Why do servers in restaurants always assume that the man will pay the bill/check? When my husband asks for the check, he is handed the check every time. But when I ask for the check, 8 out of 10 times, my husband will be handed the check. About 1 in 10 times, the server will place the check at the center of the table, not wanting to take a call on which one of us will be paying.. that’s better! And I am handed the check a measly 1 out of 10 times.

Recently, my husband and I had a wonderful dinner in a nice 5-star restaurant. At the end of the meal, I asked the server, a woman, for the check. When she came back with the check, she handed it to my husband, as usual. How disappointing!

Usually we let it slide, but not this time. Since I was paying, my husband and I discussed if we should speak to her about handing the check to the person who requested for it. I kept the check wallet on my side of the table, with my credit card in it. When she came back, here was the conversation that ensued–

Me: I am curious to know– why did you hand the check to my husband, when I asked for it?

Server (laughs): Because he is a gentleman…

Me: Do you mean to say that if he does not pay for this meal, he is not a gentleman?

Server (clearly uncomfortable): Umm, no…

My husband: You are a career woman… Why would you think a woman cannot or should not pay for the meal?

Server (addressing my husband): But it is nice if you pay.

My husband: In this day and age, I don’t think it should surprise anyone if the woman chooses to pay.

Me: I wonder when will we progress as a nation? I am surprised that you assume the man should pay for the meal.

Server: Umm..

She then went and got the credit card machine, took my card (from my side of the table), punched in the numbers, and then promptly handed the card machine to my husband to key in the pin!!! My husband and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. The server realized her mistake and then handed the card machine to me, muttering something about women empowerment.

Seriously, though, how deeply these notions have to be ingrained in every society for this to happen even when we explicitly told her that I was paying! While there was nothing intentional, it represents our subconscious biases. Have we coined all these terms–equality at work, equality in pay, equality at home, equality in society–just to pay lip service to the idea of equality? Will we ever actually practice equality in every single walk of life? Is equality just going to remain a pipe dream?