"Do you always do that?" she asked. I had just ordered our meal. Before the waiter had arrived she had told me what she decided on and I had said, "The lady will have..." followed by my own choices. The waiter was walking away and I was closing my menu when the question reached my ears. I looked up.
The light in her bright blue eyes corresponded to the tone of voice that indicated that a positive answer to her question would trigger at least slight irritation.
I paused and suppressed a smile that could be mistaken for condescension. The smile, a natural expression for me, broke through anyway to stall while neurons rapidly ferried responses and hypothetical reactions between the decision and proposal centers of my brain. Chessmate, a helpful computer program for the aspiring player, categorizes moves by percentage. Post-game analysis uses these breakdowns to judge matches. Alas, there was no chessmate for this situation.
There was the non-confrontational (but mendacious) typical first date answer of "No," delivered with a shrug and nonchalance, with the hope she wouldn't pursue it.
There was the worst possible answer, which would involve the use of "Of course," delivered semi-dismissively and with little to no eye contact.
Neither of those options appealed to me on any level. I deflected.
"Why do you ask?" I asked, with a lightly earnest tone.
"I just...I am just not used to a man ordering for me..." She trailed off, the slightest look of distaste creeping into her countenance.
"...and you don't like it," I finished, with the slightest hint of a smile.
"So do you dislike men opening doors, paying for the meal, walking..."
"No," she interrupted. "That's all fine."
I paused. There was a logical disconnect there. The construct she accepted was that men and women were not "equal." They were complementary. In this construct the hunter-gatherer would provide for, shelter, and care for the female. We are long out of the cave so such an attitude is aptly conveyed by opening doors for women, walking closest to the street when you are both outdoors, paying the bill, and later in life, buying a ring, proposing, and taking legal and financial responsibility for her. I know, I'm such a Neanderthal for even thinking such crimestop. But indulge me a bit further.
"So you're okay with my paying for dinner, just not my ordering for you."
"Right," she smiled, sensing victory. I waited just long enough, hoping she might see the gap, but a gentleman never insists on non-essential issues, and I said, "Okay, I won't order for you, anymore."
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