Then The Bill Came… And It Stopped Being Fun


PlaydoughThis piece was supposed to be just about fun. Not artificially engineered creative workplace thinking or playing tetris on your iPhone while on the train type of fun, but the play-like fun you had as a child. The fun that’s made by your own imagination, wearing you out til you’re dog tired and giving your stomach muscles a workout by laughing so hard. But now it’s about fun, playdough, dinner and halving the bill, or not. Because nothing says unfun like a calculator app at the dinner table.

When I was little, the best kind of fun I had was when Mum made me playdough. She’d put Dettol in the playdough to ward off bacteria. Dad and I would craft the playdough into round cheeses – Stilton, Leicestershire, Edam, cheddar. I remember when I was four, Mum’s South African relatives came to stay with us. One of her relatives was an eight year old boy – I called him Sair-Dick. I think his name was Cedrick, but I had trouble pronouncing the R. Sair-Dick had never played with play dough before! Can you imagine?! Never squishing it through a garlic press to make worms, or making animals from it. I showed him my playdough. And he ate it – Dettol and all. His insides must have been really clean.

I’ve had some fun with a cute boy I met a few months back. Not fun as in casual sex, but some playful fun. We have debated the pronunciation of Calippo (rhymes with Hippo), gone to an abandoned house, and I went for for a dink on his bike (the latter two I’d never normally do given my aversion to all things scary!). We giggled as we rode wonkily down the main strip, and recounted the fun we’d had when we collapsed on the couch. And the memories made by that fun kept me smiling for the whole of the next day. We have had silly conversations, we’ve talked about serious things, I have gazed a lot at him because he’s gorgeous, and he’s kissed me. I really liked him.

The billBut there has been a few times where we’ve had to pay for stuff. And then it stopped being fun. The first time we went out, he took me to a cafe where you pay what you feel. I paid $10, because I wasn’t really feeling great about the bain-marie vegetarian meals (yes, I am a foodie snob). And he paid nothing. Nothing. There was the debate over the value of $4.50 dumplings vs $6 dumplings – and when I paid for some of his because he didn’t have enough change, he asked for a receipt so he could pay me back, not wanting to be in debt to me.

The next time the money issue came up was when I suggested we see a band together once I was out of hospital. He believed that $26 was too much to pay for a pretty big Australian singer songwriter. Meanwhile, I’ve paid $300 to see Darren Hayes before. And then, the clincher, the moment I felt flat and realised this wasn’t the guy for me: we had a lovely meal, lots of laughs and I gazed at his face a lot. The bill came and he whipped out his phone, asking me where the calculator app was. He totalled our servings to the cent – I owed $28.20 and he owed $24.60, because he didn’t have a wine. My heart sunk.

I dine out a lot. You can see this from my Instagram account. I dine out alone, and I dine out with foodies. We almost always go halves when we pay. Sometimes when I go out with a certain other male friend, he buys me drinks or offers me the rest of the change after we’ve gone halves in our meal. Sometimes I take the change or I will leave a tip. I understand that if someone orders a $50 wagyu fillet and you only order a $15 pasta, you’re not likely to go halves, but if the price of both your meals are around the same, then why not?

I am certainly not expecting a man to pay my way, but I don’t like such precision and the idea of owing when dining out. If we had split the bill, we could have paid $26.45 each. That he didn’t value me enough to spend an extra $2 at dinner saddened me. And his attractiveness and the level of fun we were having declined rapidly.

Of course I am sensible with my money, but I’m not so frugal that I won’t add a few extra dollars to the kitty. I’m a big believer that going out for a meal shows someone you enjoy your dining partner’s company, and it’s only polite to go halves. And that calculator app on the smartphone – it takes the fun out of everything.

What do you do to have playful fun? And what are your thoughts about splitting the bill down to the last cent?

Image by woodleywonderworks and Robert S. Donovan

  • Lucy

    My ex was like that he would talk a lot about the cost of the meal, or who was going to pay, or whether we split it. He would often pay for the meal, then a few days (or even a week later) would say that I still needed to pay him back.

    I’m the opposite – if I have the cash, I will offer to pay for the other’s coffee/drink/etc. If we’re having a meal, I will be more than happy to split halves when the bill comes. If it’s a cafe where you order at the counter, I will just suggest we order & pay seperately and put it on the same number. I don’t get splitting it right down to the last cent – it kills the mood and isn’t a good look.

  • Monique Fischle

    I understand splitting the bill, but that’s a bit crazy.

    When I’m out for dinner with the girls, we generally pay as close to the price of what we ordered as we can. Because we dine together fairly frequently, we’re usually pretty even when you pay a bit more here and a bit less there.


    When it comes to dates, I’m not firmly in the camp of “they should pay” or anything like that, but if your meals cost roughly the same amount, I’m more than happy to go halfsies or if it’s a regular thing, I’ll pay one time, you pay the next. But if the calculator was brought out, well no thanks.

  • Ann

    I’m with you, Carly, though if his attitude to money is the only negative in the relationship for you is it worth talking to him about it? Maybe he can change. Men you can have fun with and find attractive aren’t easy to find.

  • Tamsin Howse

    I feel like there should be a people limit to splitting bills. If it’s 2-4 people, you share (unless there’s a large discrepancy in what you ordered – then you guess), more than 4 people I think it’s OK to figure it out. But even then I’d round it up to the nearest $5.

    For me it really depends what people had. I generally am willing to get out the calculator and figure it out because half my friends are vegetarian and don’t drink alcohol – so that becomes a fairly large discrepancy pretty quickly when the Viking orders steak and 2 beers. And that’s usually when there’s about 20 people.

  • Carli

    A calculator app is an automatic mood killer x

    • John James

      I reckon if someone pulls out a calculator app to divide the bill, you pull out your own calculator app to determine their chances of getting lucky… “oh look, my app says you have 0% chance of getting lucky…” 😉

  • Maree Talidu

    Rude. It’s just rude. Nothing wrong with wanting to split a bill, but to the last cent? With a calculator? Oh boy, you sure dodged a bullet there. Cos you’re absolutely worth more than that.