Last Sunday I went out to lunch with a few people. Our group consisted of four women (including myself) and one man. After we were done eating can you guess who the server brought the check to? If you guessed the man you’d be correct. The only problem was he wasn’t the one paying for the meal. The woman who had asked us all to go out had an expense account she had planned on charging it to. She said something to the server, who either didn’t hear her, or chose to ignore her. After the meal was paid for the server brought the receipt and the card back but laid it down in front of the man again. Guess she hadn’t been paying attention the first time. So, once again the check was passed across the table.
This got me thinking about “check etiquette.” If a heterosexual couple with children goes out the check will most likely be brought to the father. Especially if the children are younger and/or female. If the children are older it would still probably go to the father but they may be asked if they want to split it and that probably depends on where everyone is sitting. If it is two men the check will most likely be automatically split unless there is an obvious older man, then it will probably be brought to him. Two women who look the same age would be the same. Mother and child it would be given to the mom. Unless it is an older son, then probably to the son. Grandparents are tricky. I’ve noticed most of the time the check always goes to the oldest looking man unless something is said before the check is brought. If a married couple goes out with a single friend I’ve noticed it is often given to the married man, unless otherwise specified. Married/dating couple is the man hands down.
A couple of things are going on here. First of all gender seems to trump everything else. The check is brought to the man. The next deciding factor is age. It is brought to the oldest person. I tend to find this practice sexist and ageist. Let’s focus on the sexist piece since that’s what sparked this post.
Men are expected to take care of women. They are expected to act “gentlemanly.” And that can be everything from paying the check to opening the door for a woman. This is better known as chivalry. The problem with this is the assumptions it makes. It is what is known as subtle sexism. Whether you think about this way or not it is assuming the woman is not capable. That she cannot take care of herself and needs to have things done for her. She cannot be independent or have her own voice. (More on chivalry, subtle sexism, and door opening later.) This sounds awfully sexist to me. Assuming that a woman cannot pay for her meal is sexist. It is providing a double standard for men and women as well. Men are expected to pay the check and it is seen as emasculating when they don’t (or if they can’t). Why is it that paying for her meal makes him feel masculine? Is it more gentlemanly to split the check if she asks or assert his ability (need?) to pay for it himself therefore ignoring her wishes?
Here is an article written by Abigail Collazo about an experience she had on a date and what it was like figuring out who would pay for the meal. She is the editor of Fem2ptO. Though I think she makes a few leaps in logic near the end (and in the middle), the first half at least is interesting.