It has been literally years since Emily and I have had a night out without children. As part of Emily’s birthday celebration recently, she and I went out with friends for a grown up dinner. So it was a very special evening on many levels. The restaurant was chosen with care and we were excited to be dressing up and getting to be adults for the evening. A Cinderella story for sure.
We left Joita with the two younger girls, armed with pizza and a special dessert (as well as the television remote). Emily looked fantastic in one of her casual dresses and summer sandals. I wore black jeans, a nice button-down shirt and dress shoes (all men’s). We were positively giddy as we skipped out of the house and hopped into the car.
The restaurant was fancy (keep in mind that the local pub is my barometer of elegance), dimmed lights and quiet despite the crowd. A completely lovely atmosphere. Our waiter was a young man who radiated earnestness. He materialized at our table literally every 90 seconds to check in. To be perfectly honest, that was kind of irritating. If I’d wanted my adult conversation to be interrupted by someone every minute and a half I would have stayed home with the children. At any rate, as not such a good eater (read that: I have a rather unrefined palate), I always get anxious dining in a new environment. As this was a more upscale restaurant than my peanut-butter and jelly tastes, I was worried that the menu would be too sophisticated for me and I wouldn’t find anything. No macaroni and cheese on the menu to be sure (even disguised as something else). I was focused on finding something I wanted to eat, so I didn’t recognize at first why I found the waiter so bothersome.
“How are we doing ladies?” he chirped next to my ear. “Would you ladies like to hear the specials? Or are you ladies ready for a drink?” “Perhaps you ladies are ready to order?” We politely asked for more time, dismissing him quietly. 90 seconds sure does go by fast because there he was again at my elbow in what felt like the blink of an eye, “Do you ladies have any questions? Or would you ladies care for drinks now?” We ordered drinks and listened to the specials. He was back with our drinks lickety-split, “Here you go ladies. Enjoy.” 90 seconds later, “Can I interest you ladies in appetizers?” And every 90 seconds after that: “How is everything ladies? Would any of you ladies like your drink refreshed? Can I get you ladies anything else? Would any of you ladies care for water? Ladies, do you need condiments? Can I take any dishes away ladies? Do any of you ladies want to see a dessert menu? Did you ladies enjoy your meal? Would any of you ladies like anything wrapped up to take home?
How about “Do any of you have a pronoun or address preference”?! Not one of my companions noticed. Nor did I expect them to. And even if they had, there was nothing they could have done without making a bigger deal than it was (or shaming me or shaming the waiter) anyway. And obviously, the waiter had no idea. And I know he was just trying to be nice and deferential and polite and all that. And look, I’ve been on the lowest possible dose of Testosterone for all of 3 seconds, I don’t look like a man. I get that. And it isn’t even that I want or expect to be addressed as such. At the same time, being called a lady every 2 minutes or so felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. Because as much as I don’t look like a man, I’m quite sure I don’t look like a lady either. By anyone’s standards. I guess what I wanted in this particular, or really in any situation, was to be considered. Have you not a flyspeck of common sense? Use a general *folks* if you must address us as a group. Or use no label at all. As in: “Can I get anyone here a drink?” Or, “How are you (interestingly, English has this as both a singular and plural acknowledgement) this evening?” But for the love of God, please stop calling me lady. It didn’t necessarily ruin my night, but it certainly was a major bummer.