Real Men and Picking up the Tab

Men eating dinner while aboard the Atlantic Clipper. (Photo by Bernard Hoffman//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

When dining out at a restaurant with another person or group of people, a real man is just as likely to pick up the tab for the people he’s with as he is to graciously accept someone else’s offer to pay. A real man doesn’t argue over who’s going to pay. He either pays for his own meal, pays for both his and the other party’s, or if the other party attempts to pay for his meal, accepts their offer without making a fuss.

There’s no middle ground here.

There’s nothing masculine about arguing with another person over who gets to pick up the check after dining out. It’s like dancing. When it comes time to settle the check, the first person to speak is the one who gets to lead. If you’re the first to speak, then you get to lead. If not, just go where the other party takes you without stepping on their toes.

This really is a finer (and in many ways lost) art of manhood, I think. To continue with the dancing metaphor, it’s the difference between looking like a couple of junior high kids at the 8th grade sweetheart dance and Gene Kelly. The latter pulls it off with grace and style while the former just fumble around the floor trying not to let their hands fall below the predetermined, chaperone-approved line on their partner’s back.

The next time you’re out to dinner with another person, either pick up the tab, pay for your own meal, or graciously let them pay if they offer before you speak. Don’t try to appear chivalrous by going back and forth with them only to fold a few seconds letter with the same end result.

I learned this from my dad who likes to pick up the tab for other people. I’ve seen him pick up the tab over and over again throughout my life and I’ve rarely seen another man accept it without resorting to the obligatory give and take, back and forth debate before letting him actually pay. I’m not sure, but these types of scenarios may even offend my dad. At the very least, whether it offends him or not, the men who dicker back and forth with him about it just end up looking silly… at least in my humble opinion. And yet, on those occasions where I’ve seen other people offer to pay for my dad’s meal, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed him argue with them. He just rolls with it… usually.

I mean, think about it, what’s at stake here? At most (if you’re at a fancy place like Taco Cabana or some other swanky joint like Sizzler or Jack in the Box) we’re talking $50 to $100 maximum. In the grand scheme of life, being able to pick up a $50 or $100 tab, while generous, is not necessarily some great feat of manhood. In fact, just about any dude with a credit card has the ability to do this at will.

Just as picking up the tab for others doesn’t make a man more masculine, the converse is also true. Letting another man pick up your tab when he asks to does not make you any less of man. It’s not like the man who offers to pay your tab thinks you can’t afford the $50. If he thought you couldn’t afford to pick up your own tab, he wouldn’t have invited you to the Taco Cabana. He would have invited you to Taco Mayo, where even the poorest man can eat like a king.

The man who offers to pick up your tab is doing so out of a spirit of generosity. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my brief stint as a professional raiser of funds, it’s to let people who want to be generous, BE GENEROUS.

Well… now that I’ve beat this issue to a pulp, I only have one other thing to say in relation to picking up the tab. No matter who pays, NEVER EVER skimp on the tip. There’s nothing that screams, “I am not a real man!” any louder than leaving a lame tip.

15% is the standard so unless your waiter or waitress is just a complete jerk, never leave less than that. In fact, in keeping with the generosity theme, if your service is half-way decent and the person serving you is even half-way friendly, why not leave a 20% tip and make their day?

The next time you dine with someone else and they offer to pay for your meal, all you need to do is respond with a simple and authentic THANK YOU. Instead of putting up the obligatory and, in most cases, contrived fight, just make a mental note of the occasion, enjoy the rest of the meal, and the next time you dine with that person, remember to take the lead and offer to pay for their tab before they have a chance to speak.



3 thoughts on “Real Men and Picking up the Tab”

  1. Thank you for this perspective. It helped me understand and be more accepting of my husbands frequency of picking up others checks. And yes, he’s a good tipper as well.

  2. My husband says the difference between men and women is men buy each other lunch and women upset the waiter by asking for 10 different checks! Thank you so much for your article and for reminding others to tip. After having two kids in the food service industry I realize how little they are paid hourly and how much they depend on those tips to get a decent wage.

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