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Heather Large: Reaching the middle ground over the bill

By Heather Large | Features | Published:

We had finished our pasta and drinks and were ready to leave the restaurant to head home so I asked a passing waitress for the bill.

Reaching the middle ground over the bill

It promptly arrived and was placed directly in front of my boyfriend. For some reason it was automatically assumed he was paying, despite me requesting to settle up. And this wasn't the first time this had happened.

I would estimate that nine times out of 10 the bill will be given to him at the end of a meal, not me, regardless of who has asked for it.

And it's usually not subtle, it's not just placed on his half of the table, it's most definitely left close enough for him to pick up.

Although I'm know I shouldn't let it bother me, it really does frustrate me because in this day and age, it really shouldn't just be assumed the man is paying.

Unless one of us is treating the other for a birthday or other special occasion, we generally split everything down the middle.

It's something we've done from our very first date and I'm sure will continue now we're living together.

For me it's the fairest way to do it. If we've both got cash, we will each pay our half there and then and if we don't, then one us puts it on a card and we sort it out later.

And the decision over whose card is used only really comes down to who happens to get their wallet out of their pocket or their purse out of the bag first. There is no expectation on the other to pay as we know we're sharing the bill.

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I realise that traditionally the man was more likely to be one paying as this dates back to the age of men picking up the bill when they were the sole providers.

But times have changed and this automatic assumption that women can't pick up the bill seems really outdated.There is also a long-held belief by some that men should always pick up the tab on a first date which I can't get behind. We can’t expect to be treated equally in the workplace and the roles we play in society, whilst also expecting the man to pick up the restaurant bill.

These days, most women usually pay half the mortgage or rent and household bills so why wouldn't the same applied to restaurant meals. Most women want to go halves if they have ability to do so although I realise that not all women can.

Yes it's lovely to be treated now and again - but I also like to treat my other half too.

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I'd have thought the safer option for staff would be to put the bill in the middle so that either one of us could reach over to get it of we wanted to. To be fair, occasionally this does happen and often you will see the waiter look at us both in turn before placing it down in centre of the table, obviously not wanting to assume who would be getting out their debit card.

And I suppose I do feel for staff because I'm sure in some cases they might risking offending someone if they didn’t hand the check to the man, so I can understand to some extent why they would follow tradition but that doesn't make it any less annoying.

It's not just in a couple situation where this happened. At a recent family meal where there were three women and two men, the bill was still put in front of one of the male diners.

While I'm sure that it was obvious that most of us were related, we were all adults and all capable of paying our share.

I decided to ask around to see what friends had experienced and found that I certainly wasn't alone. One pal said that even when she's asked for the bill and has her purse in her hand, it's been put down in front of her male dining companion.

Another says she has become so annoyed by it that she adds 'and I'll need the card machine" when asking to settle up to make it crystal clear. "I don't want my partner feeling like he's obliged to pay just because they're being sexist," she said.

Having done bit more research, I see that some restaurants recommend that the staff hand the bill to whoever made the reservation or if that's not known, present it to the middle of the table. That way they can leave it to the diners to sort it out amongst themselves and then return when they are ready.

I wholeheartedly agree and would very much like to see this happen more often. Over the past couple of decades, society has made great strides in advancing gender equality but when it comes to restaurant bills, we still have some way to go in my opinion.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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