I’m sitting across the table with a woman on a luncheon outing and to be sure she’s quite delightful. We speak at length about our respective careers, aspirations, expectations and what passes for gossip. For a good hour or two I listen enthralled, as the woman in question describes her blossoming career to me, the various TV offers, shows that she’s embarking and the latest interview she gave to a high circulating tabloid. I in turn then groan to some degree about the tribulations of being a young publisher and how I’m always up against it, and how I’m always having to scamper for money just to meet my immediate obligations. Finally the bill arrives, and for a moment an awkwardness sets in.
How would the bill be paid or rather by whom? For some reason I am led to believe this wonderful woman who has achieved so much and is financially fit will meet me halfway in paying the bill, so I wait as I look at the check until I suddenly realize for all her success, beauty and emancipation she has no intent in even looking at the bill, let alone offer anything towards its contribution. Glibly I await a second longer before I am resigned to the idea that the $70 check without tip will be borne all by myself and that for the next 3 days I will have to scamper on peanut butter sandwiches. In the end the check and tip are honored and yet already in the back of my mind I already know outside of social run ins I will make little effort to see this woman again.
On the way home I am chagrined by the idea that in fact she only behaved in a way that she has become accustomed to. After all a cursory look in the cultural field will show many examples of how it is correct etiquette for a man to be the financial benefactor and for the woman to be the pretty object that us men should be so happy and thrilled to be with. And yet, I am not thrilled. At heart I am insulted by an apparent contradiction- here is society telling us women are now financially independent, mobile and on the make and yet when it comes time to share a luncheon bill, society’s liberated women suddenly are no longer liberated and at the mercy of the man, the caveman that is suppose to provide and eternally protect them. It’s obvious women have cornered a perfect situation where they can have their cake and eat the cake at the same time, an advantage very few men are offered socially in their affections towards women. Or so it seems…
To appreciate the dynamics, one has to be aware that women in their quest to assert themselves have adopted clever guises that necessitate survival and gravitation to the stronger male suiter. As much as I may complain about equality and hegemony not being fairly dealt with in society I am also am aware that it is a secret that all women are in on. Of course they know that it’s politically correct to share various burdens but since our culture has equated a woman to be an object to be had, physically admired she will often play into that myth and yet she will often be the first to cry out about it when she no longer finds herself able to fit into that myth- in which case she will suddenly find the strength to share the burden.