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If in New York a Guy Offers You Dinner, Does He Just Want to Sleep with You?

Reflections on how to act if you like a man, but you discover that he eats and drinks three times as much as you do – and also wants to split the bill.

by Margherita Mirabella
Once seated, facing each other, I notice that he’s looking at me so intensely to make me think that he’s either fallen hopelessly in love with me, or he’s thinking about how he’s going to kill me and store me in the freezer. But to have a woman -- who presumes is being courted -- pay for dinner, is a sign of respect of equality between men and women?

I would like for someone to explain to me the rules of the game — how to act on the international chessboard on an emotional level without risking an end of the night that is both embarrassing and frustrating.

New York is certainly one of the most difficult battlefields in the world – wise female friends maintain that it’s much easier to find a fiancé in the smaller suburban towns.

Recently, I obtained proof of this; I was in Pennsylvania for work, in a small town of few inhabitants. I entered the only bar around, hunting for blue collar workers to photograph, and aside from being mistaken for a federal agent, I made friends immediately — I received a declaration of love three hours after having shaken hands with someone, and two complimentary draft beers.

Such episodes comfort me in thinking that all of those dates gone wrong were my fault.

Stinginess factor: I’ve always believed that an individual who was stingy monetarily was also stingy emotionally.

I’ve been told that in America, a man that invites you to dinner and makes you pay half the bill isn’t stingy, but instead respectful of your worth as an independent woman, and that not paying implies that there is no intent to “buy you” or a signal that there is only an interest in sex. Is there really all of this reasoning behind not paying for dinner?

My friend, Flaminia, maintains that rejecting the attention and gallantry of a man seems to be the price that we women are paying for being independent.

Letting a woman – who presumes is being courted – pay for dinner, is a sign of respect of equality between men and women?

Another mystery remains: “how to split the ethereal dinner? Does each person pay what they’ve eaten?”

A basic Japanese restaurant – I was invited by an Italian guy. He orders three courses, I only order an appetizer under 10 dollars. He orders 3 beers, I only order one.

When time comes to split the bill, I look at him stunned and can’t bring myself to not tell him that it would opportune that he pay the tax and tip, given the amount of food and alcohol that he gulped down.

A few days later, he invites me to dinner with a couple whom he’s friends with. This time, we’re at a Yemeni diner. In retrospect, I presume that this was his vendetta against me, seeing as I’m a vegetarian and the only thing on the menu was goat meat.

I paid 50 dollars for a plate of boiled rise and literally four sliced vegetables. Expensive was the poor goat that the everyone else ate.

I never saw him again. I vented to the Iraqi taxi driver that was taking me home and he nodded while I complained with great regret the lack of attention, of generosity, and gallantry that I continue to believe are decisive elements when you’re dating.

First date with an American guy – a New Yorker, to be precise, whom I met on the subway. We exchanged intelligent and witty text messages, we went out on a Thursday to art galleries in Chelsea. Nine o’clock rolls around, and he suggests that we have a bite to eat at a restaurant.

Once seated, facing each other, I notice that he’s looking at me so intensely to make me think that he’s either fallen hopelessly in love with me, or he’s thinking about how he’s going to kill me and store me in the freezer.

In both cases, his desire for me did not convince him to pay for my dinner, and on a first date, that’s really disappointing, especially when you’re talking about 25 dollars a head.

And yet again, different opinions and reactions. I’ve been overwhelmed with advice and reprimands regarding my expectations, for my obstinate will to ignore that Americans don’t offer, but instead split, the cost of everything — a sad habit that, I suspect, has also become of Italians that, evidently, have learned too soon to forget their fathers’ good manners.

A lot of guys that I know here in New York often have spent a lot of money to take women out, and above all, to bed, and accuse me of being absurd in thinking that it’s a desirable gesture that a man take pleasure in offering a cocktail or dinner. I would like to underline that many American women not only wouldn’t even leave their front door for a man that isn’t willing to pay for their dinner, but also for their Uber ride home.

You can really impress someone with a 2-dollar slice of pizza, with a good cup of coffee, or with a walnut brownie; an expensive dinner isn’t necessary – prices in NYC are brutal, but happy hour exists and street food does, too. You can be chivalrous even eating with your hands standing up.

Fortunately, I have many generous American friends that, evidently, fall outside the stereotypes and offer dinner and drinks, and I do the same with them.

The other evening, a Venetian guy offered me a glass of wine and gave me a ride home in his car, even though he lived on the other side of town, and he didn’t want to sleep with me; he is simply an Italian with good manners.

Translated by Emmelina De Feo

 

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