Do lonely heart dinner dates owe me thanks?

24th January, 2009

Dear Economist,

Finding myself alone again, I have joined a dating agency. As a result, I am taking delightful, unattached women out to dinner. This is almost always very enjoyable and, according to tradition, I pay for the meal.

I am very happy to do this but I am disappointed when the woman in question does not send me a text or other message the next morning to say thank you. Am I expecting too much in this modern world?
R.S., London

Dear R.S.,

Oh dear. I am inclined to agree that a thank-you is appropriate, and if you are not receiving so much as a text or an e-mail, this is a bad sign. But a sign of what?

Scenario one: the woman is a rational self-interested agent. If she regarded a free dinner as sufficient compensation for the time she had to spend in your company, then a “thank you” would be a simple way of securing a repeat of the experience. The fact such gratitude is not forthcoming suggests your dining companion did not wish for a second date. Nor did she care if you regarded her as ungrateful or said so to others. In short, she would be happy never to see you again.

Scenario two: your date wished to continue the relationship, but was too stupid or self-obsessed to realise that “thank you” would be a good first step. In which case, you are better off without her.

A final possibility is that your offer to pay for dinner struck your companion as sexist. But then, either she protested and you boorishly ignored her, in which case scenario one now applies (you have no chance); or she let you pay anyway and then sulked, in which case scenario two applies (you got away lightly).

The good news? You seem to enjoy these first-date dinners – and I suspect many more are in prospect.

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