Broke Ass Emily Post: The $100 Dinner

Whew! Thank you for all of the posts and comments on the matter of the $100 dinner (if you missed the initial argument, check it out here). From the responses, it appears as though the entire 1% is forcing everyone I know to drop a cool hundo on boozy Manhattan dinners against their will, and it also seems, regardless of tax bracket, that pretty much everyone feels a certain ambivalence at check time. I am not alone. The problem with the $100 dinner boils down to this: at best, it is easier just to split up a bill evenly, at worst it’s a microcosm of judgment over the life choices of the broke (musician, writer, yoga teacher, butcher, baker, occupier etc.) vs. those of the well heeled (people who chose to be a “banker” on the Oregon Trail). As Hilty so perfectly put it: I didn’t want to bring it up at the table that I was the only one without a well-paying job. So. What to do when the check drops? A collective of like minded souls gave me some great suggestions:

– Always order the most expensive and delicious thing on the menu at a group dinner, that way at least you will have enjoyed the meal you’re paying for.
– Let them know you’re no longer subsidizing their Kobe steak or Caspian Sea caviar.
– Eat absolutely nothing and have one glass of wine. That way you can simply say, “I only had one glass of wine”. No spending, no paying. You could even (sadly) leave early and leave cash for your drink just to be on the safe side.
– Go back to the bathroom and make a break for it?
– And the most popular: Don’t be afraid to grab that thing and do the arithmetic!

Last week I decided to test the waters, put all this talk into action. A group of us went to The Fat Radish, the exact little studied and purposefully casual kind of hole in the wall where these things always seem to go down. Subway tiles, distressed brick, old mirrors, expansive expensive cocktail list with funny names, reclaimed wood tables, bartender with an accent, edison lightbulbs… you know the drill. It was a great crew of girls… ladies…uh… women. And not a bunch of stuffy banker types either- all of us work in one creative field or another- a gallerist, a yogi, an artist- all incredibly lovely, the exact right mix of gorgeous and profane you always hope will fill your table when you first move to New York City. We were kindred spirits. But when the oysters started coming and the cocktails kept raining down, I knew I was going to have to step it up in the stink making department. If a stink was required, a stink I would make.I had a big delicious kale salad, two yummy beers, and when the bill came I snatched it right up, grabbed a pen out of my purse, did my math (I forgot: I am slooow at math), wrote my name and $33 on the back of the bill (yes, that’s how much a kale salad and two beers costs you in lower Manhattan), put my card down and handed it to the person next to me.

She said “I’m so glad you just did that”.

The girl who ordered the oysters and the vodkas said “Aww, Look at that”, referring to my writing my name on the back of the check, “That’s so cute”, and plunked down $90 cash.

The girl across from her said “Thanks for figuring the check out”.

The waiter came and everyone lived happily ever after.

So, I guess the moral of the story is: Only a jerk would be a jerk about splitting the check, and there’s no shame in divvying it up. If someone has a problem with that, then I guess you’ve just paid $100 to know that you don’t have to be friends with that person anymore. A bargain.


Broke Ass Emily Post

Thanks to Rav, Hilty, Todd, Brittany, Janelle, Mels, Carrie, Andrew, Sara, Irina, and Sally for the advice and moral support. Let’s all go out to a big dinner together sometime soon.

Fat Radish images from here.


Broke-Ass Emily Post

“When Mrs. Worldly gives a dinner… She  looks through her “dinner list” and orders her secretary to invite the Oldworlds, the Eminents, the Learneds, the Wellborns, the Highbrows, and the Onceweres” –Emily Post in Etiquette

Hmmm. I don’t know about this, Madame Emily. This begs a question of the leisure class: what about the charming Uninsureds, the young Mr and Miss Starving, and that sweet French/Indian/Jewish couple les Petit-Brokes? If they get the invite what are they to do?I ask this question in light of a recent slew of what I’ll call simply: The $100 Dinner. Since the dawn of the new year alone Sweetheart and I have gotten the invite to go to three such marvelous sounding dinners, each one at the kind of shiny dinner places where, as taxidermy is my witness, there is certain to be a $36 steak frite on the menu and a $15 rye cocktail named after Dutch Schultz, as well as some sort of great sounding $12 small plate that Sweetheart and I would be more than happy to share. We are invited to celebrate a birthday, a reunion, a friend in town… and so, because we love, we go. We split our small plate brussels sprout lardon jammer, have two glasses of wine, and the bill comes while you’re in the bathroom and it’s broken down… $100. Per person. What the What? Emily Post, despite passing her prime dinner throwing years during the great depression, must have been rich. Otherwise how could she afford so many correct napkins and forks? How could she have left us so bereft of guidance at a time when it’s totally ok for the Wellborns and the Highbrows to blow $100 each on a single meal, but some of us would really rather buy a bridesmaids dress with that money (HAHA JUST KIDDING! We’d rather pay for our HEALTHCARE with that money… or rather, we’d rather pay for 1/6 of our healthcare for one month with that money! Ha ha. ha. [sound of sobbing]).But- I digress. I’m loathe to write any of this down for the same reason I’m loathe to snatch the check up from the table and break out my abacus the moment it arrives. I feel like I sound like a jerk. A petulant, broke jerk. Even though my fellow Americans are supposedly in such an economic slump that double dipping will never again sound like something awesome to do with chips, that doesn’t stop some people from looking at you aghast when you talk about healthcare, ask for a doggy bag, or try to suggest itemizing the bill. No one wants to think about how broke anyone else is. Especially not the broke-asses in question. Sigh. So. Maybe we don’t need you, Miss Post, maybe we need a new you, a Miss Broke-Ass Emily Post for the modern era to tell us what a girl’s to do?

Any guidance, dear readers?

I’m going tonight to my fourth potential $100 dinner tonight, bidding my dear yogi Sara adieu as she departs for India to polish her sanskrit and eat coconuts, and I’m going to try out a few diversionary recessionary tactics. I’ll let you know how it works out.


Emily Post quote and image from here.

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