Bill De Ke Dekho: The Definitive Guide to Picking the Tab on a Date

Love and Sex

Bill De Ke Dekho: The Definitive Guide to Picking the Tab on a Date

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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here comes a time in your life when you realise that most of those you went to school with, are either committed or settled into diaper-changing routines. The big shift in your life, on the other hand, is that your disposable income has gone up from peanuts to classic salted peanuts and your Tinder bio has moved from the cocky “My BF said I can date until he comes out of jail” to the pseudo-evolved “Nothing’s more stimulating than a good conversation.”

Welcome to the dating universe of adults, which is mired in a cesspool of gender politics. For the most part, it is fun and games. Until the cave-people adage of “It’s all about the money, honey” suddenly rears its haughty head.

This universe is a delicately balanced one. Back in the day, you could sass the guy simply with your amazing alcohol retention abilities. But now it’s not about you handling your malt like a pro anymore. Can you handle the cheque like a pro? This has nothing to do with your financial capability of footing the bill. Instead, it is all about realising that there is a subtle power equation at play that will determine the future of your relationship or at least your next couple of dates with the guy.

The deadly “cheque please,” begins with your smile-plastered-across-the-face server handing over the cheque to the man on the table, with the obviousness of the sun rising in the east and all terrible things happening in India because of Pakistan. Now, because you’ve already been subjected to this waiter’s Pavlovian response of serving you the lighter drink because you’re a woman, you’re grinding your teeth. But giving the waiter a lesson on gender sensitivity should be the least of your concerns.

The C-bomb, that seemingly unending strip of paper, is sitting on the table waiting to detonate. Now like the good old KBC, you have four options, but no helpline. And the option you lock will unlock a universe of infinitesimal relationship possibilities ranging from a hard-core Vikram Bhatt erotica to the drunk-on-romance Aashiqui, where somebody will kill themselves in the end, to Qarib Qarib Singlle that most people don’t even know exists.

OPTION A: He foots the whole bill

He’s the shark. You’re the goldfish. And in the deep blue ocean of lust and longing, you know who eats whom! At least that’s what he’s probably thinking. So unless you’ve been taking turns on paying up – in which case you’ve clearly been dating long enough, and your post-dinner moves have probably already become rusty – by letting him pick up the tab you may have already lost the first round of the battle of the sexes.

Chances are he may insist. Even try a smart alec line like “I know you are an independent woman, but please let me take this one.” Still, DON’T! Because you’re thinking you’ll pay next time. But men are from Mars, remember? In the simplistic Martian mind, free booze is equal to free sex. Your next time may not even present itself. So even if he’s I-want-to-bake-him-and-eat-him level of hotness, you play smart. You peruse through the cheque first and watch the subtle changes on his face. Is he smirking? Is he anxious? Or is he secretly relieved? If it’s the third, you may just end up friendzoning him in the long run, but what you do not want to dealing with a man whose ego is bigger than his you-know-what. And let’s face it. You have a fragile ego too that you don’t want bruised.

The bottomline is, in the meandering corridors of the dating multiverse, you may or may not run into the perfect person. But what you will definitely run into are the undercurrents of gender politics that will grow stronger with every 60ml you down.

OPTION B: You foot the entire bill
Now you become the shark and he becomes, well, sea-weed. His hormones will kick in and he may consider this an affront to his ego. In which case, I’d say, good riddance to bad rubbish. But let’s be real. That would include most men. Remind yourself again – Men. Are. From. Mars. And Mars takes 687 days to do what Earth does in just 365 and Venus in a mere 243! That makes you naturally faster, sharper and a few steps ahead of him! So if he’s even been borderline well-behaved for most of the evening and is interesting enough for you to want to explore the world beneath the sheets with him, then get your priorities straight, lady. Make a polite offer to go dutch and see where it takes you. You don’t have to marry him, remember?

Of course, if you’re up for mind games, it may be worth at least airing the idea of you picking up the whole tab. If you don’t find him fighting hard to keep his face from paling, congratulations. You may have just spotted the endangered and therefore legendary green turtle in an ocean of pariahs! He will not just cheer for you in his honey-and-milk voice but will also make the shining promise of taking his turn the next time. In that case, I’d just say – pinch yourself! Either you’ve struck gold or I want to know what you’re smoking.

OPTION C: Both of you pay for what you’ve had

Repeat after me. I AM NOT IN COLLEGE ANYMORE. Seriously people, this sort of behaviour is acceptable only in canteens. And yet, due to some intergalactic disturbance, you and your date end up deciding, you will pay for your own booze and food, you guys are doomed to be platonic AF, even by Jadoo and Krrish standards.

OPTION D: Going Dutch

You’ve cracked it. May you have a long, healthy, and fruitful relationship – until you find the next suitable Mr or Ms Right.

The bottomline is, in the meandering corridors of the dating multiverse, you may or may not run into the perfect person. But what you will definitely run into are the undercurrents of gender politics that will grow stronger with every 60ml you down. Sink or swim. Because when Martians and Venusians collide on an alien planet called Earth, sparks are bound to fly.

And in the interplanetary race for supremacy, the only currency as powerful as sex is money. And what rules both is mind games. When did we Venus-waalis ever play to lose?

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