors for her, practice proper etiquette while dining, have the pleasure of ordering the wine and ordering for her after she decides what she wants and all the other pleasures a lady is entitled to by being a gentleman . All this about who makes more money, who finds it demeaning is nonsense. Treat a lady like a lady and act accordingly and see what a beautiful relationship unfolds before you.

46 Redman October 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm

The number of women who claim they pay for their share of dinner is considerably greater than the number who actually do.

47 Anthony October 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Don’t pre-game before the date! I did it once. It was a mess. Great memory though.

48 Thomas October 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

If you have to go into a restaurant first to make sure it’s safe, you did not choose your restaurant wisely enough.

49 Y. October 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

On the “paying the bill” subject:
Being a woman, I should say that I sometimes offer to split the bill on the first date/dinner. But in all honesty, I would feel disappointed if a gentleman would accept this offer. It’s an interesting thought someone mentioned here that you should let the lady go with whatever she wants to but how do you know what she wants when it’s your first dinner? And she, most likely, won’t answer honestly when asked about the bill. Even when I play it in my head now, a gentleman asking me whether I want to pay half of the bill – this thought makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just me. I was raised by my grandmother who has quite strict and old fashioned european rules for etiquette. Also I am an artist (which is usually known to my dates), which makes it quite problematic for me to have money for restaurants.
About the door opening, a gentleman goes in front of the lady TO the door and opens it for her to enter. So technically she enters first.

50 Frank October 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Out of a deep respect for AoM, I have delayed my response until it reached “yesterday’s news” status. However, in regards to Rule #5 (two drink max) it needs to read, “Two drink max if you’re not driving, but, if you are driving, don’t drink”. I say this as a 22 year state trooper. This site is all about developing what defines manhood and there is nothing manly about being arrested for DUI in front of your date. Then getting taken to jail where you get to experience true humilation as you sit in the cell with chronic alcohol abusers until you’re sober enough to be released. It gets worse…
After you are arrested, attention turns to your date. Chances are she has been drinking too. She’ll more than likely be arrested at that point for appearing drunk in public (I don’t make the laws). Of course her appearance will be stunning in the new dress she bought to wear for you. Again, until she gets processed into the jail, the chronic drunks will appreciate her being there to brighten up their day.
Getting arrested really is getting lucky. There are so many things worse than getting arrested and there are so many things worse than dying in a alcohol related crash. Things like having half of the skin on her beautiful face melting off so she looks like something from Ripley’s Believe it or not.
In my opinion, if your date questions why you want to be a party pooper and not drink, you just look into her eyes and tell her you’re not drinking because there is simply too much at stake. Now that’s manly.

51 Kate October 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Excellent article. You guys should start a dating site–too many men that I’ve dated (briefly, for sure) have no idea what being a gentleman means.

Re: paying, I think it’s polite for me to offer, but I don’t expect to have the chance. I’m always impressed when my date just puts his card in the book for the waiter without looking. And if he accepted my offer, he wouldn’t be getting a second date unless there was a very good reason.

52 Steve October 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm

@ Kate. I commend you. A true lady that can appreciate a gentleman.

53 Adrienne October 9, 2010 at 11:56 pm

I’m been following this blog for a while now and this is the first time I responded to a post. First I commend the article and glad there are still gentlemen particular regarding dating is concerned and I agree with everthing the author said. I have read other posts regarding this topic that comdemns women for still wanting these traits in men while still expecting equality in the workforce which I don’t think is fair. I don’t believe equality in the workplace, education etc should exclude some old fashioned dating customs or women wanted to treated like a lady on a date or in society in general. As for the paying on date thing, I have a more balanced and flexible idea rearding old fashioned and modern customs, I think the one who does the asking should be willing to pay and it’s usually the gentleman. If you’re asking your paying. If the gentleman does the asking he should be willing to pay in the beginning, however if she insists on paying half, he should respect her wishes to do so maybe on the third date. If the lady does the asking she can be willing to pay, he still may offer to pay half being a gentleman, but if she insists on paying all, he can just back down and let her. By the time the relationship is official they can split the check and ocassional treat each other out. If money is an issue, if can take her out on inexpensive dates or dates that don’t require spending money at all. There are plenty of suggestions on the internet. Also i like the pointed out women can also dispay old fashioned customs romancing the man. I mean if he’s paying on the dates she can in turn occasional engage him with home-cooking dinners or sunday picnics with food she baked. Invite him out to places that don’t require spending money, like romantic walks in the park, bike riding, nature walks, etc. She can also return his chivalrous and romantic deeds with courtesies of her own, like reaching over and unlocking his car door after openeng the car door for her. Bring drinks and snacks or a cd for him to listen to in the car when going out on outings. He brings her flowers and romantic cards, she can bake him his favorite treat or send him a box of chocolate candy with love note. Just needed to add my two cents in all of this.

54 Young Guy October 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Why go through false gestures? Don’t offer if you don’t mean it. Further, it’s disingenuous. You claim to offer, but it’s a trap. If he accepts because he believes in equality, he’s a jerk. Make up your minds already.

55 Hailey October 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm

@ Dónall Yes this can leave a horrible taste in ones mouth most women know that men are easily distracted so to help you focus on her do let her face the room!
Also as a woman Kate I agree 100%
@ARP if the woman is left feeling like she owes you, you are doing something wrong! Or the girl has issues, co-dependent, self-esteem, past hurts.

56 GW October 12, 2010 at 2:31 am

I disagree with No1. It makes it seem that she has to be first with all things on the date. Sure, ill hold the door for her and pay the bill, but I’ll give her options rather than just let her decide on EVERYTHING. Eg. “Your prefer red or white? Why don’t you take a look at the menu” but that’s only after I went thru it.

57 Robyn October 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Hi, this is my first time commenting. I am with Adrienne – in fact, the situation she described where the man more or less pays for the dates, while the woman indulges him with some good home cooking mirrors my situation. I occasionally do treat him from time to time on dates, but the majority of the time he pays, no questions asked. I in return have no problems whatsoever in preparing home cooked meals when we get together. I’m sort of old fashioned, even though I a still in my twenties :)

58 Rajan October 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

This is really terrible advice. No woman has slept with me when I did stuff like that. None. Never.

59 Lorie October 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I never offer to split because:
A) It is insincere. We both know that I don’t expect you to take me up on it. And if you do, without question, I will pay half. I will also pay you no mind from that point on. So, instead, I flash my biggest, most sincere and flirty smile and let my date know how grateful I am for the lovely evening. After a few dates, I may treat him or make him some cookies, etc. But, I never split the check. It turns a date into business meeting, girls night out or something equally platonic… But, your interest in the woman is not platonic, is it?

B) The men I know would be insulted. I believe that when a man takes a woman out, he is offering her his care (at least for the evening). To insist on paying, is a rejection. (Think about the women who are upset with you for holding the door for them… Or, if I bake a man cookies and he says “No, keep them. I can bake my own” Sniff!)

C) This isn’t very modern but most women still are most attracted to men who protect and provide. It doesn’t go away, does it? We’ll always want it- even when and especially when we can buy our own dinners. Just as men will always want sex. You can “take care of yourself” but isn’t it much more pleasurable when someone wants to “take care of you”? That’s what we want- to feel safe, secure and under your loving care. Why would I offer to split the bill and deny myself the pleasure? Also, why would I deny you the pleasure of providing a nice evening for both yourself and a lovely lady?

60 Tara October 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I’m in my forties, I would definitely expect my date to pay for our outings unless we had been dating for some time and I wanted to invite him out as my treat. I prefer to invite a man I’ve been dating for a while over for a home-cooked meal or bake something for him, men appreciate that sort of caring in my experience, it makes them feel loved. I think there is far too little chivalry left in the world, I prefer a gentleman who knows how to treat a woman with respect.

61 Trimegistus October 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Of course the man pays for dinner. When you’re out on a date you want to be old-school. If she’s the sort of woman who objects to that sort of thing, the sooner you find out (and RUN!) the better.

62 Michal October 13, 2010 at 3:06 am

i love how the article mentions one brief line about payment, and it’s the single point that generates the most discussion. why? if you can’t afford a certain restaurant, go elsewhere. go out, eat some food, spend time together, enjoy each other’s company. when it come’s to payment, you’re the one who asked her out. right? think of lorie’s ‘keep them, i can bake my own’ comment.

i often prefer to go to a nice bakery/cafe instead. bonus points if they have things that could smooth out the conversation. no, not booze. i’m thinking chess set, a book case, miscellaneous curiosities that inspire conversations. choose a venue you both can enjoy, it doesn’t have to be that swanky restaurant every guy brings his dates. know your city, don’t be afraid to explore new grounds, and wear something nice. look good for the lady.

63 Puzzled October 14, 2010 at 12:24 am

Rajan, I think, has missed the point splendidly. If your goal is sex on the first date, absolutely, nothing here will help you. Manliness is not made up of separable pieces, it is a whole way of approaching life. A common trait in that is not pushing your desires onto others. You go on a date to please a woman, not yourself.

Actually, I came here because I had a question to ask. I get that a sports coat is required, and I absolutely agree. What are people’s thoughts on the shirt? I’ve never been happy with a dress shirt and tie on a date, although I’ve fallen back on them often. Any thoughts on trousers, a silk t-shirt or mock, and a sports coat? How about a suit with a silk t-shirt or mock?

64 Michal October 14, 2010 at 1:32 am

@puzzled, wear nice clothes, wear clean clothes, wear clothes that fit your body and your personality. wear clothes that are appropriate for the venue. if a restaurant is a suit and tie sort of place. wear a suit and tie. if you can get away with a slim fitting suit, hip t-shirt and sneakers, wear that. if you’re not a formal dinner person, ask her out on a night on the town, check out some art shows, used book shops, grab a bite at a hip cafe, hang out. then you can even ditch the blazer.

everything depends on who you are, who she is, and what’s appropriate. golden rule, be clean, show you care regardless of your style. oh, and don’t overdo it on the cologne, grooming, clothing. trying too hard makes you seem clingy and desperate

65 Sarah October 14, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Re: Paying for Dinner
There have been excellent points made on both sides of the issue, but I thought I would share my experience.
In college I went to dinner with a guy and offered to contribute to the bill, but not surprisingly he insisted on covering it. By the time we went to dinner again, we were going as a couple. When that bill came, I declared that it was my turn. He protested of course, saying it was his job, but I insisted that if I was going to be his girlfriend I reserved the right to take him out to dinner once in a while. From then on we followed a loose turn-taking arrangement but never worried about it too much, since we knew there would be plenty more dates and it would all even out in the end. Within a few years we were engaged with a joint checking account, and it hardly matters any more who puts the card down.
I don’t know if our system was right or wrong from an etiquette standpoint, but I know it worked for two broke college students in love, and maybe even helped us establish the very equal partnership and marriage we have today.

66 Yosa Addiss October 15, 2010 at 11:42 am

If I am on a dinner date, I always offer to share the bill, and am flattered if the gentleman pays.

If it is going well, and I would like a second/future date I can then say “then perhaps next time I’ll cook?” I think it is nice to return the favor of a meal, and to give my date the hint that I am interested enough to invite him to my home. Alternately, if my date buys the movie/theatre tickets, I will offer to purchase the snacks/drinks, or dessert after.

Talk about smooth- I received flowers the morning after a first date- he had ordered them prior to the date!

67 Marsha October 15, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Excellent article.
I’m in my mid-thirties and I am of firm belief that when dating the man pays for dinner and drinks. Once we’ve been dating for a bit, I will invite him over for dinner, prepare a picnic lunch, prepare him cookies/cake, or give him a small, thoughtful gift of some sort but I will not pay for dinner. As out of place as it may sound, I believe part of dating is the man showing me he can support me which includes varying the type of place we go to depending on his budget for the week/month and I am there to prove the type of wife I would make which includes showing off my cooking and hospitality skills.

68 Astrodiva October 16, 2010 at 1:12 am

I always offer to split, and on the first date if the guy actually does make me pay half, I’ll never go out with him again. If a guy Really likes a girl, he is usually willing to pay, even if he’s broke and he has to borrow money from his best friend or his brother in order to be able to afford it. Why should I deprive my date of the good feeling he gets from treating me? Seriously, of all the things in this day and age that a guy can spend his money on (beer, xbox etc,) if he seriously can’t afford to buy me dinner at least once than that really says something about his priorities and about how much he cares about me.

69 Dave9 October 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I’m in my early 40′s and have dated a lot in the past few years, mostly women in their 30′s. I’ve found that there is an age split with regards to who should pay: Older women are more comfortable with having me pay, younger women more frequently want to split. I think this is because for us older people, who are aware of the formality/rules, the man who pays is seen as classy or gentlemanly. For younger women, they see it as a power play and may see you as old-fashioned or just old. There may also be an education/class split, but it’s less clear.

So I usually play it by ear and see which way my date leans based on our conversation. Strangely, the dates where I’ve insisted on paying have not panned out at all whereas the dutch dates have been the ones that developed into LTRs for me. But that’s probably because my target demographic is highly educated nerdy women.

To the person who asked about what to talk about and what are the rules: You need to pay attention to the specific person — there are no fixed rules. You have to observe and make educated guesses. EG. a woman who is a crunchy granola artist who does ceramics is more likely to have liberal leanings (and be okay with going dutch) than a conservative stockbroker MBA (even though she probably makes way more than you.) But this is a generalization and the point is to pay attention to the (hopefully) fascinating creature in front of you…

70 KG2V October 24, 2010 at 8:01 pm

As for a woman offering to pay etc (particularly on a first dates, or when you get a woman – even NOT on a date who complains about you holding doors – I’m of the age when we delt with a lot of that – hint, I went to my 30th reunion this week), a line I heard once, and I’ve used many times since

“I’m sorry, but I have to do XXX for our safety?”
(which will usually earn you a puzzled glance, or a Huh? type of comment)
“Well, if I didn’t, there would be an earthquake from my ancestors spinning in their graves”
(has earned me more than a few chuckles offering seats to pregnant women on the NYC Subway – some of whom want ME to sit because of my bad leg, having a cane) – It’s also embarrased more than a few younger men to stand up, then offer me their seat after the woman sits

71 JJ October 25, 2010 at 9:48 am

A tip from a girl- if you eat anything stringy (eg spinach) and you aren’t sure if there’s something in your teeth, have a mouthful of water and slip away to the loo to check in the mirror. Better safe than sorry :)

72 Alexandria October 25, 2010 at 5:17 pm

You know, it’s funny: as a teenager and college student, I was adamant about paying my own way on any date, no matter how poor I was, to prove that I could take care of myself. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties and do quite well for myself, there’s less pressure to ‘prove’ anything. It’s wonderful to go out with a gentleman who actually pays for the date. Or, if they aren’t in the place where they can pay for an expensive date, take the time to plan a date they can afford, and then execute it with charm and humor. It may be a little archaic, but there’s something about a man paying without hemming, hawing, or expectations that makes a girl feel special.

And boo on you for playing games–if you offer to pay half, don’t be nasty and use it as a tricky test. Sincerely offer and then do it if they graciously accept. Besides, a lot more goes into whether they get a second date or not than if they accept what they perceive as a genuine offer to split the bill. Like, oh, I don’t know, good humor, manners, kindness and intelligence?

73 Strong Man November 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Excellent! This is a good advice–especially the reminder to actually ask her out on a date regularly.

–A Good Strong Man

74 Sarah February 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Please please please let her finish her meal first. She will(and I have been in this situation) feel like a pig for the remainder of her meal, and be embarrased that you watch her eat. Simply pay attention to how colse to being finished she is, and slow down until she is finished. You may feel awkward, but it will be much appreciated!

75 Jacob Dunbar November 25, 2013 at 7:24 am

This is a great article but only applies to a straight couple. What about a gay man? Would similar etiquette apply or would it be completely different?

76 Grace December 19, 2013 at 1:10 am

I’m a very traditional woman,born in the Philippines but grew up in both countries so I am very americanized. Yet there are some things ingrained in me; either due to my own conservative nature or my native culture- over there the man would definitely always pay. ( i was a child when i left so i never dated there- I just know that’s how it is)

When i was much younger and immature I used to “test” guys by offering to pay my part (if he let me, i’d never see him again) but stopped doing that “test” as it made me almost sick with disgust the rare times the man accepted my offer; i’ll never forget the feeling as my whole body temperature changed to ice and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. (i thought the neck hair thing was a figure of speech, til it happened to me). Anyway I’m older now and know how to weed the cheap types out before even letting them take me on a date.

I have a question about the current guy I’m dating though. We’ve been out on 5 dates and on the first couple of dates, he’d mention how he finally “made it” career-wise, and that he is “comfortable”, etc. He is a white-collar/business executive- i am closer to blue collar level (receptionist). He would always ask where I want to go to eat, and on the first 4 dates, I let him decide the place. But on the 5th date I asked to go to my favorite hangout. I asked him afterwards how he liked it, and he said ” it’s overpriced. $55 for some chicken/fish and fried vegetables!! ” I’d mentioned before this was a hangout i like to go to with my friends ( i didn’t order any more with him, than i do when i am out on my own with friends.) His comment made me feel very awkward, like i should just let him suggest where we eat from now on, and also makes me wonder why, when he specified on more than one occasion, that he has “made it” career-wise, would he then mention the cost of the tab? Is there a bit of inconsistency in this, or is it in my head? It wasn’t like this was a super-fancy place i suggested either, just a sushi place i like to hang out at. I’d appreciate feedback

77 Nice April 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I’ve bombed out on dates with girls I was entirely infactuated with because I didn’t know what I was doing. Kind of hard to get out there and date for me, it’s a huge bridge and I find it frightening. Thanks for the tips mate, now I have that little bit more confidence in myself.

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