Danielle Corcione
May 20, 2016 9:43 am

When eating out with significant others, I’ve noticed a recurring habit. When handling the check, servers often gestures towards the man in the relationship. They might recite the order total and look directly at my partner. Other times, they might even place the check right in front of my partner.

This even happens even with my best friend. We’ve been friends for five years, and we’re constantly mistaken for a couple. Even outside of a romantic context, such as dining with my friend, there’s a heteronormative notion the man pays for the woman.

These incidents make me feel like property, rather than a romantic partner. The everyday act implies I can’t pay for myself, as if my partner pays for everything. As a woman, I hate the assumption that my income is significantly less than my partner, if it exists at all. I don’t feel financially independent, when in reality, I am.

I typically speak up in these situations. Although it might not be my turn to pay, I end up footing the bill anyway. I try to make some sort of eye contact with the person who assumed my partner would pay for me. It’s my way of breaking a stereotype. In that moment, I deviate from the expected gender role. I prove that I’m a financially independent woman who not only pays for herself, but her date as well. Depending on how the server perceives the situation, they could think I’m dating some lazy guy that can’t pay for himself. Either way, I can’t really win; my wallet won’t either if I end up doing this too much.

However, I must stress this isn’t the server’s fault. More likely than not, they don’t even realize how they’re making me feel. It’s probably not productive to induce a feminist rant on an innocent server that’s already underpaid and overworked. They’re not to blame. Society is. A hundred years ago, it was considered taboo for women to work at all. Their place was in the home, not the workplace. Socially, we’re still catching up, although it’s much slower than I’d like it to be. That’s why we’re still faced with patriarchal assumptions women can’t pay for themselves.

In nearly every relationship (if not all of them), I’ve been the breadwinner. In my current relationship, I make more than my partner. As the gender wage gap tightens, I presume this situation will become more commonplace. Potentially, the social norm might change to adapt to women making more than their significant others.

For now, I split expenses with my partner. One night, I’ll pay for dinner, and the following week, he’ll pay. So far, this system has worked in past and current relationships. Although it doesn’t dodge the expectation my partner will foot the bill every time, it ensures I’m paying half the time. Half the time, I have the opportunity to challenge gender roles. Half the time, I perform what could be seen as unexpected of my gender.

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