“I only had a little wine,” she said when the bill came, feigning hope that Bonnie would be able to accurately ascertain the exact amount of wine she consumed and convert that to a dollar value. Really, Claire just wanted her friends to give in and tell her to forget about paying for any of the wine altogether. After all, she barely had a glass, if you could call it that. There was no way she should have to pay the same as Hillary. That bulimic bitch housed practically half the hummus. “We should just split it,” said Bonnie, looking around the table, lingering her gaze on Claire for just a half-second too long. Claire gave a chuckle — a shade short of a scoff — and handed over a crisp $20 with a shrug. “I just had one slice of pizza and a few olives.” Claire practically marveled at her generosity; I mean, $20 for a slice of pizza and short pour of wine? This was a bar in Greenwich, not the grand ballroom of the Titanic. She grabbed her Prada bag and slid out of the booth when Hilary headed to the bathroom. Kisses, hugs, text you tomorrow. The other girls could figure out the rest.
On her way out of the restaurant, Claire texted her three-month-thing, Paul. Did she overhear him call her his girlfriend to his friends last weekend at the bar? No matter. Tonight she just wanted to fuck his brains out. Thinking about the Titanic — all those people screaming until water slowly filled their lungs — had made her so damn horny.
That’s a short story I wrote called “Fucking Asshole.” What do you think? It’s about nineteenth-century Chinese industrialization. It’s also about fucking assholes that don’t just split the goddamn bill. Now, I want you to consider something. Change the gender in the story above. Would it contain the same relevance? Would it be as significant to your personal experience on this Earth? My guess is no. Full disclosure: When I started to write this column, I meant for it to be about men AND women that don’t split the bill because I’m maybe the world’s biggest feminist? Come at me, Jezebel. But when I wrote my Pulitzer Award-Pending short story, I just plugged in women. I didn’t want to single out women. I really didn’t. But it felt natural. I couldn’t stop myself. And it felt so fucking good.
Of course, it’s not JUST girls, but it’s mostly girls. I’m trying to see as many angles as possible here. But I just don’t. Get. It. Last week, my friend told me about a bachelorette party she was on that self-destructed on the final night because one of the girls complained to the bride that they were spending a lot that weekend, and maybe they shouldn’t do whatever thing the bride wanted to do that particular night. Tears ensued, night was ruined. Now, I don’t actually believe that the person who said these things intended them to be hurtful. But the subtext of that comment is, of course, that the bride was not worth the spend and fuck whatever she wants to do. Ignorance is not innocence, and passive violence is still violence.
I get that money is a difficult thing and being asked to part with it for reasons you don’t agree with can be hard. If you only cover half of what you owe, then you half want to be there, so why are you there at all? If these are your friends, shouldn’t you be able to explain to them that you can’t afford to go to dinner if you can’t afford to go to dinner? What’s more socially disgusting, honesty or your attempt to bargain down the amount of breadsticks you ate? At some point, one has to accept that we live in a social society, one evolved to community-based interaction. What I’m saying is, unless you’re making stuffed chipmunk dioramas alone in a forest cottage, split the fucking bill. It’s the human thing to do. One would think that women, the more intimate and social of the gender options, the gender more likely to splurge on a handbag, would understand that better than any man.
I read a story about Michael Caine once. In it, he said his wife frequently chastised him for not looking at the itemized bill at the end of a meal. He never checked to see if the waiter overcharged him, he just handed over his card and continued his conversation. His response when his wife raised the issue was something like this: At the end of your life, how much would you pay for just another month on Earth? Add up all the time you spend looking at bills, fretting over small amounts of money, arguing about how much you owe. He would gladly pay all of that and more to have that piece of his life back, to spend it talking to his wife and friends over an after-dinner drink or a coffee. Michael Caine is right. His wife is wrong. There is no middle ground here, no gender difference to account for, no underlying truth. There are only women, at a restaurant, bargaining with each other over how much they owe while we men embrace the short life given to us, cards already on the table, eyes to the heavens, hearts as full as our stomachs..