BENGALURU : If you were going out on a date, would you expect to split the bill or would you think whoever initiated the date should pay for it? Would you look at reciprocating gestures so that there is some kind of balance, or do you believe that there are expected social norms that are to be followed? It is not just about who pays for the bills. Even if we were just talking about a simple dinner date, there are more than half a dozen questions that come up, as far as etiquette of the date is concerned – Who gets to make the date? Who picks up whom, and how? Who holds the door open? Who enters first? Who sits where at the table? Do you stand up if someone is leaving the table? Who finishes first?
Something as simple as going out for dinner is fraught with questions and questionable habituated practices. In most places, the restaurant staff go with a certain protocol on how and to whom they present the bill. Whenever we bring up these questions into conversations on love, relationships and the such, it gets sideswiped with comments such as, “It is just good manners,” or “this shows good breeding.”
Of course, it is just being a nice human sometimes. One expects these things when there is a person in need around. You give up a seat in the train for anyone who can’t really stand for long. You open the door for someone who asks for assistance. When these things happen between two perfectly capable people in some sort of a relationship, one wonders if these so-called good manners and chivalry come with a flip side. Does having the door held open for you come with the unstated expectation that the keys to that door are in the hands of someone else?
Does having someone pay your restaurant bill go alongside an undesirable notion of being judged for what you order, or worse? When someone just lets you go first in the queue, are they doing it to just be nice, or are they saying something to the effect of, “You really shouldn’t be here, so I’ll let you go right ahead so you can get back home where you belong?” Do you want the person you love to treat you as you, or because of a social code that tells them how to treat you and tells you how to treat them?
The author is a counsellor at InnerSight