Hello readers of Lavender Health. I decided to post something a bit different this month, and share some of the lesbian humor that I write from time to time. Although it may seem way off topic for this health-related website, there is a need to understand lesbian culture and group dynamics if you want to intervene to improve health. So here goes…
How many dykes does it take to pay the check?
One foggy day in San Francisco, 12 mature, urban lesbians gathered in the entryway of a popular queer-owned restaurant for a 50s plus singles brunch. Among the group were three lawyers, two teachers, a corporate executive, three dog-walkers, a free clinic receptionist, and a pagan priestess and palm-reader. Only three of the women had ever met before. There was one dog, which meant that they had to be seated on rickety chairs in the chilly outdoor patio instead of the more comfortable indoors. The brunch began with stressful decisions about placement and food. Each woman had to ask herself questions such as: Where should I sit? Should I try to get next to that outgoing dyke with the wonder woman tattoo? Do I want to sit near the end so I can make a fast getaway if things do not go well or I get bored? Each woman quickly scanned the group to see who she should avoid. Who had the traits that she found annoying or gave off visual or olfactory signals that were off-putting? Was that vaguely familiar woman a friend of her ex? The one woman with cat allergies furtively surveyed the other women’s clothing for telltale signs of cat hair, and quickly noted that she needed to take an anti-histamine before sitting down because there was not one other dander-free dyke.
Once each woman decided whom she wanted to sit next to or near, she had to physically jockey for position and settle into her seat, hoping she made the best decision. Four women competed to sit near one woman who exuded a sexy flirtatious confidence. The one with the bad knees had no chance, the one who got a frigid look from the desired brunch companion gave up and dropped out of the competition, and the final two tried to sit on the same chair. The sportier dyke of the duo won. Some women looked deflated already because of their inferior position at the table and started brunch at a disadvantage.
Now each woman had to consider the menu. Was this a beer or a mimosa crowd or would she immediately be dismissed as a possible date if she ordered a drink? Should she order the hamburger she really wanted, or try to impress the cute vegetarian across the table? Should she eat the garlic fries that she loves? What if the attractive woman sitting next to her was put off by the garlic breath, and she lost her chance with her? The special of the day was bean soup. Could it be risked? Would the intestinal effects begin to percolate before brunch was over? The waiter was bombarded with questions about the menu. Was the tomato soup vegan? Did they have gluten free bread? Was the chicken free range? Was there corn sweetener in the lemonade? Could she order something that was not on the menu? Once the questions had been answered, orders were placed. Nine of the dozen women modified their orders: dressing on the side, cottage cheese instead of fries, poached eggs instead of scrambled, and a flask of hot water so that one dyke could steep her own herbal tea/supplement drink that she pulled out of her purse.
These initial agonizing food and drink decisions made, and the orders taken care of, the brunch proceeded with awkward silences, stilted conversations, strained laughter, and occasional disapproving looks. Some women seemed to connect and had pleasurable conversations; other more introverted dykes waited quietly for someone to talk to them. One woman reacted badly to a joke that she thought was offensive to animals, and sat with her arms crossed and lips pursed for the remainder of the brunch. After about 45 minutes, the food had been consumed, and the wait staff removed the dishes and brought the check. The listserv advertising this brunch clearly noted that the restaurant refuses to separate the checks, so one bill would be rendered. Women were urged to bring cash to simplify the process of paying for their meals. How did this group of highly educated professional women figure out who paid what? Here is what ensued for the next 45 minutes:
- One woman left early, leaving only enough money to pay for her omelet, but did not add the tax or gratuity (minus $3.45).
- Another, the offended animal lover, slipped out the back door without leaving any money to pay for her meal (minus $12.95).
- Two dykes began a loud discussion about the audacity of restaurants that refuse to issue separate checks, embarrassing the other remaining women at the table.
- One launched into a lecture about class privilege and money issues in dyke communities, railing against the convention of splitting the bill equally, because it unfairly advantages the woman who ordered mimosas and appetizers with her meal and cheats the poor dyke who only ordered a bowl of soup. The risk-taker who ordered the bean soup was then embarrassed to protest splitting the check equally, but was even more humiliated by being made the example by the woman who started the conversation, who ironically had ordered the most expensive meal. She nervously awaited resolution of the check so she could escape the restaurant before the beans escaped her body.
- One complained that the bill had gratuity included, whining that the service was poor so she did not want to give the wait staff 15%. She left a 10% tip on principle (minus $1.00). Predictably, she was the one who asked for the most substitutions, was the one who brought her own tea concoction, and had the most complicated order, which the staff accommodated with only slight eye-rolling.
- Three agonized about whether someone might get stuck paying too much and anxiously asked each woman what she had to eat. They stood up and paced up and down the length of the table, looking at the cash in each person’s hand, hovering over the table in a cloud of anxious energy.
- Three of them had no cash, even though the email invitation to the brunch clearly requested that all women pay for their meals with cash. The restaurant would accept only two credit cards on any check, so the three of them had to negotiate who got to pay by credit card, and who had to borrow money from a complete stranger. Luckily, the one who had to borrow money was the sexy-confident dyke, the one that had sparked the seating frenzy, so three women quickly volunteered to loan her money so that they could give her their phone numbers.
- One brought her dog, who ate another woman’s fries when she was not looking, and a discussion ensued about who should pay for those fries. The dog dyke angrily declared that it was not her problem, because she was only guardian, not the “owner” of the dog, who makes her own decisions. Unfortunately, the dog was not in the habit of carrying cash.
- One pulled a calculator out of her backpack and tried to compute each person’s contribution, but the women at the other end of the table were not listening to her, so she did not know what they ate. She gave up in frustration.
One woman finally got fed up and gathered together the cash on the table, counted it out, divided the cash between the two women who are supplying their credit cards, and handed the check and two credit cards to the waitress. She was the alpha dyke of the group. She wisely passed on the missing money to the two miscreants who did not read the email, or worse, did read the email and decided to flagrantly disregard the instructions.
By this time, the process of paying the check had taken twice as long as ordering and eating the meal. Exhausted by the mental and emotional labor required to complete this task, the 12 lesbians went their separate ways either to nap, drink off the experience, or call a best friend/ex-lover to process the experience. The stress of paying the check had wiped out all thoughts of dating or even asking for promising women’s phone numbers or emails, and the 12 lesbians left the brunch still single.