And so, praise the Lord, another Restaurant Week has come to a close. Restaurant Week is the week when most of the regulars stay well away and people we have never seen and may never see again descend on the restaurant. Why not?
A mere $29.95 (tax and gratuity additional) will get you a three-course meal at a restaurant that you would traditionally reserve for a special occasion. Like announcing you want to consciously uncouple. Or propose marriage.
Last week on Monday night a female co-worker – let’s call her Miss Bunny – and I served about 50 people. No hostess, no bus, just the pair of us. (Sounds like a Cole Porter song right there, I know).
Miss Bunny and I hardly needed to speak to each other. We anticipated each other’s needs. Just a tip of the head and I knew that she wanted me to finish clearing table eleven. I reached for the olive oil and found she had already herbed a little ramekin for me.
We worked together in focused silence speaking an unspoken language of co-operation and mutual support.
The restaurant was a busy as an oven at Christmas.
At the end of the night we plopped down, exhausted but strangely elated.
“V-power!” said Miss B. “V-power!” I agreed, swigging my split of champoo.
When women work together in high-stress situations, there is no yelling, no cursing, no bullying and pushing.
The difference between men and women is a topic as old as dirt.
Monday night’s tiny triumph got me thinking on it – and forgive me if I repeat myself – how many women do you know who have committed rape?
How many women do you know who haven’t been the victim of a metaphoric rape? Rape by phony promises. Rape by betrayal. Rape by fraud.
The men servers I work with – and don’t get me wrong I love them dearly (well that’s what we all say before delivering a coup de grâce, isn’t it?) see life as a contest in which they are constantly challenged and must perform to avoid the risk of appearing to be what they perceive to be weak.
The female servers will carry two cups and a creamer. The male servers will stack a ziggurat of coffee cups and yell “Out of my way! Coffee coming through!” Efficient, yes, but in my reference, very dim.
Men seem to see life in a world where they feel powerful by acting in opposition to others.
Why else would a former Marine (don’t get me wrong, I love him dearly) karate chop the air in close proximity to hot plates I am carrying?
Why else do they flick the napkin off your shoulder? Why else do they walk slowly in front of you when you are hurrying?
Why do they snigger triumphantly when you don’t have the strength in your wrists to carry three heavy platters of food? In short, why aren’t they helpful like women?
Men are never as bossy as when they are wearing aprons.
It is said that born rebels who defy society are not oblivious of it, but hypersensitive to it.
Men who defy authority see it as a way of asserting themselves and refusing to accept the subordinate i.e. law-abiding position.
Even when men are relaxing, their machismo is never off-duty. They’re always regaling you with stories about contest, how they defied authority and how they will sort out so and so if he dares darken their door again etc. etc. The stories about their wives are usually told in a whiney voice. “So my wife said to me, who is going to put up the chicken coop, honey?”
Women’s anecdotes tend to reveal how bad they felt when they’ve violated community values.
“I felt so bad, I didn’t realize it was a formal occasion and I turned up in jeans!”
Some sociologists believe that for a woman, the community is the source of power. Life is a struggle against the danger of being cut off from their community.
Men, on the other hand, have an overweening need to feel independent (even if in reality they couldn’t exist without Her Indoors serving him supper and washing his socks).
Empirical studies have shown that in the work arena women make infinitely better managers. Their managerial style is more democratic. They are likely to consult others and involve employees in decision-making. Women prefer to maintain an atmosphere of community, rather than an autocratic hierarchy.
Of course women get ripped off more often and slagged off more often and disobeyed more often. The reason is easy to explain. It is easy to rip-off someone who is avoiding a confrontational stance.
Success, for women, usually means getting along with everybody. For this reason they lay themselves open to being taken advantage of by avoiding confrontation.
Even the meaning of conflict and the means that seem natural to deal with it are fundamentally different for men and women.
Men and women don’t only play by different rules. They play different games. What game is it that makes a male server belch in a female server’s face?
A few weeks ago, I timidly asked the acting manager if we were all in. I pointed out that I was the low man on the totem pole. I was yelled at as though I were a Standard Three pupil although I have more degrees than a thermometer and I have interviewed princes and kings.
When the same question was asked of the same acting manager by a male server, the male server was rewarded with an extra table. Either the acting manager has animus towards me in which case he is not being fair, or, the male server’s demands are taken more seriously than my timid request.
When I was in the newsrooms in London there wasn’t such drama.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I love all my co-workers dearly.
But clearly, men and women speak not different dialects, but different genderlects.
Men talk to preserve their independence (so-called) and assert their status in the hierarchical order. Thus they will tell you how they red-flagged someone in the bar; how they told a customer there was nothing wrong with the pork chop; how they challenged the State Trooper who pulled them over etc. etc.
Women are not that bothered about how they appear. They don’t mind self-deprecating humour. They aren’t flexing their sociological muscles. They will say “I think that woman on fourteen hates me!”
(Most male servers automatically think that all the customers they serve are charmed or a little in love with them.)
Then there’s the thorny issue of cash.
For men, possession of money is power, sexual prowess even. Why else would the male servers chant “I made more money than yoo-oo tonight. Just want you to know I made more than you-oo.”
Doesn’t this smack of ‘I’m the king of the castle’ playground behavior?
For women – or for this one at any rate – money simply represents security and not being dependent on others. When a female server gets a bad tip she will agonize about it. “I thought they were happy. I know the sweetbreads took a long time to come out,” etc. etc.
When a man gets a bad tip the response is usually: “Jerk!”
The key issue for men is retaining their independence (or the illusion of it).
How many women have been left in the wake of a man who just wanted to be free? When a man wants to be free he wants freedom from obligation, the relief of feeling claustrophobic and freedom from responsibilities. These are all regressive reasons, characteristic of infantile thinking.
When women discuss freedom, they mean not having to worry about their husband’s dinner or who is going to car pool to yoga.
Generally I’m with Erica Jong on this one.
Maleness is wonderful, really, isn’t it honey? Perfect denial of reality.