Who Should Pay When Friends Go Out Together?

Sometimes at a restaurant, you end up doing “the bill dance.” The check comes, and three friends reach for it in synchronized motion, and then the argument starts: You got it last time, hand it over. No, my turn.  No, it’s mine, because you threw that Taco Tuesday party for me six months ago and bought all that tequila!

This was the scene a few nights ago after I went out to dinner with my friends Dawn and Stephanie. I managed to snag that check, putting a secret mental “paid off” sticker next to my Taco Tuesday debt.

But then, a few days later, the three of us went to see an exhibit of Gertrude Stein’s family’s paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Stephanie drove (gas expense!), and so even before she also paid the Golden Gate Bridge toll, the bill dance was underway again. After I grabbed the modest lunch check (salads), Dawn insisted on buying the museum tickets — which, to my shock, were $25 apiece. I was in debt again.

Is this a big deal? Or something a less-uptight person wouldn’t even notice? I don’t know, since I am not a less uptight person. All I know is sometimes the “bill dance” can feel like a lovely waltz, when everyone comes out even…or sort of even. But other times it feels like a tango, where you stride across the dance floor with a thorny rose clutched desperately in your teeth.

What about you? Do you do the “bill dance” with friends or family? Or have you figured out a graceful way to sit this one out?

(image via RealSimple.com)