Lighten up

Readers respond to articles on feminism and the dinner bill, Bush's healthcare insanity and America's love of dysfunction.


Salon Staff
May 9, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Read "Check, Please," by Ann Marlowe.

Ann Marlowe blames every man -- the waiter, the date -- everyone but herself for the man paying the bill. She wants power offered to her. How much more powerful it is instead of whining after the fact to instead say to one's date when the waiter has gone, "Here, let me pay that for you."

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-- Thomas Krala

A nice meal is a gift to someone whose company you value. Does the author also question the sexual politics of a bouquet of flowers? In any case, the easiest solution to dealing with the who-pays-for-dinner dance: The person who invites and/or selects the restaurant (or the expensive vino) pays for dinner.

-- Kate Hagerty

I wonder exactly how many young women the author of this article actually spoke to before concluding that we are all ready to sell ourselves to the man with the biggest paycheck. Not all women in their twenties look for signs that their date respects them in how much money he shells out for their company. I always go to dinner prepared to pay for myself. If the man offers to pay, that is a pleasant surprise (hey, I don't make very much money and rarely turn down a free meal).

Moreover, it is often difficult to tell what a dinner engagement really means -- Is this a date? Are we just friends? When a man wants to pay for my meal, regardless of whether I accept his offer, that lets me know that he views our interaction in a romantic light. It may be a silly convention, but sometimes it's also a helpful hint. The author of this article needs to take a deep breath. While being able to pay for yourself can be a source of pride and give you a sense of independence, it might be a good idea to have enough self-esteem to be able to let someone treat you to a meal every once in a while.

-- Elisa Rassen

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So the waiter was politically incorrect. Ann has a mouth doesn't she? Next time, use it. Say, "Put the bill where I can see it. Scott, I'm paying for half." What an overblown piece of nonsense this column is! It's the sort of thing you write to Ann Landers if you have absolutely no common sense.

-- Dudley Crawford

Amen! I agree heartily with Ann Marlowe on this subject. I've always resisted the idea of men footing the bill for a date, particularly a first date. I'm a young professional woman, and I, like Marlowe, have for the first time in my life found financial independence. Oddly enough that financial independence has coincided with social independence and being back on the dating scene for the first time in eight years. My previous boyfriend never had issues with my paying for meals or movies, so it seems really odd for me when I go on a date and have to argue with a guy about paying my share.

I am far less likely to go on a second date with a guy who makes an issue out of going Dutch and I respect a guy who has enough self-esteem to let me pay. Most men I've discovered understand the theory behind my desire to pay my share, once I explain. The reason is extremely simple: If we both pay our share, we don't owe each other anything. You're not obligated by the cost of a dinner to do or say anything at the end of the date. This frees you up to make a decision based on your personal desires and wants, not on some archaic form of obligation. By paying for my own meal or movie, I'm merely giving myself the freedom to decide (obligation free) how I want the date to end. And since they didn't foot the bill for my meal, men are less likely to feel resentful or frustrated if the date doesn't go the way they expect.

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Paying your share is the only way I can see of creating a relationship based on equal footing, and when that is missing, no amount of feminist rhetoric can save you.

-- Jane Davis

Read "Bush's Band-Aid Approach," by Fran Smith.

Hey, it's not just the blacks that have healthcare problems in this country. Us poor working white folks have it just as bad. We are subject to predatory employers with no workmen's comp, and outrageous health insurance premiums and deductibles, and minimum wage. Quit trying to make this a race issue! It is not about color. It is about poverty and the institutions that keep it in place. Until we can get a living wage for every adult worker and affordable health insurance and coverage, things will only get worse for everyone regardless of what they look like.

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-- Christopher Orioli

I am in the process of adopting a 3-year-old boy who receives Medicaid. What a shock it was for me, a middle-class white woman who had always had company health benefits, to learn that if you are poor you have all the time in the world to sit in waiting rooms, that doctors, nurses and providers feel they can talk to you in demeaning, condescending tones, that doctors only see Medicaid patients at certain times and certain days, that it takes three months to see an allergist, two months to see a neurologist and five months to see an ear/nose/throat doctor.

My son recently flunked his hearing test due to fluid in his ears from allergies (still waiting to see the allergist). We called two doctors the hearing tester recommended. Neither took Medicaid but of course could see him very soon at the cost of $200 to $500 per visit. The Medicaid doctor has a five-month wait for an appointment. This is a 3-year-old with speech and language delays and they are asking him to wait almost half a year to begin helping him hear better.

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And you wonder why poor minorities in this country are not getting good healthcare? It's not always for lack of trying. Mostly it's because every day they have to navigate a complex and cumbersome system. I sit in the waiting rooms, most of the time the only white face, and simmer with frustration at how difficult it is to get decent healthcare.

-- Maryanne Dersch

Bush is at it again. He gives new meaning to the word "shallow."

To address a system that consistently provides a lower standard of care to minority and female patients by suggesting "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" is the equivalent of suggesting that we solve world hunger by holding an annual "Give a Poor Guy a Sandwich Day."

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It's an insult to everyone's intelligence and compassion. Shame on Bush and shame on us for letting him get away with this. Today every citizen who cares about fairness and equity in this country should be calling for Bush's resignation. He is not fit to lead.

-- Frances Burmeister

Read "Crazy for Dysfunction," by Douglas Cruickshank.

I think your writer missed the point entirely about the popularity of "The Osbournes." In fact it's the family's deep, core functionality, disguised as it may be by a colorful slurry of F-words and screaming matches, that kept me tuning in past the first couple of episodes. These people are as hardcore about loving and supporting each other as Ozzy ever was onstage. They just do it in a way that looks very different from what American popular culture has taught us that our families are supposed to look like, and they show that it's OK to not always have the right answer as long as you're trying.

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I think it's a huge hit because people are starving to see their own similar reality reflected in a TV show. We get bombarded by Martha Stewart telling us what "good things" we should be doing in our homes, puritanical and hypocritical social mores, and a constant feeling that we should be running faster and cleaner to keep ahead in this economy, and raising a family in that atmosphere gets frustrating. As Sharon Osbourne said, "Martha Stewart can lick my scrotum ... do I have a scrotum?"

-- Nancy Floyd

Regarding your point about viewers being able to distance themselves from behavior on the Jerry Springer show, I would go even further and say that Jerry Springer goes a long way toward reinforcing the myth of the perfect American family. It generates a feeling of smug satisfaction in the viewer, who thinks, "I'm not as bad as these people. In fact, my family is comparatively ideal."

Furthermore, by showing these societal oddities, the dominant values of the culture are in fact reinforced. By showing the other end of the spectrum, the Jerry Springer phenomenon indicates that the Cleaver family continues to exist in our collective imagination.

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-- Stephanie Hodnett


Salon Staff

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