did woman kill chivalry?

Last week I was out to dinner with Olivier. We had gone to Normandy for a few days, and ended up in Honfleur where I had lobster with Dijon mustard for the first time ever. It was great, but not quite as awesome as lobster with butter, as we roll back in the Northeast.

Although it was I who chose and ordered the red wine, the waiter served it to Olivier to try, without even acknowledging my existence, then waited for confirmation that it was satisfactory. The fact that I was the one calling the wine shots seemed of little concern to the waiter, and honestly, I was a bit peeved. I wasn’t pissed because I hadn’t been the one to try the wine despite having ordered it (OK, the kid in me was), but because this was the first time this had ever happened to me. No matter whom I’ve been with, whoever orders the wine, male or female, tastes it. IT’S HOW DINING IN THE WORLD WORKS.

I felt like I was not at the table as Chatel, but as Olivier’s woman. Olivier, a feminist, told me that this was not the case and to calm down. I wasn’t a happy camper.

A few days later, again at dinner (there’s a lot of food to be eaten in France), I noticed I had been given a menu that didn’t have the prices on it, but Olivier’s did. I had long heard about these elusive menus, and had even been to a few restaurants in my life that had them, but they never bothered me the way it did this time. Did I look as though I can’t afford to buy my own meal? That I can’t understand numbers because I’m a girl, and supposedly math and science just aren’t my jam?

Under usual circumstances, I would have gotten over it pretty quickly by chalking it up to an archaic tradition that exists to keep that corner of the patriarchy feeling powerful. But after the wine incident, I started wondering if we were moving backward when it came to etiquette and gender roles.

If I’m the one out making the big bucks and my partner is a stay-at-home dad, does he still get the menu with the prices? Did it really seem so strange that I was treating Olivier to dinner that night? That I was the one who picked up the check although it was all but dropped in Olivier’s lap? Is this not 2013?

I’m the first to admit that I adore chivalry. Although I know I can get the door for myself, I do enjoy it when a man, or actually anyone for that matter, doesn’t let it slam in my face. I like the idea of being treated by my partner, but I also like the idea of treating him, too. I’d find it endearing if someone I’m dating would tear his coat from his body and toss it over a puddle so I can cross without getting wet as if we’re in a 18th century novel. And when a gentleman opens my car door before he gets in himself, I all but swoon! Why? Because I’d do the same thing, as it’s just straight-up manners and called being alive.

Chivalry is not dead; it just looks differently than it did in the past.

I realize for older generations and some cultures, gender roles will always be very specific for them (lady in the kitchen and man in the office). But for me, I can’t help but be mildly offended when my presence is overlooked simply because I’m a woman because of these “old” ways of thing. So, although I wanted to flip that table when the wine went to Olivier, and give the manager at the restaurant a few days later a lecture on equality, I kept my cool. (And as a hothead, I can promise you it was hard.)

It’s not an easy task to keep yourself from losing your shit in the face of sexism, even if that sexism isn’t exactly intended, but based on old ideas. Don’t you fret, my furry pets! With these few pointers, you can “Be cool! Bitch, be cool!” too.

Breathe. Breathing is important because it brings your rage down, and also keeps you alive. Counting will also help in these cases, as well as proving to those around you that women are – gasp! – good with numbers.

Hum a happy song softly. Whenever I find myself in a situation where I want to react like a lunatic and likely make a scene, I hum. Humming, apparently, soothes me. So, maybe it will soothe you, too. I’m a big fan of “Silent Night” in these situations.

Don’t flip that table. You may want to, but don’t. If ever there were a scene to be made, flipping the table would be part of it. (And what a waste of all that wine!)

Eye contact. Whether it’s a waiter, or some douchebag who refuses to acknowledge you because he just straight-up doesn’t care women, force him to SEE you. Then try not to tell him to go fuck himself.

Don’t make assumptions. Considering this particular waiter’s age, I could have assumed his behavior was just based on his upbringing in an era long gone. And depending on where you are in the world, you could also assume your treatment (or lack there of) is because of cultural or religious reasons, but don’t do that. Sexism doesn’t solely belong to one group of people, and to stereotype makes you no better than them.

Assert your “I am woman…” theme song. There’s nothing wrong with speaking up by asking for a menu with the prices, stepping in front of a man who just walked in the shop and is being catered to although you’ve been ignored for 15 minutes, or kindly pointing out to a waiter that you have a tongue for tasting, too. Depending on where you are, you may not get the sweetest of responses, but there’s nothing wrong in showing someone that you’re alive. You know, because you are.

Yes, this may be 2013, and yes, feminism may be celebrated in different ways all around the globe, but the truth is that we still live in a world that has a hard time seeing women as equals. Yes, the wine and menu scenarios are ridiculously small in the fight for equality, but they’re also the results of the trickling down effect from a faucet that someone forgot to turn off long ago.

Let’s keep that faucet off so we can all avoid flipping tables and making scenes in the presence of Dijon lobster. Deal?

Photo: MadameNoire