I thought this was interesting - I told Sara's story to a group of friends. I got to the part where the check came and Sara looked at the guy, waiting for him to take it, and the woman in my group immediately said "Oh no, that's so rude!" After I finished the story, the two men didn't care whether Sara outright asked her date to pay. One guy said "he clearly didn't like her or he would have grabbed the check right away" and the other indicated that if he had been the date, he probably would have paid (to avoid the awkwardness) but not considered a second date.
In my own dating history - on first dates (where the guy asked me out), I always offered to split the check. It was a holdover from being a poor student, but this was well into my early 30s. I found that the guys who accepted the offer to split the check never asked for a second date. Guys who insisted on paying the whole tab were the ones who were interested.
I have been married for 6 years, but did a lot of online dating
before meeting DH. I also found the bolded to be true. One surefire sign a guy was interested in another date was when he quickly picked up the tab on a first date. When the guy accepted my offer to split the bill, usually I never heard from him again. I actually preferred it because I would rather pay my own way if I knew there was no chemistry and I wouldn't see the guy again. In a situation that was not a date, such as dining out with a group of friends, when a guy would offer to pick up the tab for my meal, buy me a snack, ect. that often meant he liked me.
I am more old-fashioned and appreciate a guy who plans and pays for a first date, but still feel Sara was wrong. It was rude of her to change the plans and then expect him to pay for her meal. She can't expect that everybody has the same views on dating
that she does and that the guy taking the girl out for dinner on a first date is something everybody does. I am Sara's age and find the fact that she knew Jon was is in his early 20's and doesn't have a lot of money makes her behavior even more rude. $20 may not be a lot of money to many people including Sara, but would be a lot of money to many people in their early 20's.
If Sara has expectations of a dinner date, she should only accept dinner dates. I also think she is much less likely to find guys who would take women on dinner dates in their early 20's. When I was that age, many of my dates were just hanging out at somebody's house, taking a walk in a park, going to a movie, or something else inexpensive. Many people that age have several expenses, but don't have high paying jobs.