Over at the Times' wholly owned Magazine subsidiary, T expansionism continues unabated this weekend with an issue entirely dedicated to...food. Or is it? To wit, Alexandra Jacobs has a column regarding the difficulties of going Dutch at birthday parties, but a little induction reveals the article as less about the epicurean lifestyle, than, say, winning a Fields Medal. It's called "You Do the Math." Don't mind if we do.
Splitting checks at restaurants is difficult—"palm dampening, heart-palpitating anxiety attack" difficult:
[I]t's that inevitable, uncomfortable moment when some self-appointed school-committee type" grabs the check, squints at it, performs a mysterious algorithm and loudly announces what everyone owes, which includes a portion of Birthday Person's meal, of course.
1. Poverty is not funny:
"Order the biggest dinner you can," advised a struggling stand-up comic, whose cousin's 30th-birthday of 10..."It was one of those super-overpriced, nothing-on-the-plate places, and everyone was gorging — ordering two, three, four dishes. And lots of wine." In a vain attempt to be frugal, the comedian ordered but a starter of dumplings, washing them down with tap water. When the bill came, her abstemiousness was ignored; she wound up putting $50 dollars on a credit card.
2. You're a grown-ass (wo)man. Act it!
"After age 30, it's tacky," the paralegal said — though surely some slack can be cut for Manhattanites whose apartments are too small to entertain in. But what's the excuse of that successful actress who recently gave a birthday dinner for herself in a private room at a pricey steakhouse in Beverly Hills and, at the end of boisterous evening, solicited $100 contributions from each invitee? (The drinks were on her, she announced magnanimously.) "In my mind, 'private room' should be synonymous with 'prepaid,'" said one bitter attendee.[ED: Must be Maggie Gyllenhaal, right?]
3. Experts are baffled:
"In my experience, when you host a thing like this, you always end up 10 percent short," said — believe it — a math professor. "Is it because, out of 20 people, one or two will just forget to pay entirely? Or because everyone slightly undercalculates what they owe? Who Knows?"
Try to force "the guy two chairs down who ordered the foie gras appetizer, Dover sole entree, side of truffled mashed potatoes and tree martinis made with designer gin" to take responsibility for his actions:
And in the end, who cares? We need not abandon the idea of parties in restaurants altogether.
You Do the Math [T, not yet online]