The question Why does a man pay for the first date with a woman? was closed as off-topic.

First I will quote the latest meta post about the contents of the "On Topic" help pages:

Questions about the following subjects are on topic for this site:


  • the written and unwritten - but well-established and expected - rules or conventions of behavior in a specific setting (also called etiquette).

  • understanding social norms as they relate to interpersonal interactions - why do we interact the way we do?

We did have similar questions in the past:

Why do men rise when a woman leaves the room?

Why do men shake hands with each other but hug women?

For sure, these types of questions are rare, but I do not remember them ever having been considered off topic. I can recommend that answer from the etiquette link above for further insights.

No suggestions on how to improve the question have been offered in comments. So it's not clear to me, why it was closed and the OP may not know how to improve the question.

I want to add that the question had once been closed before, when the question was actually off topic ("Why would a modern woman assume and accept for her date to pay the bill?", tags: relationships, romance, women), then completely revised to fit the earlier questions (e. g. new tags: relationships, etiquette) and reopened.

Why was the question closed (as off topic)?

The question has been reopened. If you still want to answer my question, at least I would appreciate it, as it may be beneficial. Now it was put on hold for being too broad.

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    I have now voted to reopen that question, which is definitely not off topic for this website. OP cold possibly expand it a bit if members feel that it is too brief or needs more details about what OP expects from an answer. Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


Closing it as off-topic was wrong, but after it was pointed out in the comments, there are currently 2 questions being asked there:

  • Why it still is considered polite for men to pay for a date
  • What the origins of this custom are.

So, it should have been closed as too broad. The OP can clarify what they're more interested in (and perhaps ask a second question focusing on the other question).

I for one would welcome questions that are less subjective, and more focused on research, history, and rationale behind some well-established Interpersonal Skills or etiquette.

There's a downside to such questions though: They tend to get very anthropological very soon. If we allow research questions about etiquette and perhaps other Interpersonal Skills, people might start thinking they can ask their anthropology question there too. But so far, I've only seen maybe 1 or 2 questions that are clearly not about IPS but anthropology, so it's not like IPS is being flooded with anthropology questions.

Right now, we're only getting a few research questions, and those questions aren't of a very low quality or presenting a problem.

For me, I'm all for trying them, even if they turn out to be a 'just for now'. We can always make them off-topic later, when e.g. the site gets flooded with low-quality research questions. (This is what happened with identify-this-movie questions over at Movies.se just recently).

As for the closure of that question, I left a comment saying this question was more of an anthropology question and therefore off-topic on the first revision of it. I also left a second comment asking the OP whether they were willing to edit their question to be in line with Why do men rise when a woman leaves the room?.

OP agreed, so I edited but left the comments.

I removed the first comment (stating it was off-topic) when I noticed that the question had 2 close-votes and that comment was getting upvoted.

Last night, NVZ brought to my attention that the question was sitting at 4 close-votes, and I was surprised to see that now people were apparently casting close-votes and upvoting the second comment. So I removed that as well, and left a third stating the question was edited and now considered good for IPS.

Sadly, someone still cast the 5th vote.

I don't know if these close-votes really were cast after reading the comments I wrote, but I want to end this with a PSA: Please take into consideration both the question, revision history and comments before casting a close vote.

There may, after all, be comments there that are obsolete but not yet removed. In that case, flag those comments as No longer needed for a free flag!

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    So, avoiding whether or not anthropology questions are on topic for the moment, I'd note that the origins of a custom may be very different from the reasons it's now thought of as being polite, so it seems like there's a bit of broadness there as well, even in the current form. Do you think perhaps more editing might improve things?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 13:48
  • @Jefromi, You're right, that might very well be two different questions... I didn't think twice about that, because the 'rise when a woman leaves' also asks them at the same time...
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:00
  • @Jefromi I agree with you, but then the question would have been too broad, not off topic. Also, the close voters could have left a comment for the OP indicating the problem and asking for clarification. Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:08
  • @AnneDaunted Yeah, I'm not saying that means everything went perfectly, mostly just that it could be something to fix before reopening rather than after. Also, close voters are human just like the rest of us, so it's not surprising if now and then they get an overall sense of the question including more than one issue but end up focusing on one reason. (Similarly sometimes people overlook issues because of an overall positive perception.) So, not a direct judgment of close or open, but a perspective I've found helpful, at least on other sites.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:16

I've closed it as too broad.

I can't explain why people chose to close as off topic. Looking at the voting for it, it's not even a mixture. Of the 10 close votes, nine were "off topic". I think that part of this will be fixed by getting our help page up and clear.

I think the general question is on topic here and that questions about why we interact with others the way we do is a great way of having more interesting types of questions than the monolithic type we have now. These questions should be cultivated and helped to grow, not closed as off topic.

All that said, it's not one question, it's two.

It's asking too many questions at once and making too many assumptions without supporting them with any evidence.

I'm not in the European dating scene right now (nor was I ever) but the question needs to support the assertion that it's still "polite"... which in this question really seems to come off as meaning "I'm a guy, why do I still have to pay for a first date?" Which is a different phrasing but also a different question... I'd argue that anyone picking up the full tab of any date (or anything, really) is considered kind or polite, so what is the OP here really getting at? What's the heart of their question?

It's unclear.

So, sure it's not off topic. That doesn't mean it's clear or sufficiently narrow to stay open as is.

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    It seems that the OP mostly cares about the current practice, not its origins - the second question was added in a later edit. See the original version. Also, the OP seems to be interested in "western culture" in general, note how they added the tags united-states and europe in another edit. I agree with you that it's currently too broad and while we may narrow it down to only one question due to the edit history, the other issues remain. But now the OP knows what to do. Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:39
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    And removing the history question kills the top answer there, which is why it's so important that unclear questions stay closed. It makes fixing them difficult. At this point it seems like the better course is to start over anew.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:44
  • 1
    The time stamps are not helpful to me, but the highest voted answer may have already been written prior to the 2nd edit, i. e. before the question was changed to include the custom's origins. My intention, btw., was not to get it reopened as soon as possible, but to discuss why it was closed as off topic, since it concerns the scope of IPS. Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:54
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    @AnneDaunted That answer was written after it was reopened for the first time :) I remember encouraging that OP to make their comment into an answer after the question was reopened.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 15:05
  • I think the reason they choose 'off-topic' is maybe because they don't realize general etiquette is on-topic. It's not entirely obvious just by the site name, anyway, since etiquette applies to broad groups of people in the same way within a culture (much of the time, anyhow) rather than only to specific interpersonal situations that may require some thought beyond a dictionary lookup of etiquette. So, the site making that more apparent might help.
    – user271
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 23:38
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    @Shule Yep! We're working on it. The text that was quoted in the question here is part of the proposed content for our "On topic" page... not that many people read it ;)
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 23:39

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