A curious thing happened in Paris - in the fanciest of places, I was presented with a menu. A menu I did not suspect was any different than the one being held by my husband but was, in a very important way.
Mine had no prices mentioned whatsoever; his did.
I didn't always notice this occurring, and perhaps sometimes it did not (my stomach doesn't vote by price, so I don't usually bother to check). But once I cottoned on to what was happening, I was intrigued.
What piece of tradition is this?
They're called blind menus or "Ladies' Menus" and operate under the assumption that since dinner is obviously the gentleman's treat, the lady need not worry her pretty little head over the vulgarity of price. This is a little silly since there are in fact prices listed on the man's menu, since presumably he may worry, but if his dinner companion doesn't know and goes ahead and orders the astronomically priced item, what is he to do about it except break out his credit card, pray that payment goes through, and order a salad for himself?
This sparked a little debate amongst my friends. Some felt it was a nice send up to chivalry. After all, you would remove the price tag from a gift that you give. Why not treat your special lady to dinner while doing the same? Of course, this places stress upon the woman too, because generally we'd like to be able to estimate the value of the gift so we know whether or not to accept it. We might, considering our companion's status and our own values, prefer to be able to make a choice in full knowledge of what it will mean to the bottom line, and not just at the bottom of our bellies.
And what happens if I've decided to treat him? What if we're splitting the bill? What if we're friends, or colleagues? How do you explain to HR a meal that goes way over budget -"Oh sorry, I'm just a girl and I didn't know!" And in the age of dual incomes and joint bank accounts, what does it even matter?
I suppose there are some people who couldn't enjoy a meal knowing its true cost, so maybe there's value in having one handy upon request. But when you're given one automatically, because you're a woman, what does that assume? What judgements are inherent? Obviously that I'm not paying. Maybe that I can't pay? That I'm not the head of household? That I don't have access to our financial statements? That I don't participate in budget making or breaking? That high prices would intimidate me? What is the line between chivalry and chauvinism?
Have you seen these menus? Do they insult you at all?