Dear Prudence

Checks, Please

Is it rude to ask for separate bills at a restaurant?

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Dear Prudence,

My husband and I were invited to meet some friends and acquaintances (including three gentlemen from New York City) at a downtown Memphis restaurant. Eight of us were seated when the New Yorkers called to let us know that they would be late and we should go ahead and eat. Our group asked the server for separate checks. As we were finishing our meals, the men joined us. We relaxed and conversed while they ate. One of the New Yorkers ordered two $50 bottles of wine during the meal for the three of them. He did not offer the wine to the rest of us, though we were not offended, having already eaten. The server arrived with one bill at the end of the meal. Several of us asked the waiter to separate the checks as we had previously requested. The New Yorker who had ordered the wine raised his voice, made a scene, and insulted all of us. He claimed that we were ignorant and petty to insist on separate checks. He said that we should just divide the bill evenly. We couldn’t believe that he would insist that we pay for his $100 worth of wine—wine we did not order, and wine we did not taste. Our evening was ruined because of this man’s outburst. He was so loud, the manager came to our table to see what was wrong. Finally we paid separate checks, but the evening was a bust. Are there different “rules” in New York than in Memphis? What would have been the proper thing to do?

—Southern Belle

Dear Suth,

First of all, y’all, there’s nothin’ wrong with Memphis manners. There are not different “rules” in New York from elsewhere, but the wino from New York is definitely a boor. The proper thing to do is what you did. Three guys who come late, polish off two bottles of wine, then expect other people—who were not even offered the wine—to pick up the bill are way off base. Forget it, forget them, and don’t blame New York.

—Prudie, equitably

Dear Prudence,

Apparently my face seems to have a serious or sad demeanor. Not that I feel this way all the time, but I guess that’s how it appears because men keep walking up to me saying things like, “Why are you so sad/serious?” So I say something like, “None of your business,” or “I don’t want to speak to you.” People close to me say that I am being too blunt, but personally I think that they are rude and out of place. To me it’s just a lame pickup line, and they just want one thing (most men do anyway). It’s also insulting, and on my bad days, when I am really not in a good mood, it drives me close to cursing. If I were a man, I swear it would lead to a lot of fist fights. Am I wrong?

—Live and Let Live

Dear Liv,

You are not “wrong,” exactly, but you sure are angry. There are clearly underlying feelings of discontent and distress manifesting themselves on your face. That you choose to interpret the concern of others as rude behavior or lame pickup lines validates, for Prudie, the dark cloud you are living under. (Some people might actually welcome the inquiry and, perhaps, the opportunity to vent a little.) You should bear in mind that most men do not select a girl who looks like she’s on her way to a root canal as the ideal candidate to hit on. It is possible that you are antisocial, misanthropic, or in need of a good shrink. The crux of the matter is that the problem lies with you, not the people (men?) who are wondering why you look so sad or serious.

—Prudie, analytically

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I separated in early January after almost 25 years of marriage. I decided to move out and give him one year to get all of our finances together before we would contact a lawyer. We are civil to each other, but we have our moments. I just found out he has a girlfriend who is at least 10 years younger then he is, and I saw a picture of her, and she is beautiful. I haven’t slept in days, and all I want to do is scratch her eyes out, and I don’t even know why. I certainly don’t want to get back with him, but just knowing that he is with someone else is driving me crazy. My question to you is: Why do I feel this way?


Dear Con,

You feel this way because every woman who gets divorced feels this way. It is an irrational kind of jealousy that comes with the territory. It is not that we want them back; it’s just that when we are through with them, the baby emotions wish for them to have no life at all … because, of course, without us, how good could life be?! No woman wants to be bested, so of course we want the successor to look like Rosie O’Donnell. We would also like it if the new woman were  not bright, charmless, and talked through her nose. Do try to calm yourself, my dear, knowing that what you’re feeling is perfectly normal and will go away. A nice counterbalancing fantasy, for now, is that the younger beauty will soon find your castoff old and boring and will, in the meantime, wreak havoc with his credit cards.

—Prudie, mischievously

Dear Prudence,

I have been with my boyfriend for five years, and we have one child together. Recently he started acting strangely. First he tells me that at his new job his hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Then all of a sudden the hours change, and he says they’re going to be 5 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—and he will be off on Fridays. He called me yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m. from his mom’s house, but he leaves home every morning at 4 a.m. He refuses to let me see his check stub that has his hours and days worked on it. He constantly accuses ME of cheating and always has to know where I am. When I ask him if HE is cheating, he looks away and denies it. I know in my heart he is cheating. Is there any way that I can catch him without him knowing that I know?

—Miserable in the Southwest

Dear Miz,

Prudie is surprised your boyfriend hasn’t told you he is whisked away, periodically, by UFOs. If you put together his “acting strangely” with the inaccessibility of his pay stubs and the allegedly changing schedule, what you get is a no-good bum who is doing exactly what you think he is doing. As for his accusing YOU of running around and needing to know where you are, this is an interesting combination of his projecting his behavior onto you and trying to put you on the defensive. Skip trying to “catch” him. Based on reason and deduction, you have already caught him. It will be good enough, for your purposes, to tell him that the jig is up and you are outta there. You don’t need some floozy’s address or a stakeout to show you the state of this relationship. At least you won’t have to monkey around with a divorce, though of course he is legally obligated to pay child support.

—Prudie, rationally