It's no longer unusual for Jill to take John out to lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant. In a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of the women polled said they are willing to treat a man to a social lunc of dinner. And 75 percent of the men surveyed said they were not uncomfortable when a woman did pick up the check.
"If I want to get to know someone, it's natural to ask them out," says Sally Davis, who works in a social research firm in Cambridge, Mass. "I feel great when I treat a man."
But there are still some folks who find it hard to break tradition, even if they espouse equality.
"I know of women who have given the money to men under the table in order to let them pay," says Sue Lafky of Portland, Ore., who adds that she has no qualms about handling a dinner check herself.
Tony Sell, a designer who lives near Chicago, prefers to pay when he goes out with a woman.
"That is the way I was brought up, that men should treat women," he says. But he doesn't mind when women friends treat in a casual situation.
"I think it is completely normal," he says. "It's usually when good friends get together, and the woman wants to treat."
Some women meet resistance when they offer to pay for a meal. One woman planning to buy dinner for a man went to the bank to get crisp, clean bills. At the end of the meal, the man refused to let her bring out the money and insisted that she pay him back later that evening with a check.
Other women bristle at that attitude.
"I like to be the one to pay at the table, if I have invited the man," says Sally Davis. "The man is flattered that I am interested enough to ask him out, but he can't always let go of his role. I don't think his ego can take it."
Most men are happy when a woman offers to treat, but few say it happens regularly. Go"Dutch," which means that each pays his or her own way, is the most common compromise young couples make.
Hal Hiemstra of Washington, D.C., prefers to split the bill, and he is not always pleased when a woman expects he will pay for a meal, unless it is clear that it is a special occasion.
"I think it is unfair with prices the way they are that one person has to take care of a $20 or $30 check," he says. To avoid the confusion of dividing a check in a restaurant, he will sometimes pay the dinner bill and suggest that his friend buy the movie or theater tickets.
Patti, a paralegal assistant in Boston, takes a more traditioinal stance. She rarely will take a man to lunch or dinner.
"I wouldn't call up a man and ask him out the way men ask women," she says. "I hint enough so that he knows he should ask mem out." And she will only go Dutch if it is an established friend. "If a guy asks me out, he pays."
Some women feel uncomfortable letting a man pay for meals all the times, however, and they prefer to pay their own way. One, who makes more than the man she goes out with, likes to be treated to a nice breakfast, which is less expensive than a fancy dinner. And when he does spring for an evening meal, the woman makes sure she balances his extravagance by taking him out or making a home-cooked meal.
Both men and women report that waiters and waitresses automatically bring the check to the man. Sometimes even after a woman has put down cash or a credit card, the change or receipt will be brought to the man.
Some restaurants are changing, though. One national chain, the Magic Pan, has instructed its personnel not to assume that men will pay and to be alert as to who is treating.
A woman who wants to avoid embarrassing exchanges of checks and money when taking a man out to eat can ease the situation. She can make the reservation and put it under her name as Miss, Ms., or Mrs. Jill Jones. She may also let the maitre d', waiter, or waitress know from the start that she will be paying.
If she eats at one restaurant often for business lunches in which she picks up the tab, she can leave her business card and try to have the same waiter consistently.
A veteran treater will take the lead in ordering to signal that she will also pay, although this doesn't always work.
In handling the bill, some women suggest using a credit card, to avoid the shuffling of paper money at the table.