Advice from the Trenches: Who pays?


Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW

Advice From The Trenches combines the clinical experience of a double boarded psychiatrist, with a slap-in-the-face dose of reality from an artist and writer who has gathered her wisdom from the school of hard-knocks.

Do you having a burning question for the duo? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to Don’t forget to mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here!

Dear Dr. B and C;

I set two friends of mine up on a blind date. She is a top professional in a high-pressure company, he is an ophthalmologist. They are both bright, reasonable people but the date was a disaster.  She was incensed that he wanted to split the bill for dinner. Her comment: “What a cheap bastard!”    

He on the other hand was miffed. She’s a high powered woman, he expected that she was all about being treated as an equal. “WTF!” he said. “She wanted me to pay for the bill! Isn’t’ that a bit hypocritical?” 

I can see both their points. She wanted to be treated and feel special because she was not at work. He didn’t want to assume dominance and diminish her by paying for dinner. How does anyone navigate this mind field?                                                               

– Mismatched Maker

Dr. B says:

I was going to suggest that all they needed to do was to discuss the paycheck ahead of time but I realized that wouldn’t really work. For friendship maybe, but romance – no.   As I have said many times, early love is a narcissistic projection. It isn’t a matter of chemistry but of finding someone who fits your own subconscious fantasy.  You only allow yourself  to know the real person over time, if ever.  

There is no right way to have a relationship; but in order to work, the two people have to be playing the same game with a mutual set of rules and goals. Your friends are each playing by different rules and have different pictures of what relationship roles are. Your male friend did not value your female friend’s desire to be admired and appreciated for all the time she probably put into getting ready for the date. He isn’t aware of the rules to her game so it just annoys him, while she doesn’t value his notion of gender equality, so she thinks he’s cheap. He will never be a romantic; she isn’t practical. They should realize this themselves and move on. 

C says:

I think the ophthalmologist was just pissed that he had to pay on a date after his expectations weren’t met. If he’d really clicked with his date, I suspect he wouldn’t have carped about paying.

My question is this – who goes on a romantic date with the attitude that their partner should maintain their professional role? And what does that even have to do with equality? Did the woman go out with the guy expecting to get a free eye exam? They weren’t dating each other’s jobs. They were dating as people. So why was it offensive for the woman to think the guy would probably pay? Ask anyone who’s on wait staff at a restaurant – even these days, it isn’t the norm for the lady to grab the bill.

We’re talking about ordinary customs here. Look – if you go to your mom’s house, she’ll try to feed you. That’s just what mothers do; it’s not a political issue. In his quest for gender equality, would the ophthalmologist refuse everything mom offered him because he didn’t want her to feel like a subservient woman?

Let me give your male friend a clue – high powered or not, a woman does NOT want to be treated like the boss on a date. She wants to be treated like a lady. If I went out to dinner with a guy and he whined like that about paying the bill, I would be fairly repulsed. To say the least, it lacks diplomacy. And if I were the woman in this case, I’d be wondering, “Does this a%&hole expect me to always pay because I make more money than he does?”

But fair is fair, so here’s a good set of rules to go by:

      1.         If the guy asks the woman (or another man) out, the guy pays.

      2.         If a woman asks a guy (or another female) out, the woman pays.

      3.         In this case, you set them up; maybe you should have paid.

– Cathren Housley 

As originally published in Motif Magazine.

Writer Cathren Housley is a past contributor on NRI NOW, covering the local arts and music scene.

You can visit Dr. B’s blog at

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