“Who Plays the Husband and Who Plays the Wife?”: By Eric Marcus
August 7, 2007
We spent this past weekend at a lovely resort in the Berkshires with our straight couple friends, Bob and Debbie. It was all so totally normal that you could almost forget that being a gay couple was ever an issue anywhere (although I’m well aware that it remains a plenty big issue in many ways and in many places). But there were a number of reminders that we still live in a world that assumes couples come in bi-gender pairs. And not everyone has comfortably adjusted to the fact of our existence.
Like a lot of places we’ve traveled to, there was a welcome note from the manager waiting for us in the room when we arrived. We’ve kept a collection of these notes from over the years because it’s fun to look back to see how they’ve been addressed: Mr. & Mrs. Marcus or Mr. & Mrs. Karpfinger. Or the notes are addressed to the two of us by name or, as was the case this past weekend, the note was addressed only to my partner, presumably because it was his credit card under which the reservation was made (although they knew that the two of us would be occupying the room).
The real fun came at dinner the first night when the four of us were scanning our menus and discussing our choices. I commented on the cost of the various tasting menus and Barney asked where on the menu I was looking. “The bottom of every page,” I said, trying desperately to hide my impatience, because it was plain as day where the prices were listed. Then Debbie said, “I don’t see them either.” It seems that someone on the wait staff had decided that Bob and I were the husbands, hence the menus with the prices (the resort is a little old fashioned when it comes to its menus), and that Barney and Debbie were the wives who needed to be kept in the dark about what the meal was costing. We had a good laugh over that one, wondering what the conversation must have been like in the kitchen as they tried to figure out our marital roles. How did they decide? Was it my manly swagger? The way we took our seats (I let Barney choose where to sit and sat down after he did)? Or was it just our overall demeanor?
With Bob and Debbie it was fairly evident who wore the pants in the family (Debbie was wearing a lovely summer dress and Bob was in coat and tie), but the waiter had no idea whether it was Bob or Debbie who was the primary wage earner. In any event, the whole thing was way confusing and totally unnecessary. They could have simply asked us about our chosen roles or they could have made things easy for themselves and given us all menus that included the prices. (The idea of priceless menus seems a little silly anyway.)
If we really wanted to have some fun, we might have asked the waiter how they came to decide who got which menu. And maybe that would have been a good thing to do—a teaching moment, perhaps, so they could think about how to handle things differently the next time they encountered a same-sex couple. Or if we’d really wanted to have some fun we could have informed the manager that we were new age, post-feminist Mormans and that Debbie was the matriarch of our happy band. Debbie liked that idea best.
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