Archive for May, 2002

Check, Please

Saturday, May 4th, 2002

Some argue that the convention of men paying for women is a harmless gallantry, like holding a door open. I beg to differ.


Lately, when I’m asked what I think a feminist is, I say, “someone who believes she should pay for her own dinner.” Some people think this is such a tiny matter that it cannot be a way of answering the question; others laugh and ask what is so awful about having one’s dinner paid for. To explain, I have to go back a couple of decades, to when I was 23 years old.

We were in a small Greenwich Village restaurant, my boyfriend Scott and I, and our conversation lagged as we waited for the check. You could get pasta and a salad here for under $10, and the room was pleasant enough, so the place was packed with people in their 20s. As we waited, I calculated my share of the bill, reassured that I’d still have enough for lunch tomorrow, the subway, the Wall Street Journal. Payday, I could not forget, was the day after that.

Every workday I bought the Journal because I couldn’t take enough from any one paycheck to buy a subscription. I lived very modestly and close to the financial edge. I found this poverty as surprising as my friends did, for as a financial analyst at an investment bank, I made more money than most 23-year-olds. But even in those days 20 grand did not go far in New York.

The waiter, about our age, tall, thin and actorly, smiled over our table and presented the bill squarely to Scott. (more…)