As someone with a modicum of social skills (and a mother), I frequently have dinner with members of the opposite sex, be they girlfriend, friend, or, you know, mother. Sometimes I pay, sometimes they pay, sometimes we both pay for our own meals. But for some reason, the idea that one person is paying for two people’s meals sets off some retrograde bomb in a server’s head that always make me the magnet for anything financial, presumably with a mop and knitting needles soon to come thereafter for my dining companion.
When two people are having dinner, there is usually a straight line between them. By “usually”, I mean “always”, because basic geometry dictates that there’s a straight line between any two points. Some restaurants understand that this not being Mad Men, either one of the apparently functioning adults at the table is equally likely to have the ability to pay for basic necessities like food. Now, given two adults, either one of which could pay for a meal, what would make the most sense to do when handing a request for compensation for the food you just ate to said people?
If you said, “Put it as close to the man as possible, and then when returning the bank card with the name ‘Girly Von Girlerson, Professional Female’, again placing it as close to the man as possible,” then you could have a job as a server waiting for you at any number of fine chain restaurants. Double bonus if the female diner actually hands you the payment, and you still return it to the male, like it was some sort of patronizing social experiment designed to make the woman feel like she could actually pay for things – next, she’s going to go home and wonder what it would be like if she could pay Social Security taxes, that ambitious little scamp.
The correct answer, by the way, is putting the goddamn check about halfway between the two people in a neutral spot.
I’ve stopped going to restaurants where this is a recurring theme, in no small part because it serves as an awkward and offputting end to any meal (to be fair, a much larger rationale is that the correlation of this behavior to mediocre or overpriced food is also very high). I’ve tried complaining about this before, usually to the sort of reaction you’d get if you complained that your napkin was improperly creased and it gave you cancer. The major problem is that the behavior is so subtle, it’s often not even realized until after you’ve paid or even left the restaurant, at which point it just becomes another kick in the ass in a life full of kicks in our collective asses.
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
Pandagon is the go-to zone for eye-rolling at conservative nonsense, feminist rants, election-watching, and obsessing over low-rated but critically acclaimed television. Jesse Taylor and Amanda Marcotte may take politics very seriously, but egos not so much.
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