Surprise! People like a free meal on dates

Illustration for article titled Surprise! People like a free meal on dates
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There’s been much hand-wringing this week on social media about the concept of—I’m so sorry—“foodie calls,” when people go on dates they’re not particularly interested in just to score free food. The practice recently got the full what-does-it-all-mean treatment in The Atlantic, and like a sudden summer downpour washes earthworms across asphalt, the article flushed out the anti-feminist Twitter eggs en masse. (No matter that the article mentions men do this too.)


Aside from anecdotal evidence, The Atlantic piece cites the results of a survey published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that found roughly a quarter of 1,000 women surveyed said they’d engaged in such behavior. But contrary to what people like this guy posit, it’s actually women who espouse more traditional gender roles who engage in this behavior. That makes sense: True feminists would probably offer to pay their own way on a date.

But regardless of the gender of the person enjoying the free food, is the concept really so abhorrent? Much of the discussion around “foodie calls” frames this as cheating, as subterfuge, as diabolically underhanded. But it’s a practice as old as the dawn of time: sitting through something relatively boring because there’s free food involved. It’s how offices get you to attend meetings, how time-share companies get retirees to sit through sales pitches, and how art galleries lure you in to weird conceptual video shows. (“I don’t know what the hell this is,” you think, staring at what is roughly a wall-sized projection of a Windows screen saver, nibbling on bruschetta and drinking boxed wine.)

I’d bet that most people engaging in “foodie calls” aren’t doing so as some type of an evil plot to never spend money on food; the calculation is more subtle. You’re sitting bored at home, your Tinder match proposes a happy hour meet-up, and even though you’re not madly in love with that person, you show up and allow them to treat you to some food. I’m not saying this is model behavior. But it hardly seems to indicate that women are the callous and gold-digging freeloaders critics are making them out to be. I suspect The Atlantic article just serves as fuel for daters who want to believe that there’s something or someone to blame for their frustration besides plain old hard luck.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



(No matter that the article mentions men do this too.)

No, what it does it is makes references to gay men doing this on dates with other gay men (which is still very much not cool), and it makes references to scummy shitheads to take women out on dates and then split and stick the women with the bill. What it absolutely does not reference is any man who goes out with a woman with the understanding that the woman is paying for the date, for the express purpose of getting a free meal.

Is this because, generally speaking, men are the ones who are “expected” to pay the bill? Almost certainly. However, this is still irrelevant. It’s bullshit, terrible behavior. If you’re not interested in someone, then either don’t go out on the date, OR make it clear right up front that you’re not interested in anything beyond having one meal with that person and you’d be happy splitting the check. If the man insists on paying for the meal, then tell them that’s fine (but it’s probably a red flag for you to just bail on the whole thing), but that you’re not interested in them. Anything short of that is simply bullshit.

Further, trying to connect this with an employer providing food at a meeting is likewise not within 100 miles of being a relevant comparison. One is your job. The other is a social situation in which at least one person may be under the mistaken impression that there may be a relationship blossoming. Just be honest and tell the guy, “no, thanks”, and buy your own damned meal.