Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Meals And Money Edition

1

"I cant swing it this time. I am low on funds."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:55 AM
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Christ, what an asshole.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:55 AM
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2 to 1?

Thanks. Now I know why you ignore me so.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:55 AM
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No, Will, I just wanted that to be the first comment. Oops.

I find this kind of insensitivity to be outrageous, but, if I were in the reader's position, I'd suck it up. This has to do with various weird neuroses of mine concerning looking cheap.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:57 AM
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You don't get to specify what presents you get from other people unless you're under ten years old and/or they're Santa Claus. "Don't be cheap on my birthday" is not acceptable from an adult.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:57 AM
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"I'm not being cheap. I really can't afford it."


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:58 AM
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I endorse 5.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 8:59 AM
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4 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:00 AM
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To elaborate, I don't think being worried about looking cheap is a "weird neurosis." In my experience, people who are actually cheap? Are insufferable. I've had a couple of friends who were pretty cheap and it drove me absolutely batty. I actually basically stopped hanging out with this one guy because of it (he had other issues, but that was the one that bugged me the most). Like people who nitpick over a dollar or something on the bill? People who don't tip generously? People who don't tip cap drivers?

That said, the reader's friend is being a real jerk.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:02 AM
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I endorse 5 and 6. It's not being "actually cheap" if you're actually not loaded.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:03 AM
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Also agree with 4; he's being insensitive, but you have to suck it up. And, by way of mitigation, I just plugged those restaurants into Zagat and they're rated at about $50/person for dinner, which, sadly, is really just medium-fancy these days, so it's likely that the friend was trying to be considerate by his lights.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:04 AM
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If the guy is so concerned with going somewhere nice on his birthday, he should pay for it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:04 AM
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5's got it. He's being a dick, or at the very least completely oblivious/forgetful about any hints in the past regarding salary differences. You can be similarly blunt and just say that you don't have the money right now, mentioning what's caused the tightened funds if you feel comfortable with that.

Those also look like pricey (delicious, but pricey) places in the $60+ per person range with tip and easily $90+ if you go for wine. That's a hell of a lot to ask of someone outright unless you know they go to those sort of places with some frequency.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:06 AM
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People who are cheap drive me batty too. But so do friends who can't understand that the money is low at the moment. I think that extremes are minimizing the other person in a friendship.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:07 AM
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...and if you're not loaded, you should just duck out on the brunch check!


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:09 AM
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9: Yeah. The kind of "looking cheap" that you're talking about is the kind I hate too, where you'll go to Chicago Diner with a group and someone will argue that they should pay less since their sandwich was $7.99 instead of $8.99. But that's definitely a world apart from this situation.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:10 AM
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Last time I was in DC I stumbled into this restaurant, which was surprisingly delicious and cost me about $20. It was the first time I'd eaten Peruvian food, though, so what do I know.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:10 AM
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he picks me up for dinner in a BMW
This is not necessarily indicative of disposable income. Read The Millionaire Next Door. So his money is not only tied up in architecture, it's tied up in a BMW too.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:12 AM
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Pick a place similar in style/cuisine to the places suggested but more in your price range. Tell your friend apologetically that money really is tight right now and you just can't swing the places you suggested. If he repeats the "don't be cheap" thing, gently say something like, "Look, I really don't want money to affect our friendship, but I just can't afford the things you can afford. Please try to understand that living beyond my means makes me anxious." If he continues to be a jerk about it, consider the possibility that he's really not such a good friend.

I suspect the people saying to just "suck it up" have forgotten what it feels like to be just getting by.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:15 AM
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It sounds like the friendship is important to you. In this particular situation, given that you've already said yes and he's responded by rudely proposing restaurants that are pretty high-end given the warnings you've already given him, you may be stuck.

As a general principle, though, I think American weirdness about money is such that it can help to get really explicit. People mean such wildly different things by "broke" and "poor" and "having a tight month" that it's almost impossible to know how to translate. If it were a real friend, I'd just be blunt: "Ya know, I'm a $35,000 a year secretary here. My entertainment budget for the month is $30. I love you, but if we go to a place like this I'll be eating ramen for the next three months." But that's me -- and most people really aren't comfortable being that explicit about money. So I'm not saying everyone should be comfortable doing that.

(And to 11: Does that include alcohol? Because hooboy does that get expensive. It's really awkward to be the person in a group who's not really drinking, and watch a $35 dinner go to $70 or $80.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:16 AM
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Agree with 19. Remember about Labs' teaching attire before listening to him on money matters.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:18 AM
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People mean such wildly different things by "broke" and "poor" and "having a tight month" that it's almost impossible to know how to translate.

Ain't that the truth. It was a constant source of annoyance to me in law school, when I'd be like "I can't go out, I'm broke" and other people would be like "just put it on a credit card!" or "we're all broke. I get the same amount of loans you do."

What I meant when I said I was broke, dude, was that I don't have a way to pay for anything. Not cash, not money in the bank account, not room on a credit card. Nothing.

This simply does not compute for some people, for whom such a state would be unthinkable.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:20 AM
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19 sounds right. You might try chowhound etc for recommendations for places that hit above their weight.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:21 AM
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19 & similar are right on. (I think ogged is the only one who's said the questioner *should* "suck it up." He's wrong. FL said that he'd be likely to suck it up to avoid looking/feeling cheap.)

you may be stuck
I don't think this is right. One ought to be to able to reconsider a decision in a friendship.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:23 AM
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What 20 said. If that fails, proceed to a nut kick.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:24 AM
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I've been in similar situations, and have tried just being blunt and also tried just sucking it up and splashing the cash. Being blunt probably worked better, but it's a shitty situation especially if the friend is being insensitive. It's worse if it's a group social thing and you're the only poor person.

That said, $60 a head doesn't really sound pricey.* My perspective may be skewed by how stupidly expensive the SE of England is, though.

22 is right, too.

* although it wasn't so far in the past that that'd have been out of my price range.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:25 AM
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See, I actually make an ok salary, you know for a 25-year-old, and I wouldn't spend $60/head on a dinner unless it was a really special occasion, and probably only on someone I was boning. Once-a-month friend? Nope.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:27 AM
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I think it's worth trying one final feint. "Ooooh, you know where we should go? That new place, x." You need to know about a new place x, but those aren't hard to find (Metrocurean's my go-to foodie blog). Or "Why don't we eat at y so that we can stop by entertainment-source z afterward?" That makes it seem like a one-off exception and not breaking from tradition.

If he doesn't bite on a fun and exciting alternative to his list of relatively pricey options, then he's hell-bent on being a jerk, and Ogged and Labs are right: gotta indulge him. I'd strongly consider ending the tradition, though.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:28 AM
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Having never been to a restaurant remotely that expensive, I have no way of envisioning this situation.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:30 AM
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30

If he doesn't bite on a fun and exciting alternative to his list of relatively pricey options, then he's hell-bent on being a jerk, and Ogged and Labs are right: gotta indulge him.

I don't get this at all. If the guy is being a jerk, why should anyone "have to" indulge that. The world would be a better place if we could all just learn that it's perfectly acceptable not to indulge jerks and if jerks could learn that people aren't always going to indulge them.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:31 AM
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My perspective may be skewed by how stupidly expensive the SE of England is, though.

This is most certainly the case. Especially given the current exchange rate, $60 will maybe buy a big meal at Subway.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:31 AM
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19 gets it right. And finding a really good cheapish place could probably help assuage his feelings. (He seems like enough of an asshole from the post that I wouldn't bother, but how do you tell from text alone, redeeming features not specified, YMMV.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:31 AM
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You know what's even more annoying about this guy? It's not even his actual birthday. Sounds like his bday was weeks ago. So it's not like he's like "I want to have fun! It's my birthday!" Mostly that he wants her to spend a bunch of money on him. Likely because he feels entitled since he's been "generous" in the past.

To which I say, asshole.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:32 AM
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34

There's no law written that says you have to take out a loan to fulfill a promise to buy a birthday dinner. If the guy asks for places that aren't doable, you have every right to say so. You want to be nice to your friend; shouldn't he want to be nice to you in turn? I think if you feel you must take him out for his birthday then I suggest you propose a counter-list of places you can afford and let him pick from those. If he refuses, he refuses. In other words, every word of 5 rings with truth.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:34 AM
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Don't mention numbers, but mention sacrifice, some luxury you'll forgo because you take him out. Friend is either stupid or unkind, so will not understand any mention of pricey necessities.

There's a pretty good Vietnamese place in Cleveland Park that's reasonable, and next to Bardeo if he wants to go halvesies on fancy drinks after dinner. It's kind of fried and soulless, but Cap City brewery by Union station or the Irish pub there are hearty food and drink. Most reasonably priced tasty food in DC is in the burbs, IME. If he's open to that, resolicit for advice wth a preferred location or cuisine.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:34 AM
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You know, this conversation makes me want to issue a general apology about the expensive day-after brunch at UnfoggeDCon 2. I was the one who got the recommendation, but I didn't think to ask in advance how much it was going to be, because it just didn't occur to me that it could be *that* expensive. (Which was foolish, since hotels are always wildly overpriced.) So, sorry, and I hope it wasn't *too* harsh on anyone's budget.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:34 AM
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re: 27

Any bog-standard restaurant here, if you were having a starter, main course and dessert, you'd be talking $60 a head before wine. Give or take a bit. That's not for somewhere upmarket. That's just for an average place.

England is pretty fucking expensive, though.

30 is right, too. But not-indulging can be done tactfully or not tactfully.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:36 AM
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38

34 is also right. If you are taking him out, you get to pick where and on what terms.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:37 AM
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39

Any bog-standard restaurant here, if you were having a starter, main course and dessert, you'd be talking $60 a head before wine. Give or take a bit.

Hmmm...I also don't think I've ever been to a restaurant and gotten both a starter and dessert. But that still would be under $50 at any restaurant I've ever been to, unless you make a real effort to waste money.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:38 AM
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36 Is amusing after I just suggested to M/tch a nice-ish place here for next weeked!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:38 AM
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Could we get more information on the apparently assholish friend? I mean, is this guy generally insensitive? Is he really convinced the dinner-buyer makes as much money as he does? This affects how bad he's being and how much to go through to preserve the friendship.

Kraab, that brunch paid for itself with hilarity.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:39 AM
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40: Oh, no worries about my budget. I'm Big Labor.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:39 AM
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You don't get to specify what presents you get from other people unless you're under ten years old and/or they're Santa Claus.

Or, you know, if the person who is taking you to dinner has *told you to pick the restaurant*.

Look, it's kind of crappy to put someone in the position of having to guess how much you want to spend on them. Yes, it is also crappy to say "don't be cheap on my birthday!" But really, the person asking the question fucked up, and the problem is that they now have to take back their offer.

Which, okay; you offered something you can't afford. Don't try this "ooh, let's go to blah blah!" place; he's likely to say "I thought you told *me* to pick the place." Either you have to suck it up (since, after all, you *did* offer) or you have to be honest and say "I'm sorry, I can't afford those places right now" and then *specify* a couple of places you're willing to take your friend to. (Ideally you do some research, blah blah, to find interesting but inexpensive places, whatever.)

Or you can take him to the place he's chosen and not order an entree yourself; stick with an appetizer or something.

And don't be pissy about the car your friend drives; it's tacky. Just don't agree to do things you can't afford to do.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:40 AM
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30: Because the guy isn't simply some jerk, he's a friend, albeit an inconsiderate one; and sometimes money comes up between friends and I for one would rather heed the social niceties, to the extent that I can afford the sacrifice, than ensconce myself in a friend's mind as being of low means.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:40 AM
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I'm with pretty much everyone else. (A) He's just flat wrong in telling you where to take him for his birthday. Like Ajay said, no one gets to pick their own presents, whether specifically or within a price range. (B) Once he's done that, you're in a bad spot, socially. Your options are being blunt: "I can't afford any of those places. Let's go to [place I can afford].", or sucking it up and spending more than you can afford. (C) There's a reasonable chance being blunt will damage the friendship, because he'll think you're cheap. This would mean he's a jerk, but sometimes you have friendships with jerks that are still worth holding onto -- people aren't uniformly jerks, and maybe he's got other redeeming features.

So, if you can trust him to not to be an asshole, take him to a restaurant you can afford, and explain that's what you're doing if he asks. If you can't trust him not to be an asshole, decide if you want to hold onto the friendship despite his status as an asshole. If so, suck it up and pay for the nice restaurant. If not, go cheap and let the chips fall where they may.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:41 AM
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England is really expensive.

Wine makes a huge difference to these calculations, ime. Starters & dessert too, if less so. At a nice place I always figure wine is going to be like an extra person (if there are two of you) if not doubling your bill.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:41 AM
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Come on - don't be cheap on my birthday!

11- What an ass! The once or twice I've had this happen, I've sucked it up for the event, then moved on from the friend. Not necessarily recommending that, though.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:42 AM
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Any bog-standard restaurant here, if you were having a starter, main course and dessert, you'd be talking $60 a head before wine.

In my experience, the exchange rate is highly misleading and there really is a large difference in absolute cost of restaurant meals between the US and England: a restaurant where one pays X pounds in England is roughly equivalent (in quality of food and atmosphere) to a restaurant where one pays X dollars in the US, not 2X dollars.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:43 AM
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Because the guy isn't simply some jerk, he's a friend

Right. It's strange how quickly someone becomes "a jerk" based on one one-sided anecdote. If we're crafting statements of principle, then yes, "be sensitive to hints that you're putting someone in a tough spot financially" should be on the list, but this is such a minor transgression in the grand scheme, and we don't even have all the information.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:43 AM
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42: woo! As an academic, of course I'm swimming in filthy lucre. Sigh.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:44 AM
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45 crossed with 43. I had forgotten that the writer told the friend to pick the restaurant. Yeah, that was a bad move. I don't think the possible solutions change much, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:47 AM
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39: See my 31, I'm not exaggerating as much as one would hope. When I crashed with my buddy in London a month ago, a single lunch at a fast-food-type place (Naando's, if anyone knows it) ended up costing $40 for two largish meals and two sodas. This is why, if you visit the south of England, you make sure you have craploads of money set aside back home and then you never translate prices back into dollars.

But I now see this comment has been wildly pwned while it was being swallowed by server problems.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:47 AM
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No one wants to have dinner after the conversation in 19. If you intend to fall back on your dinner offer, then 19 is fine. But upon hearing 19 even an inconsiderate friend is going to be too embarrassed and (worse) class conscious to accept any further kindness in the spirit in which it is being intended.

If you don't want to railroad this tradition, I think you need to come up with a solution that's cleverer. Scrimping on dinner like B suggests ("Waiter, I'll just have the soup") won't cut it, though, because that's not celebrating.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:48 AM
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In my experience, the exchange rate is highly misleading and there really is a large difference in absolute cost of restaurant meals between the US and England: a restaurant where one pays X pounds in England is roughly equivalent (in quality of food and atmosphere) to a restaurant where one pays X dollars in the US, not 2X dollars.

So considering the exchange rate, restaurants in England are actually significantly cheaper than those in the US?

60 pounds will get you what 60 dollars gets you?

That's the opposite of what NAtagracam said.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:49 AM
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48: This is true to a lesser degree in different parts of the US too. You can have a really decent meal in Houston 1/2 to 2/3 of what you'd pay in SF, say.


We really can't infer too much about the guy from this one event. Obviously he's being thoughtless about this thing, but it's not much to go on . B's right, I had missed/missread originally Becks not that she had told him to pick the place, although she did give a caveat. Really it would have been better to provide a list, Becks but I know these things are easy to fall into. Now you've got to do something, though. In your shoes I'd still be tempted to counteroffer. But you know him and the relationship and we don't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:50 AM
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I said he should pick a place, keeping in mind I'm not loaded, and his response was something along the lines of, Come on - don't be cheap on my birthday! Then suggested I choose from this list: Proof, Indeblue, Zengo, DC Coast, Zola.

Well this is your problem right there. The "suck it up"/"don't look cheap" line is mostly BS, I think. If you really can't afford it, that's not "being cheap" it's "not having money." You asked him to pick a place, and you say he's a good friend. Also, you suggest that you do actually have the disposable income, but would rather spend it on something else, like a boyfriend. If he's not an asshole, you could have If he's a good friend and not an asshole, you could have just named a place yourself and be done with it. If he's an asshole, why is he your friend?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:50 AM
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Yeah, 52 is right.

The first time a friend and I travelled down from Scotland to London, in our teens, and went into a pub to get something to eat and a pint we were quite literally outraged. Live here for a few years and you become completely inured.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:51 AM
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55 addendum: counteroffer of places without discussion of finances, of course.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:53 AM
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These money things are a bastard to negotiate. When you've got people on different career paths, some still in college doing graduate study, some working in law [and thus earning what seems like a fucking absurd amount of money for someone 2 years out of college to make], etc, etc. these kinds of financial conflicts are going to come up.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:53 AM
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Yeah, it's important to keep in mind that in some contexts "don't be cheap on my birthday" is not that outrageous-- for example if he thinks that the writer really does make as much as he does, refusal to go to a nice but not extravagant-by-local-standards place is kind of annoying, by his lights. And this is a dinner-every-month friend, which is moderately close.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:54 AM
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I think B is wrong (I know, shocking to me, too). Just because you say "I want to take you out for your birthday" doesn't mean that that means the birthday-boy gets to go wherever he wants. Any sane person would consider the finances of the buyer when making such a choice, and I think anyone considerate would, in fact, under-choose based on their estimation of that person's ability to pay.

So if you have a limited price range, you should have to pick where you take someone out? No, I think that it's standard to want the person who's being treated to have some input. So when you say "you pick the place," anyone who gives a shit should know that that means "you pick the place, and be reasonable." Unless you explicitly say "go all out."


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:54 AM
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anyone who gives a shit should know

Well this goes to the "my good friend but also a huge asshole" issue.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:56 AM
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it would have been better to provide a list, Becks

Becks is just posting the question; it's not her dilemma.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:57 AM
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So when you say "you pick the place," anyone who gives a shit should know that that means "you pick the place, and be reasonable."

And, of course, the asker asked the askee to be reasonable, and got back 'Don't be cheap.' The askee may simply be misunderstanding how broke the asker is, which would make him a little pushy, but not a bad person. But at least insensitive.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:57 AM
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59: I know a fair number of youngish MDs, young enough that there social group includes residents and interns (and others, like med-phys people who aren't on the same pay scales)

The way it seems to work with them is that the attendings split any bill between them. There's an expectation, I guess, that this tradition is continued when the others get there. It makes some sense when you consider that typically any one of the attendings is making more than all of the others put together.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:58 AM
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63: Ah, right. Becks s/b mysterious poster.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:59 AM
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It's strange how quickly someone becomes "a jerk" based on one one-sided anecdote.

To be fair, I didn't say the guy is a jerk; I was responding to a comment that suggested that if the friend was "hell-bent on being a jerk," he just had to be indulged.

Or, you know, if the person who is taking you to dinner has *told you to pick the restaurant*.>

Well, to be specific, the advice seeker told the friend to pick a restaurant "keeping in mind I'm not loaded." To which the friend responded with "Come on, don't be cheap," and a selection of pricier restaurants. The friend may sincerely just not appreciate what the writer meant by "not loaded" and may have intended to select a restaurant keeping with the spirit of the invitation -- in which case, it really shouldn't be a problem among friends to say, "Er, those are a bit out of my range." The "don't be cheap" comment, however, suggests that the friend was ignoring the spirit of the invitation ("keeping in mind I'm not loaded"). Maybe because he's an insensitive jerk, maybe because he really didn't appreciate how much stress the financial situation is causing the inviter. Only one way to find out.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 9:59 AM
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Or, you know, if the person who is taking you to dinner has *told you to pick the restaurant*.

Seriously? You can't say to a friend, "Shit, I know I told you to pick the restaurant, but, as I said, I'm not loaded, and things are really too tight for me right now to go to the ones you've mentioned. I'm sorry about that. I got some great recommendations for x, y, or z -- how about one of those?"

The friend can suck it up or offer to pick up the wine tab -- especially given that the offer wasn't "the sky's the limit," but "pick a place, keeping in mind I'm not loaded."


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:00 AM
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Speaking of obliviousness to others by the wealthy, some people around here were bad-mouth Eat, Pray, Love a couple days ago. Here's one of the most destructive book reviews I've ever seen.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:00 AM
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Or what 67 said.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:01 AM
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So considering the exchange rate, restaurants in England are actually significantly cheaper than those in the US?

60 pounds will get you what 60 dollars gets you?

That's the opposite of what NAtagracam said.

If it was only because of the exchange rate you would expect 30 pounds to get you what 60 dollars does so in this case if you are 1 for 1 it is in fact twice as expensive in England.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:02 AM
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I suggest the passive-aggressive option. Agree to the restaurant he wants, let him order first, then get a garden salad and a glass of water for dinner.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:02 AM
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People should just be a lot more upfront about this shit. It's all so easy with my friends, because given that we all went through law school together and had intense discussions about choosing jobs (with, of course, salary factored in), everyone knows exactly how much everyone makes. So my friends who make $160K at law firms often buy me dinner cause they know my salary to the dollar, and I buy dinner for my boyfriend who is studying for the bar and thus has no salary at all. And he buys dinner for his little sister who is kind of a vagrant. This is how these things should work!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:02 AM
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If this was someone you didn't know very well, I'd say you've got to suck it up and take him out to his fancy dinner, just to avoid awkwardness. But if he's a moderately close friend, you ought to be able to work this out. Can you cook? In your shoes, I'd lightheartedly tell him, listen, I'm like totally broke at the moment, but I'm planning to cook you a fantastic meal for your birthday. Or if you don't cook, pick another restaurant, and tell him you're going to go there.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:03 AM
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Scrimping on dinner like B suggests ("Waiter, I'll just have the soup") won't cut it, though, because that's not celebrating.

This is really true, and I hadn't even thought about it at first. When someone does this, it becomes super obvious that their budget is hurting and they didn't want to do the meal out (or, as you're a girl, the sexist assumption may be dieting). Neither are great for the mood, and will be impossible to miss at a two-person meal. Plus you'll be sitting there wtih nothing to eat while he's going through a large entree, an appetizer, etc. The counteroffer of a reasonable place where you can afford a full meal really sounds like the best bet, but chances are that you'll have to suck it up a little financially no matter what (say, suggesting mixed drinks or beers instead of wine and a cheaper place to pull the cost down to $40-60 per person instead of $80-100).

59: I feel very lucky that these issues have worked out so well with my friends thus far. Some of them take home twice (or more in the case of some lawyers) what I do while others are still in grad school and scraping by. Pretty much it's always worked out that the person with more money pays more often, in approximate proportion with how much more they earn. So far, no real issues. *touch wood*


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:03 AM
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Yeah, it's important to keep in mind that in some contexts "don't be cheap on my birthday" is not that outrageous-- for example if he thinks that the writer really does make as much as he does, refusal to go to a nice but not extravagant-by-local-standards place is kind of annoying, by his lights.

I'm turning into a crochety old lady at remarkably high speed, but this sort of situation is why conventional politeness with everyone who isn't a real say-anything-to intimate is so important. FL is right, that the askee may just be confused about the finances, and if he is, it's not unreasonable of him to want to be taken out to a nice dinner.

But straightening out this sort of confusion is so humiliating and unpleasant, that sticking with the hackneyed politeness of 'Don't ask people to get you stuff, if they ask for your input, tell them to get something cheap or tell them to make the decision,' is an awfully good way to stay out of bad situations.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:04 AM
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Any sane person would consider the finances of the buyer when making such a choice, and I think anyone considerate would, in fact, under-choose based on their estimation of that person's ability to pay.

Right, but that's really tricky to do. It's just as possible to say, "oh, let's go to X" and have the other person go, "no, come on, I want to take you someplace nice." Of course in the real world people often say "pick where you want to go"; and in the real world, we often end up thinking "ouch" when we pick up the check. I mean, unless this guy has intimate knowledge not only of your income but also your expenses, he really isn't going to be able to guess what you think you can afford; since that's an issue for you right now, you *can't* afford to say "you pick the place."

It really sounds to me from the tone of the letter like the issue is more that the letter-writer feels self-conscious about not making as much money as the friend, and isn't just straightforward about that. ("It's been a slight issue . . . he drives a BMW . . . I've bitten the bullet and pretended to be an adult," etc.) You don't "owe" him because he's "been generous"; you're friends. Stop feeling guilty about his spending more on dinner than you do. Make offers that are within your means, and trust him to make offers that are within *his*.

(And, of course, if he asks you where you want to go when it's his turn to pick up the check, pick a place that's within your own price range, rather than assuming his job is to cover the expensive joints. Reading between the lines, though, I'm sure the writer already does that.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:04 AM
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re: 65

Yeah, I have a friend who was a City tax consultant for a while. While he wasn't making huge sums of money [certainly less than his lawyer wife], during the period when I was making a fraction of what he was, he insisted on paying for all the expensive stuff when we went out. So, he bought the food, and then I bought the beer in the pub after. This wasn't some established thing, of course, he's just a considerate guy.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:06 AM
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53- Wouldn't you find this 'can't afford these places' talk too humiliating? Along with the tactics to sneak around it. Overall this guy seems very class conscious, more than just this incident. I'm with LeBlanc in 61. Let's not blame the victim here.

semi-pwned by 76.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:06 AM
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OT: The Senate just voted to give retroactive immunity to the telecoms. The list of Dems who voted against the Dodd amendment is at the link; the full roll call vote is here. Along with the list of usual suspects is everybody's favorite fightin' Dem, Jim Webb. Unless I'm very much mistaken, the larger vote on making warrantless domestic spying permanently legal comes later today.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:07 AM
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68 is the obvious solution.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:08 AM
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It's just as possible to say, "oh, let's go to X" and have the other person go, "no, come on, I want to take you someplace nice."

I would argue that this is the way things should go. If you're choosing what someone else is going to pay for you, pick something that you believe to be slightly under what they can afford, and if they want to spend more, they'll let you know.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:08 AM
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78 is exactly the way it should be. I've been lucky in this with friends, and practice it as well. It's sometimes a lot harder to get right with people you don't know very well.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:10 AM
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Overall this guy seems very class conscious, more than just this incident. I'm with LeBlanc in 61. Let's not blame the victim here.

I think it's probably true that the friend is class conscious; what I'm saying is that the only way to deal with that isn't to be *as* class conscious yourself, but rather to shrug off the class bullshit. The point of getting together is to get together and enjoy yourselves; don't let it become a source of huge anxiety by trying to pretend you can afford things you can't. Is all I'm saying.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:11 AM
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82: Eh, I hate that whole game--trying to guess what someone else is willing to spend on you. Ta-cky. Make a freaking specific invitation, already.

That said, here's the solution! Friend says "don't be cheap on my birthday!" Friend is obviously the hearty, jovial type that's not averse to giving a little bit of shit.

Correct response, then, is not to get quiet and stressed out and mildly resentful. Correct response is to say "don't be greedy, man; I'm not as rich as you are."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:13 AM
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This guy gave choices that are all in the same expensive price range. Wouldn't you think that's intentional rather than having given choices in different price ranges?


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:14 AM
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Or you can take him to the place he's chosen and not order an entree yourself; stick with an appetizer or something.

and look really really sad the whole time.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:15 AM
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Eh, I hate that whole game--trying to guess what someone else is willing to spend on you.

Why? I mean, there are like twenty restaurants in the city I could name off the top of my head that I love. The cheapest one costs like $20 for two, the most expensive one costs like $50/head. Why not mention two or three and say, any of those are fine?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:16 AM
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Ranging farther afield than just this one guy, though, I think it's worth noting that it's awfully easy to make assumptions. Most of us live in somewhat homogeneous social worlds. I was mortified the first time I realized that blithely assuming someone had an extra $5 for the train (rather than the $2 subway) was a serious hardship. At the same time, I would never assume that a friend was okay with a $60/head restaurant.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:17 AM
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87: A little soot under your eyes and cheekbones does wonders to enhance the starving ragamuffin look.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:17 AM
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passive aggressive is really, really annoying


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:18 AM
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"pick a place, keeping in mind I'm not loaded."

I realize we're not in the grand old nation of Iran, but reading this, it struck me that if you uttered these words there you'd become a social pariah.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:18 AM
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Anyway, 85.3 is right.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:19 AM
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It's sometimes a lot harder to get right with people you don't know very well.

It can be tricky, though, knowing whether the other person will be grateful or offended by frequent offers to pick up the tab or how to balance it. I'm a little gun shy on this, as the ex had a huge hang-up about being the one to pay for things (to the point that I got shoved out of the way in a grocery store line once so he could hand the cashier his credit card before I handed her mine -- both to the same joint account, of course, which I ultimately paid, but you get the idea). As has been alluded to above, this kind of thing can be a source of pride/humiliation for alot of people.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:19 AM
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suggesting mixed drinks or beers instead of wine

Oh dear God.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:19 AM
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89: One thing I really like about not living in a very homogeneous social group is that you can't make these sorts of assumptions, and it makes you do lots of different things.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:19 AM
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the ex had a huge hang-up about being the one to pay for things (to the point that I got shoved out of the way in a grocery store line once so he could hand the cashier his credit card before I handed her mine -- both to the same joint account, of course, which I ultimately paid,

Um, holy god. I know you've already divorced the man, but seriously?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:20 AM
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92: Yes, but thankfully the western countries evolved a system of social expectations that does not require a family to kill its last goat in order to give guests a decent meal.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:21 AM
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92: Spell it out? "Bear in mind I'm not loaded" makes you look ungenerous, or is there something else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:21 AM
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passive aggressive is really, really annoying

I dunno, it can be OK. I mean, it's not like that other thing, but it'll do. No, really, I'll be fine.

Oh, the cat knocked over your favorite vase today. Just an FYI.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:21 AM
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require a family to kill its last goat

Ha, I took out the sentence about killing the family cow to take someone to dinner.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:22 AM
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94: Yeah, that's basically what I meant about it being difficult with people you don't know well.

It's great to *already* have a group of friends who have wildly different incomes and have come up with some sensible ad-hoc way of addressing that that keeps everyone happy. But it isn't always clear how to *get* there.

It's probably easiest if you have a functional core group of people. Someone new gets acclimatized to the idea that way, without it being about them personally.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:22 AM
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Would 'You're not worth it' work?


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:23 AM
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97: Yeah, seriously. I have phenomenal taste in men.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:23 AM
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Further to 97: Maybe I'm just particularly sensitive about this, but I hate, hate it when someone else always insists on paying. It's patronizing. My godmother, a close family friend that I've known since I was a kid, has never let me buy her a meal. I have tried so many times. It's just insulting.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:24 AM
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Spell it out?

Must Seem Prosperous, Must Be Hospitable, Never Plead Poverty. It can be kind of pernicious, especially when people come here and discover credit culture.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:24 AM
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Oh, and what 97 said too. Wtf?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:24 AM
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our old friendship concept was
'half of all i have is yours, my friend, gfs excluding'
alas in modern times it's just impossible to keep up to that ideal


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:25 AM
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All of the suggestions that involve choosing one of his suggested restaurants and then doing something to lower the price (different drinks, ordering less) is a stupid idea, because then you really are being cheep.

Make some counteroffers and perhaps try the tack of since it's a birthday dinner it'd be better to go somewhere that you can afford doing up right with appetizers, drinks, etc.?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:25 AM
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108- That worked pretty well in my divorce, though.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:26 AM
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108: I've done this literally. It's a lot easier to sort out when neither of you have much though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:27 AM
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95: Bear in mind that I'm 22. Plus, Unibroue's been making a big push into nicer restaurants in big cities. If the guest likes beer, it's some of the best stuff around for half the cost of a decent bottle of wine.

My last few meals out, it's been the guest who grabbed mixed drinks first. I've only had wine with home-cooked meals since college (when three course meals with shitloads of cheap wine were actually a college-subsidized institution upholding centuries of tradition).

Granted, things may be different if the questioner is in their mid-30s. I wouldn't know.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:27 AM
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Maybe I'm just particularly sensitive about this, but I hate, hate it when someone else always insists on paying. It's patronizing.

I used to have a friend at work (higher up the ladder) who did this all the time. The first few times, seemed thoughtful. After awhile, vaguely condescending. When we got to, "You need to save your money, now that your getting divorced and all," I finally figured out that it was, indeed, patronizing. We don't do lunch anymore.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:28 AM
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it's not unreasonable of him to want to be taken out to a nice dinner

Several people have said some version of this, but can you really imagine yourself acting like this guy? If someone tells me to pick the place, I always under-pick, as it were. If the other person says, "no, let's go someplace fancy," great.

Similarly, if we're splitting a check and I know the others make a lot less, I'll try to throw in a few extra bucks. Depending on the circumstance, I'll say, "ah, you're a starving student -- let me put in a little extra" or "you have me over for dinner a lot" or just pad my share a little without saying anything. If they object, I won't try further, and there are some people I wouldn't do that with at all.

I'm guessing that some people here are going to say it's bound to make the other person self-conscious or feel like I'm lording it over them or something, but people did that for me when I was making a lot less, and did it graciously, which I hope I also do.

Most of my friends are like m.leblanc's anyway, so it's not as though we've never talked about money before.

On preview, semipwned several times, but I won't be made to feel self-conscious about my contribution. From each according to her ability!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:29 AM
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Would 'You're not worth it' work?

"I'm just not that into you."

Also I agree with Po-Mo Polymath. As far as I can tell, getting wine at a restaurant is an archaic tradition that has no purpose. Beer is much more interesting, if available. I guess these opinions will change as we get older.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:29 AM
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Must Seem Prosperous, Must Be Hospitable, Never Plead Poverty.

Christ, my honey still hasn't forgiven my mother for not insisting that he order dessert at the restaurant she took us to.

I come from a family of genuine tightwads. It would be against my nature to make generous offers without limitations, but I have been known to cook dinner for people. Never, ever, have I been tricked or shenaniganned into paying $100 for a two-person dinner.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:29 AM
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Ha, I took out the sentence about killing the family cow to take someone to dinner.

I know your kind.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:30 AM
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96: I agree, but IME most Americans (can't speak for other countries) are in a pretty homogenized atmosphere, class-wise.

With people you don't know well, or work colleagues, I'm pretty comfortable with a Miss Manners kind of "The point of etiquette is to make others feel at ease" take.

But with friends, I really do think it's worth making the assumptions explicit. There is a huge difference between a doctor making $300K and a case manager who makes $25K. It's wrong to assume that your friend the social worker can afford the same stuff you can, just because they went to college and can dress/talk like someone from your social class.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:32 AM
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97, 107: Okay, okay, so the ex is a pretty extreme example. But I think the underlying though-process is borderline normal -- I had an income, he didn't, he was self-conscious about looking like an unproductive loser.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:33 AM
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Maybe I'm just particularly sensitive about this, but I hate, hate it when someone else always insists on paying. It's patronizing.

But, yes, this also. I absolutely back off if someone wants to split the check evenly or pick up the tab sometimes.

My dad never lets me pay for anything, which I used to resent as infantilizing, but then just decided to get on board. He's a notorious under-tipper, though -- while being a semi-demanding customer -- so my siblings and I always arrange it so that one of hangs back and supplements the tip.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:33 AM
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Beer is much more interesting, if available. I guess these opinions will change as we get older.

Good beer/wine is much more interesting than boring, mundane wine/beer. You can run with that until you're restricted to half a pint of stout before bed for your health. Good wine is (usually, not always) more expensive than good beer.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:35 AM
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He's a close friend? Weird. With friends that have a lot more money than I do, the mutually understood rule has been that we go to places I can afford. On occasion they want a nice place and they pay. ('I like fancy food, don't have time to go out often, money's not an issue for me, my treat'.) I ran into the reverse of the problem living in Poland - going out with fellow grad students making $150-200 a month but not willing to let me pick up the tab for a cheap (for me) dinner of say $15 a person.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:35 AM
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119: Yeah, that's fair enough. A lot of people get weird about money.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:36 AM
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please do not do the "go to expensive restaurant, order a teeny salad & a glass of water," route. If the guy is enough of a jerk to deserve that than surely it's worth risking: "seriously, I'm kind of broke, here are some cheaper places that will still be fun." And if he's not a jerk, your choice is even clearer.

My husband & I almost never order wine because the level of markup is annoying & we'd rather spend the $ on going to a nicer restraurant. But I don't think you can get huffy about it if you're taking someone else out.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:36 AM
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110 divorce is that, property division and ideally man should leave all to his ex or at least just take what is his, not 50/50
it's different
and i don't understand why so much emphasis on meals and restaurants
like do you eat to live or live to eat and what it all has to do with friendship values etc


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:37 AM
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I do some semi-aggressive check-grabbing, because I hang around with people who make less than I do, and I'm afraid of being insensitive to their budgets. I'm honestly unsure of whether I do this not enough, or too much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:37 AM
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A little soot under your eyes and cheekbones does wonders to enhance the starving ragamuffin look.

It would be like having your birthday dinner with a Keane painting propped on the chair across from you. Nom, nom, nom. Fun!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:38 AM
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124: There are a few byob places here, but I wish there were more. I really enjoy good wine with dinner, but (typically 300%) markup is difficult to swallow. But then I'll resent not having it, so .... vicious circle.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:38 AM
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C'mon, you can't cajole a dinner date into believing that they ought to be more interested in beer when wine is the default for celebration. Beer snobs can be intolerable on this score. We're at dinner, just drink wine tonight!


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:39 AM
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I find this kind of insensitivity to be outrageous

Totally right.

This has to do with various weird neuroses of mine concerning looking cheap.

Fucking ogged. For people you see rarely, this seems like less of an issue. Either (a) suck it up, or (b) own up to not being able to afford his choices. If you choose (a), it's probably OK because it's a rare occurrence. If you choose (b), it's OK because--assuming he's not a total douchebag--he's there to hang out with you and have a good time, and it's a rare occurrence that doesn't much affect his life. That is, it's a more complicated question when you often see the person, and the income disparity affects the fun things he ends up doing. But this isn't that case.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:39 AM
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126: As long as people aren't fighting with you to pay the check, you're probably doing it the right amount. If they fight (and actually fight, not that "oh, you don't have to do that..." crap), give in.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:39 AM
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C'mon, you can't cajole a dinner date into believing that they ought to be more interested in beer when wine is the default for celebration civilization.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:42 AM
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a/the


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:42 AM
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This thread is making me realize how ill-suited I am to relationships that require a good bit of politeness and dancing around issues. If I had a friend with whom I hung out regularly, but to whom I didn't feel comfortable saying "dude, that's way too fucking expensive," it would drive me nuts. But that's just me.

Of course, a lot of the lack of anxiety I feel about hanging around with people who make a lot more money than me is because those people are lawyers, and thus, the fact that they make a lot more money means that they work 20 more hours a week than me, and the work they do is soul-crushing. I have no resentment of their salaries.

If someone was doing the same stuff as me, and made four times as much, yeah, that would be weird.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:45 AM
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131: Oh, yeah, I give in when anyone fights back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:46 AM
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Isn't 'friend' the operative word here? "Come on - don't be cheap on my birthday" is objectively shitty, but a friend is by definition someone to whom you can say "Don't be an asshole" with impunity.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:48 AM
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88: Because of what 89 says.

105: Dude, she's *your godmother*. By *definition* she's in a matriarchal relationship to you. Let her buy you dinner, for chrissake.

Someday she'll be old and frail and in a nursing home or something, and then it'll be your job to take her out and buy her meals while pretending that she would have picked up the tab, but she just happens not to have her purse at the moment because those assholes at the nursing home seem to have hidden it from her.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:48 AM
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If someone was doing the same stuff as me, and made four times as much, yeah, that would be weird.

This can definitely happen in medical & legal circles. I'm not sure how people negotiate it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:48 AM
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129, 132: I'll grant these points if the guest actually likes wine, or knows it to some degree. In my circle of friends, no one really wine, so the mixed drinks or beers for dinner isn't a matter of cajoling. It's the default.

Once someone is the guest, of course you shouldn't be trying to cajole them into some other selection. That would be as tacky as asking them to go for the nice-looking duck dish instead of the steak. But if you know they are fairly indifferent on beers or wines or mixed drinks, try choosing somewhere with a really great beer list or really nice bar.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:49 AM
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Err.. "no one really drinks wine"


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:52 AM
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On a somewhat related note, this can be a real sticky issue in families. I've known a few people who make really a lot more money than their parents or siblings ever had. Like at least 10 times as much. It seems wanting to do something nice for your family can easily bump up against not wanting them to think you are being arrogant or whatever.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:52 AM
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139: Just jerking your chain, youngster.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:54 AM
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137: Seriously, though, we've had probably a hundred meals together since I was eighteen, and she's bought every single one of them. Don't you think that's a bit extreme? I don't mind it when I was living near her and we would just meet up for a meal, but now, I go and visit her, and for three days I can't spend a dollar on anything. It's aggravating. I have money!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:55 AM
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So it hasn't occured to anyone that the commenter actually is cheap?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:55 AM
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I think I'm kind of with leblanc on this. I assume that friendships start with the default assumption that the other person is a pretty good person. So my assumption is that the other person isn't trying to fuck me. If I can afford to pay for something that the other person can't, and I therefore pick up the check whenever we do that thing, I don't assume that the person is somehow taking advantage of me. And I expect them not to assume that I'm somehow showing off. We, together, want to do something--hang out, see a show, whatever--and this is the way to get that done. That's all it is. If it becomes an issue, we do something else.

I skew toward enjoying the company much more than the thing, though. I can't really properly take into account, for example, the "excellent meal" part of the joy of having an excellent meal with a friend.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:58 AM
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144: `I can't afford it' means different things to different people, sure, but I see no reason not to take that at face value. We don't know either of them, presumably.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:58 AM
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Ah, just read 60. Labs gets it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:58 AM
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143: I agree with you -- letting you grab a check once in awhile almost like an acknowledgment that you are all grown up now and can afford to pay for a meal.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:59 AM
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143: She's your godmother. That's what older relative-types are supposed to do. Be grateful. She's always going to remember you as a kid, dude. It would break her heart to have you pick up a check. Wait until she's old and on a fixed income, and *then* you can tell her that you're grateful to finally have the opportunity to be as generous as she was all those years.

I'm completely serious. You cannot shame the kindly older relatives by insisting on paying.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 10:59 AM
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144.--It occured to me, but then I'm cheap, and so I instinctively avoid these situations.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:01 AM
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I'm completely serious. You cannot shame the kindly older relatives by insisting on paying.

Totally right.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:02 AM
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142: S'alright. You can jerk my chain anytime, Jesus.

Also, I'm with B on the older relatives/family friends point. I just thought I'd note this, since I seem to disagree with her always and ever.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:03 AM
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JM, I really don't understand how a skinflint like you has dated an Iranian for so long.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:03 AM
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149, see 148. I don't want to pay for stuff all the time or anything. I'd just like to pay for, say, one meal out of five. Or ten!

Even my dad lets me buy him dinner. Then again, my dad's notoriously laid-back about, well, pretty much everything.

In my godmother's case, I think she feels guilty cause you know, the whole "godmother" thing actually came into play, since my mother did actually die and everything, and she sometimes feels like she should have moved to Egypt to help raise me or something. Which is patently ridiculous. And now I'm a perfectly well adjusted adult, and guilt over my motherless childhood is no longer in order.

As you can see, these issues are somewhat complicated.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:04 AM
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143. With leblanc on this. The first time I was able to buy my parents dinner in a halfway decent place felt great. And I think it did for them too - like, he's on his way.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:05 AM
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LeBlanc. Let. It. Go. It makes the old lady feel happy to buy you food.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:05 AM
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This conversation is amusing.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:06 AM
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Since JM & m.leblanc seem somehow not to have made it through all 490 comments on the proposal thread, I will repost:

I vote that Jackmormon needs an Unfogged nickname for her honey. m.leblanc, too. Step up to the plate, women, or we'll have to do it for you.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:08 AM
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I understand how everyone feels here. But I come down with Bitch -- while it would be generous of your godmother to let you buy her dinner once in a while, it's generous of you not to fight her on it, and let her continue to be the grownup taking care of you. If there's nothing else in the relationship that makes it important to you to demonstrate your independence, the kind thing to do is to indulge her by not arguing when she buys you stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:09 AM
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Oh, all right! I call him The Bear on my blog, I suppose that'll do here.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:09 AM
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Show up to dinner with gifts for her?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:11 AM
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Excellent. m.leblanc and The Bear, sittin' in a tree . . .


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:11 AM
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161 sounds right.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:13 AM
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When bitch and lb both are against me, I know I must be wrong. Damnit.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:13 AM
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Jackmormon needs an Unfogged nickname for her honey

His Royal Wispiness.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:13 AM
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But seriously! I think 161 is right. And that's because it's nice to get to do something for someone else, and it's unfair if that person never allows you to be generous to them. Anyway, it's not like she's that old. She's 60. And never had any kids, so you can guess why she wants to spend lots of money on me. Which, frankly, was cool when I was a kid, but is just getting a little old.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:15 AM
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Anyway, she's really a very sweet person and this reminds me that I need to call her.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:16 AM
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You're not unreasonable to feel the way you do -- this is just a spot to suck it up and be nice to your godmother.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:16 AM
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"My honey" isn't good enough? I used to think I would use his jihad name---"Mohammad al-Tehrani"---online, but it's really too cumbersome.

153.--I think it may have to do with the fact that when I met him, he was seriously, seriously broke. Also, his parents are both crazy profligate with their money, and there might be something of a backlash in his attitude about finances.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:16 AM
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165.--Hey now.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:17 AM
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165 leads naturally to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZI5LsiKb0M

[which is great]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:17 AM
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I vote that Jackmormon needs an Unfogged nickname for her honey.

The Straightatollah


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:17 AM
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165: Bah, terrible idea. Buck didn't even like being "Mr. Breath." How is JM's sweetheart going to feel if he browses around here sometime?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:17 AM
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'arpies an' 'arridans


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:17 AM
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I don't think the guy is an asshole, or if he is, he's an asshole with a close friendship with this other person.

So I'm coming at this from the perspective of a person who hates looking cheap. I want to kill people who quibble over $1 on a tip, and I would rather not go somewhere than go there and order only a salad. If it's not in the budget, it's not in the budget, and I'll find something else to do. If it is in the budget, don't be a little bitch.

So the question I'd have for the questioner is what she means by "broke." For me that can mean everything to 'my spending's gotten a little out of control lately, I can't go out because I need to reign it in' to 'gee, supporting two people on $16K a year sucks I don't know where the rent is coming from if I buy these grapes' or 'we're fine, I'm just having a panic attack because my funding ends in June, I can't get used to having someone else earn the income, and I just spent $100 on two business shirts and a camisole (thanks AWB for suggesting Express!) oh halp halp halp.'

If it's just 'I don't feel like spending the money but I *could*', I'd probably tell myself to suck it up. If it's 'it's this dinner or the rent this month', I'd be blunt and suggest an alternative in my price range.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:18 AM
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165 was a joke, people.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:18 AM
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When bitch and lb both are against me

Terrifying.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:19 AM
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Speaking of boyfriends, and money, it really does continue to shock me how generous mine is. He told me a funny/cute story about how he was with friend A, who told him he had received a weird message from friend B saying hey friend A, where's my money that you owe me?! The next day he came offering cash to friend B, saying, are you in a tough spot? I can help you out. Turns out friend B was joking.

He's solidly middle-class, and currently unemployed, but maintains that he would give all his cash to me or any other close friend or relative who needed it, and he's totally serious. It's just amazing.

[/gushing]


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:23 AM
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When bitch and lb both are against me, I know I must be wrong. Damnit.

What, OFE and I are chopped liver?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:25 AM
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178: This trait may seem less adorable and amazing once the two of you combine finances.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:25 AM
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Hmm. Bear is too confusing since we already have A White Bear. Therefore, m. leblanc's Bear needs a distinguishing epithet.

Generous Bear, however, makes him sound like he's a CareBear cousin.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:26 AM
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But nobody calls AWB Bear.

180, I suppose, but I assume he wouldn't give away my money without asking me. And frankly, I'm pretty generous myself, and I try to be even more so. So I doubt it would bother me.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:29 AM
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Bear-but-not-in-the-hairy-gay-man-sense-not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with that?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:29 AM
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I vote for Care Bear!


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:30 AM
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No, DK, you're foie gras. Delicious!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:31 AM
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LeBear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:31 AM
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Sifu wins.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:32 AM
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183 wins!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:32 AM
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Turns out friend B was joking when she took Bear's money.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:32 AM
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183: bbnithgmsnttawwt it is, then. Sounds a little Welsh.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:32 AM
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It's too bad he's not Lur, cuz then you could ask him whether it's on and then he'd be all (speaking in the third person, as is his habit):

"Cries Lur LeBear: on!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:34 AM
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Well, 186 is a little handier for typing.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:34 AM
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Now that I've solved someone's problem with 161, can I take the rest of the day off?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:37 AM
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As long as I'm talking about luuuuuv, I was thinking this morning that I'm going to plan an Iranian-themed Valentine's day. Persepolis, followed by dinner at Reza's. Yes, yes, ogged, I know that noon o'kebab is better, but the other one is right by my house.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:42 AM
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191 is the pun equivalent of squeezing blood out of that stone. Impressive.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:43 AM
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Also, I had an Iranian woman come in for an intake interview the other day, and I was asking her all these questions about what it was like during the Revolution (she's old), and she was positively shocked. She was like "you're the first American I've met who knows anything about my country." It's pretty sad.

I am also really, really sad that we can't help her. Sigh.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:44 AM
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I know that noon o'kebab is better

My sources tell me it's pretty inconsistent nowadays.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:47 AM
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When I was 23, I began a relationship with a guy who emphatically insisted on paying for everything. I was pretty indifferent - hey, free food. I'd sincerely try to pay from time to time, he'd squabble, and I really didn't think twice about it. After about a month he exploded and reamed me out, he wasn't made of money, don't I know, etc, etc. I had the good sense to stay with him for two more years, in order to prove him wrong about this and a billion other similar issues.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:57 AM
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The conversation seems to have moved on a bit, but:

One of the oddest intersection-of-disparate-finances moments I've ever experienced was a few months after I had moved to Houston, when I was going on job interviews that had been set up for me by a technical recruiter. The jobs I was applying for were listed at around $45,000/yr., and I was showing up for the interviews in a nicely pressed business suit, but I was so broke--including completely maxed credit cards--that it was possible that I wouldn't have enough cash in the bank to pay for downtown parking, let alone dinner. When I pressed my recruiter on whether or not I should expect a parking fee of more or less than five dollars, I got a significantly raised eyebrow in response.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 11:59 AM
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Good thing you set him straight, h-g. I bet by the respectful and amiable end of your relationship, he was way loving and enlightened and charming and great.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 12:00 PM
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194, 197: I really loved Reza's back in the day. It was around the corner from my apartment on Rascher.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 12:00 PM
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Friend is obviously the hearty, jovial type that's not averse to giving a little bit of shit.

You know, it took me a long time to figure out there are people that I can enjoy a lot if I give them some shit about their more outrageous tendencies. If not, I tend to simmer about their ridiculous beliefs and not enjoy the better side of them. It didn't come naturally to me, but it's made for more enjoyable friendships.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 12:06 PM
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200: He was. We practiced the conflict resolution strategy of scream and break up every few months, for maximum growth of character. It was a really good use of two years.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 12:10 PM
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Bitch and Kraab have been exactly right about the original commenter.

Also, on the buying-your-parents-lunch thing -- I think ogged is right that you can't push back when your elders want to treat you. I think proposing it up front is better than reaching for the check, because then it's a quirky thing that we've never done before! rather than a pissing contest, even a very feminine and polite one.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 1:12 PM
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LeBlanc, one the godmother thing, if the godmother approves of your political / legal activities, perhaps you could interpret the money she spends on you as support for what you're doing rather than merely a personal gift. She's giving to you, but part of what you are is what you do.

In a lot of cases people working on unpopular causes can only do it because of that kind of informal support.

This might not work and it might be a little bit of a fiction, but it could be a way of framing it that could make everyone feel good.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 1:27 PM
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That's very true. When I was in the Peace Corps, vacationers would buy us drinks and food with abandon, apparently to show support and appreciation for our volunteering selflessness. (And the week I got stuck in Fiji with 30 bucks to my name, I shamelessly exploited that.) It made them feel good, we got beer, everyone wins.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 1:32 PM
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IMHO, Reza's is not that good. I dunno what Iranian food is like, but my guess is that Reza's is to Iranian food what old-style pasta joints (with too much sauce and overcooked pasta) are to Italian food.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 2:18 PM
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am I alone in thinking that this aside, dropped in casually as if it were merely a bit of literary colour:

and if I did, I'd be more inclined to drop the cash for a nice dinner with a boyfriend

is actually pretty much the key to the whole episode? I hope I'm wrong, because this phrase frankly put me straight on Team Friend rather than Team Commenter.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 2:24 PM
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208, I think the implication of that line is that Reader thinks Friend is being rude on multiple levels here, first in failing to consider Reader's $ situation, and second in overestimating his own importance to Reader.


Posted by: Pony | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 2:50 PM
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I assume that friendships start with the default assumption that the other person is a pretty good person. So my assumption is that the other person isn't trying to fuck me. If I can afford to pay for something that the other person can't, and I therefore pick up the check whenever we do that thing, I don't assume that the person is somehow taking advantage of me. And I expect them not to assume that I'm somehow showing off.

SCMT gets it exactly right. But this is probably easier when your income's enough that you're not too constrained in what you can pay for but not so much that you're always the best-off person at the table.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 3:13 PM
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Isn't 209's second level of "rude" basically what 208 is driving at?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 3:16 PM
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207: Is Reza's a chain, or do you come by Chicago on occasion, B? Andersonville doesn't seem like a common neighborhood for out-of-towners to hit up.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 3:17 PM
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211: I think so, but I also think dsquared's wrong. The commenter's saying what I understand to be: "I could pay for dinner here and still eat for the rest of the month, it's not an impossibility. But it's expensive enough in my budget that I'd only spend that much for an occasion with a romantic partner, not a friendly birthday dinner." And that's up to the commenter to decide -- your friends don't get to set your budget for socializing with them. (Yeah, the commenter was a dope for asking the friend to pick a restaurant, even with the request for a conservative pick.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 3:22 PM
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213: Hmm. Initially I was with dsquared, but what you're saying makes sense too. I think partly it's a stage in life thing. As a boring old married person, I pretty much put spending on spouse in the spending on self category, so refusing to treat a friend to dinner at a place where I'd eat with my wife would feel kind of cheap. But it would probably look different if I were younger and poorer and a friend was basically demanding that I pass up a chance to do something relationship-enhancing with an SO to spend money hanging out with him.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 3:37 PM
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208
i so agree, how i read the post, this detail just skipped my attention
so the asker was acting plain cheap
if she has money to eat out with a boyfriend, how she can complain about being broke and not be able to congratulate her friend
and the friend demanding an expensive meal, is just ridiculous, so mercantile strange friendships


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 5:18 PM
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Looking back over the whole thread...

My point of divergence would come when the friend suggested a specific list of restaurants. That's where I'd just say "Those are all good places, but my budget's tight right now. How about X, Y, or Z?", where those are all places I can manage. There are a few circumstances in which I'll let someone dictate the precise content of a birthday gift or related goodie, but not many, and this just isn't one of them. I would naturally and without fuss take those as suggestions and move on from there, rather than feeling I had to pick one of them.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 7:15 PM
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I haven't yet had Iranian food at a restaurant that impressed me as better than homemade.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-12-08 7:29 PM
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208: don't entirely agree, because:
a) the speaker doesn't have the money
b) saying that having a meal with a friend isn't the top priority is something we all do. If a close friend suggested that I take them out to a £400 dinner, I'd be in the same situation; i) I don't have £400 to spare and ii) if I did, I'd take the gf away for a weekend or something along those lines, rather than blowing it all on a dinner with someone I see every month or so anyway.

But it's moot, because I don't have any friends who'd make such a crass suggestion anyway. The closest any of them have got is a quiet suggestion that it's my round.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:10 AM
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Dude, this is a perfect opportunity to *spell it out* to your friend that you are broke and can't afford what he can.

What you do is; have a decent meal before he picks you up - something pretty filling. Don't tell him that. Get to the fancy restaurant he picked: let him choose his meal from the menu, and what he's going to drink.

Don't order anything yourself. Not a starter, not a dessert, not an entree, not a drink, nothing. If he's ordered a bottle of wine. have a glass - just one.

Don't explain, don't complain. When he asks - and eventually he will - tell him; "You picked the restaurant. I told you I can't afford a dinner for two here: so I'm buying *you* dinner, and I'll have a sandwich at home."

Then be bright, cheerful, and chatty the rest of the night. Don't let him skimp on the main course or dessert, don't let him share with you, and of course make sure you pay, not him (if necessary, by paying at the till, not asking for the bill). You leave the tip.

If he complains, turn it off: "It's your birthday dinner! I don't want to be cheap." But say "I can't afford it" once and only once, and never sound like you're complaining about it. Just be cheerful and pleasant.

With any luck, it'll be such an excruciating experience for him that he'll never again suggest you take him out to a restaurant you've said you can't afford.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:22 AM
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Heh. You're a really mean, nasty person, Jes. I like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:32 AM
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