Don Sherfick

Separate? equal? please pass the catsup

Filed By Don Sherfick | October 28, 2006 9:38 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, The Movement
Tags: marriage, New Jersey, restaurant

I see that last Wednesday's New Jersey Supreme Court decision has produced everything from Ellen's "We Won!" claim, prompting Marla's description of civil unions as "an insulting bag of benefits", to Chris' reminding us that the decision is largely the work of Republican judges. Throw in the comment that Plessy vs. Ferguson may have had some redeeming social value after all, and it's a healthy indicator that this site is truly a "big tent". May it continue to be just that.

Speaking of "separate but equal", Jerry and I went out for supper after news of the decision broke and experienced a perhaps less weighty yet illustrative example of disparate treatment. For the zillionth time before ordering our waiter asked the question: "Will this be on one check or two this evening, gentlemen?" Maybe you've had a similar experience.

As in countless instances before, we looked at each other knowingly, and then Jerry recited what's become our standard reply: "Just one, please, we're still speaking to each other". More often than not, the reaction is truly worth the effort, especially since we're both over 55, one of us black and the other white, both generally in old jeans, sweatshirts, and wearing some kind of sports or beer-related caps. Sometimes the question irritates us because of the presumption, but then maybe the asker once got his nose bloodied for appearing to think two "good old boys" seated in close quarters at the same table might just be know: one of "them".

Someday perhaps food service people won't be so quick to presume that two separate (whether equal or not is another story) checks are in order unless an opposite sex pair is doing the ordering. But until that day comes, for us it will just have to be: "We're still speaking". The fact that we are, after twelve years and a few months, is something itself to celebrate. So Honey, please pass the catsup...and isn't this YOUR week to pay?

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Don, I can't wait to meet you!!!!

Perhaps your assessment of these instances is correct - that a presumption is being made. But, having been a waitress before, I know that certain restaurants train their employees to ask "one check or two" at the beginning of the greeting. This saves an enormous amount of hassle at the end of the meal because to go back and split up checks usually requires a manager (and involves finding him or her which could take 10 minutes...further delaying your check(s)). So, perhaps I'm being naive, but having been in the business and asking all of my tables that very question, I feel you may be presuming a lot about your servers.

Interesting post, Don. Thanks for sharing it.

Jerame and I have talked about this same experience. But we have a slightly different take on it. We've noticed that more and more, we actually get asked that question - and we like it. Before it used to be if two men went into a restaurant together for a meal, it was automatically assumed that it would be separate checks. (After all, they couldn't be together, could they?) The knee-jerk reaction was automatically to conclude we were two straight guys out eating together and would pay separately.

Now, however, we get a lot of "One check or two?" questions - or, we've noticed, a lot times (since we mostly sit together on one side of the table with our daughter on the other side) we get a version of "All together on one ticket?" without even the presumption of asking if we need it split up.

I think the world is changing slowly bit by bit. I look at being asked if we're together as a positive step up from assuming we're not. Look at the glass as half full instead of half empty - and enjoy the fact that by asking the question, there's an automatic assumption that the two of you might be a couple and out on a date. :)

Marla R. Stevens | October 31, 2006 1:07 AM

Wearing matching uniquely designed wedding rings has cut down on these questions considerably.