“Tinder girl invited me over and gave me raw steak,” said the voiceover on a TikTok that recently went viral, captioned, “LMAOOO I give her another chance and she does THIS!! I’m done!” The camera cuts to a steak that looks pink in the middle, surrounded by a decent band of grey cooked meat. The steak didn’t look amazing, but it was decidedly cooked to medium, so all of TikTok united to tell the guy he was wrong and an ingrate, which he is – but my take is that the girl should not have bothered at all, and neither should you.
On Tinder but also in general, straight guys are wrong and ungrateful, so you should not cook for them before they have shown you otherwise. Cooking for someone is nice and romantic, a prime good date. But it’s way too intimate for a second or third date (you should simply not be trying that hard). When surveyed, a lot of my friends said they would cook on a fourth date, but I really think you should wait until the sixth, MINIMUM. By which point they should no longer refer to you as “Tinder girl,” and you should have some confidence that they won’t complain about your food to strangers on the internet.
Cooking for a date is widely depicted as a romantic gesture (the steak from Moonstruck, the post-coitial carbonara in Heartburn) so it makes sense why people want to rush this step. But it’s not like the movies. Consider some of the things that could go wrong if someone you’re just getting to know was cooking for you: they could be a bad cook, their kitchen could be dirty, they might not know how to wash dishes correctly, you don’t actually like them and yet they’re trying really hard to impress you, they don’t actually like you and you’re trying really hard to impress them, they aren’t trying hard enough, they try to make you eat something you don’t like, they find out exactly how picky you are. At least when you get food from a restaurant, other people have vetted the establishment.
If someone doesn’t actually want to be with you, nothing you feed them will change that, and if it does, you’re being used. Any money saved by taking on the creative and actual labor of cooking for someone is insignificant if they ghost you afterwards. Now that dish is cursed. The risk of love bombing, or a false act of intimacy, is so high in the first few meetings. Although it's a dangerous yet great propellant of passion, it almost always ends in a swift withdrawal. Best not to lose your favorite lasagna recipe to the memory of a fuckboy.
A lot of first dates are more exciting than the fourth or fifth ones anyway. There will be plenty of time to cook for someone if they actually like you. It is, as I understand it, the main thing couples do together.
And if you have to serve that not-quite-yet special someone something, keep it impersonal. Maybe a hastily assembled charcuterie board, or a can of oily fish and crackers – or better yet, make them order something. The less effort, the better.