Interesting dinner conversations. Tonight at Mister Ups, we watched as two women meticulously split up their dinner bill. Last night at Amigos, Laura had mentioned that another group of women took an inordinate amount of time figuring out and paying for their meal. This, in turn, reminded me of a conversation that I had when my tech coordinators had lunch at the end of school. One of the women in the group made the observation that women tend to work out the bill so that each person pays their fair share. Men, on the other hand, offer to pick up the tab, or put in more toward the bill than is necessary.
One of the women said that she had observed her husband engaging in this practice, and asked my thoughts on the subject. My comment was that it appeared to be a show of power. “I have the means, so I can pay for this.” Whoever pays shows dominance, and those who benefit are now indebted. The tradition of men paying for dinner dates is a related behaviour, but this practice is also observed when a group of men or a mixed group goes out.
Thinking back on this, I now realize that my dad and I have gotten into this same pattern. I pick up meals for him and my mother when we go out, thinking that it’s just a matter of courtesy. In fact, I’ve said to them that they provided for me all those years, the least I could do is pick up a couple of dinners. What if, in fact, it is a subconscious display of dominance, and my father’s protestations of my picking up the bill are actually something?
Show of dominance or not, I’ll still offer to pick up the tab when appropriate. I’d like to think that I’m just a nice guy. As for Laura, since this meeting at Middlebury College is about the role of women chemists and a traditionally male-dominated field, our dinner observations would make wonderful fodder for their discussions.