Friday, April 25, 2008

The Phenomenon Of Ladies Who Lunch

Allow me to say at the outset that I love being a woman. I love the fact that I am talky, feely, complex, and actually do need five pairs of black shoes because yes, they are all totally different and no, I cannot wear those black shoes with that dress, how stupid.

Actually, I just went and counted and I have nine pairs. But I digress.

My point--and I do have one--is that I embrace my sex. I like being female and I wouldn't have it any other way. But there is one area where women in general need to get it under control, and that is when they're out lunching together and the bill comes.

It's absolutely horrific the convoluted calculating and dissection that occurs. It's like listening to the most devious and boring word problems ever concocted by wicked Dickensian headmasters!

"Now, Beora, you had the small dinner salad, but you also had part of my crabcakes. If the crabcakes were $8.50 for three of them and you had one, how much would that be? Don't forget that I'm also leaving a 15% tip. Oh, wait. I had the olives out of your salad. Do you think 75 cents is fair for them? I'll tell you what. Just take the tax off and we'll call it even." This is the only time when many women will willingly resort to math! Without calculators!

Rick and I were dining at The Cheesecake Factory (aka The Coldest Restaurant Ever) the other night and there was a table crowded with women next to us. I knew in my heart it was Perfect Blog Fodder, so I was very careful to discreetly observe and eavesdrop. That poor waitress. As the bills came and were passed around, the very very expertly coiffed woman in the linen cropped pants and French manicure called her over. (I stole a look at her plate: she ate only the chicken out of her sandwich and most of her fries. I also think the avocado didn't make the cut.) The waitress leaned over. "We," and the woman elegantly indicated her friend across the table in a sort of Royal Wave motion, "were wondering. Could you possibly re-do our checks and split the avocado spring roll appetizer between them? Thanks so much," she said, before the waitress had even indicated that she would.

Please. The cost of this woman's moisturizer is probably thirty times what those effing spring rolls would have set her back. I almost leaned over and said to the waitress, "Miss, you look very tired. Please don't put yourself to so much trouble for something so trivial. Put the cost of that appetizer on my bill and these ladies may consider it my treat." But I knew it wouldn't come out that way.

What is it about us that makes so many of us go through this Tortuous Ordeal? Why must we struggle so? If we are the takers, do we fear being under obligation to a possible Mean Girl who will hold it over us or snark about it behind our backs later? "You know, Beora snarfed down one of my crabcakes and I never saw a penny for them. I ate a few of her olives, but really--what's that, like 75 cents? That's so typical of her. Her kids are the same way; they come over all the time but never ask my kids over there."

Or, if we're the givers, do we worry that we'll be taken advantage of time and time again and seen as a Goodtime Girl? "Don't worry if you don't have enough money! Just come along anyway! Velma will cover any part of the bill that's left after we all 'chip in' nudge nudge wink wink. "

Aren't these women we're lunching with supposed to be our friends? Can't we just "do lunch" the way guys do and simply order food, eat it, then everyone toss money at the bill when it comes, knowing it will all even out at some eventual point sometime in the future? Isn't there a trust factor here? More importantly, even, why does math have to get all involved? Why must we Woman It Up?


  1. Crap, this post hurts. Not because I resemble it in any way, because my friends and I are fine. We either split it in equal portions, or the person who had the steak and wine while the other person had salad and water pays for most (if not all) of it. But when I was a waitress, I HATED getting a table of all women. Goodbye tip. And I'm a feminist, and I am a FEMINIST, but crap, a table of all women? You're lucky to get 5%, unless one of them used to be a waitress, in which case, she'll cover it.

    I used to work somewhere, though, where the opposite was the problem. The women would all go out to lunch, and divide the bill evenly, and those who has salad and water (being broke) were stuck paying a share of their neighbors steak and wine. Not fair. I suspect this is where it comes from, but since the women you spied were clearly affluent, I'm not sure.

  2. I love dining with mathematicians. We go out to eat in a group at least once a week, and everyone is fine calculating their own share and throwing money in the basket. We're even fine when it's complicated - one restaurant we go to once a week for lunch gives us a discount, varying between 5, 10 and 20 percent, and people are still able take the cost of the meal, subtract the discount, and add in tax and tip. And nine times out of ten, we end up having enough money for a 20% tip.

    That last time where there isn't enough money, a few people are always willing to throw in an extra dollar, figuring it's just a dollar. No big deal!

  3. What you describe IS painful. Going down to the level of splitting an appetizer ... ugh. Also, I was a waitress in my college days and have to agree with what Jules expressed. Women NEVER tipped decently. It's almost along the lines of having a woman boss. Often they critique you so much harder than a man. I was always so glad to see parties of women leave. They demanded constant attention, but were willing to give little in return. Thankfully, my women friends and I actually do lunches quite well (but maybe we critique too hard as well, although I tend to tip great for great service), but I've been with mixed parties that have been horrible experiences. Almost always there's one person in the group who is a big tightwad and tries to get away without paying his share. IF that person would ante up another time like you suggested that would work fine, but, nope, he is not going to do that. If we go out with another couple whom we dine with on a regular basis, we just take turns paying the bill and figure, like you said, that it will all come out even eventually.

  4. That poor waitress. I try to be a little more flexible like the guys are when dining out. There's nothing like too much math especially when you wear expensive moisturizer. :)

  5. Oy. When people ask me to recombine checks, I try to avoid it by letting them know that I need all the checks from the party back, not just the ones they want fixed. Sometimes that heads off any further issues (because goodness gracious, we wouldn't want to wait an extra two minutes)!

    Luckily, I haven't experienced groups of women who need all that complication--everyone usually pays for their food (and sometimes a split appetizer or dessert). Of course, now that I say that, I'm surely in for this very experience tonight!

  6. V-Grrrl12:42 PM

    Good grief--just ask for separate checks when you place your order.

    I went out with all my peeps for lunch a few weeks ago and we just split the bill, not worrying about who had appetizers, who had fed kids off their plates, whatever. They're my friends! I love them! $15-$20 to spend an hour or two with them is worth it! Besides, no one had to clean, cook, and clean again. Celebrate! Lunch out is liberation!

  7. Hmmm... when I lived in Spain, and had "ladies lunch/dinner out" we never ever ever ever discussed the bill except to say, "Well, that's x amount divided by 5. How much shall we each put in for a tip?" (My women friends were American, English, Spanish, Argentinian, etc.)

    Since coming back to the States, I have found myself immersed in the holy mathematical nightmare you so aptly describe. And I just don't get it. But one thing I DO do: bring cash!!!

  8. ortizzle--reading these comments, i'd say DoN readers are in the minority.

    v-grrrl--the Cheesecake ladies had separate checks, but they got even workier. that was part of my point, that we have to pin down every penny all the time. why is that? i'm with you: time out with friends is certainly worth any price to pay.

    jenomena--waitstaff do not get paid enough, usually, for what most patrons put them through, especially a large party of women. most times, they are the worst, i hate to say so. it's like a Sally of "When Harry Met" fame Nightmare. Special instructions, stuff substituted, stuff on the side...yada yada yada.

    simplypink--I use Oil of Olay. NBD.

    shirley--i'm blessed with a great group of lunching ladyfriends, most of whom waitressed their way through college or have kids who did so. we are terrific tippers. the worst thing we do is probably talk too much when the poor server is trying desperately to get our orders. oh well...we're all teachers. you just can't turn that off, you know?

    i.h.--why didn't i ever think of just calling you and having you figure out my mathy stuff all the time? i'm putting you on voicedial immediato!

    j.@jj.--i'm a FEMINIST also, and believe me, it's crappy to admit this, but there it is. it's a Truth. seriously, do guys ever go through all this? no. and somehow, they survive and remain friends.

  9. Haha, I can be part of your staff ;-)

    I went out to a Pizzeria Uno a couple of weeks ago with two friends, and after deciding not to partake in the big appetizer when it was ordered, I was invited to participate in it when it arrived (since it was huge). I decided I would a little bit, and in the end when we were figuring out who owed what, I put in for a third of the appetizer. Not expecting me to put any money in, they split the appetizer 50-50. Thus there was an extra $4.00 in the basket in the end, and of course we just left it to the waitress.

    Mathematicians should go out to eat more often - it helps build their social skills and (in my experience) leads to good tips!

  10. Nance: As a postscript to my comment, you will enjoy this little anecdote: The only time I ever remember a dispute over a restaurant tab was once when my little theatre group when for "a quick snack" after a rehearsal. Everyone except one person ordered a glass of wine and a small appetizer since we were not that hungry. One person ordered a salad starter, a complete steak dinner, dessert, the works, accompanied by several glasses of wine and coffee with brandy to go with the dessert. There was consternation on the faces of all when this person casually said "Let's just split the bill evenly" at the end of this huge repast. The consternation and shock was also due to the fact that this person, just one week before, had insisted on "doing the math" for an extremely cheap Chinese meal where we all shared out the dishes because this person had "only had one spoonful of the fried rice." Now... here's the fun part: THIS PERSON was a MAN!!!! Go figure. I maintain my claim with my female friends. I've never bickered with any of them over a food bill. Since living stateside, if I run into that type of person, male or female, I make sure I "don't do lunch" with them again. :-)

  11. I hate those over calculating types. It really puts a damper on my mood. Maybe because I have a nasty habit of assuming that if you have to figure out the money down to the penny, you probably shouldn't be out spending money anyway. It just comes off in a way the screams "I'm broke" or "I'm a cheapskate!".

  12. Crap! I wish it was next Friday. Because,if it was next Friday I would be able to comment. But,as you know, I have sworn off your blog for one week to regroup my senses. That kid with the bread, remember?

    Anyway, If I COULD comment I would tell you about a job I once had as a hostess in a fairly nice restaurant in center city Philadelphia.

    Picture it! It is 11:30 A.M. and the place is empty. The tables are set for lunch. The chef is ready. The waitstaff is ready. I'm ready .

    All the waitresses are watching as the first people approach. It is 4 businessmen from the Broker's Mortgage Co. who eat and drink a lot and always leave a 20% tip. You seat them at Mary Lou's table. She loves you!

    Next in the door, five giggling girls from the Cleopatra School of Beauty and Massage. We all know THEY eat and drink a lot and are very demanding and expect YOU to remember who ordered the anchovy salad so YOU can divide the check five ways for them. After chipping in their 5th of the check they have enough left over to leave the waitress a 5% tip. Now, I have to seat them somewhere, the Boss would hate to have me tell them to go away, so I walk them to Ethel's table. She HATES me......

    So,remember ladies, the poor hostess is the one with all the
    stress. She is the one who should get the tips!

    See you Friday, Nance.

  13. Wow. I'm female, and I love math, but I'm totally a guy when it comes to the bill. Split it evenly, throw in an overestimated amount and see if any change comes back, or cover the one complaining that she didn't have an appetizer so it wouldn't be fair to split it evenly. Yeesh.

  14. Dude, go out with me and never fret if you ate one of my spring rolls or whatever! I'm all for looking at the bill, giving my best guess as to what I owe, giving more, and then throwing in for a good tip. IF the service was good. If you suck, then I refuse to give you a good tip, but if you're great, you will be rewarded.

  15. gina--i can tell you're from california...Dude. LOL. honestly, what servers are paid is criminal. bless their hearts (and feet!)

    dgm--don't you just want to smack 'em?

    nancy--LOL. every day can be friday here at the Dept. just pour vous! hey, today, I mentioned Ben And His Bread to another class. one girl said, "You know, I bet Ben rocked that bread!"

    nina--I hear that. If it's that big a deal, maybe A) you shouldn't be going out to lunch and B) you should learn to be a bit more discreet. (how's the wee one?)

    ortizzle--okay, the guy was with all women in a theater group and exhibited stereotypical female behavior. i'll just let everyone else DO THE MATH ON THAT ONE. lol. sigh. i'm horrid. I know.

    i.h.--i have had you "on staff" all along, just not on voicedial. trouble is, i am also on YOUR staff. and i love the part about building mathematicians' social skills. although...yours are exemplary, i think.

  16. Nance, I totally never use a calculator...I can always do it in my head...even the tip! ;-)

    I guess it depends who I'm with. If I'm with that one from the office whom I KNOW would never spot me on the appetizer, but always wants me to conveniently pay for it, I just ask them for separate checks before hand.

  17. I have to say that one of my guy friends can be this way...actually, he's worse. If he knows we're each paying for our own food, he orders cheap. If he knows it's being split evenly amongst diners, he orders expensive. Sigh. But at least he doesn't argue when the bill comes.

  18. tera--oh, the ladies at TCF already had the separate checks. they wanted to add more work for the poor waitress and re-separate. sigh.

    j.@jj--this guy is irredeemable.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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