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Instead of splitting the check, this teetotaler will just split | New York Post

Ever wondered why we haven’t had dinner in ages even though you’re really fun, I love you dearly, and wouldn’t it be great to get together during the holidays? No, it’s not because you enjoy a glass or 10 and I’m a teetotaler. It’s because you enjoy a glass or 10 and then you suggest we split the check. Thanks for putting me in this lose-lose situation: Either I’m a cheap spoilsport or I get screwed. The third option only sucks a little less, and it’s the one I’ve picked: Like a coward, I’ve opted out without telling you why. That’s right: Now I avoid both shame and undue expense by not going out with check-splitters anymore. Sorry, Karen, Nick and Tom, I’m done subsidizing you. (Oh yeah, names have been changed to protect the oblivious guzzlers, soakers and lushes). Let’s say we’re at Perla in the West Village. Some at the table are sure to raid the bar. Glasses of wine start at $11.50. There’s a lonely $40 bottle on the list — but somehow it’s never the one that gets picked. Next thing we know, that innocuous-looking subsection for the alcohol tab is in the three figures. Yet when the bill comes, someone blithely says, “Let’s split it, it’s so much easier.” Rest assured it’s always one of the drinkers who thinks it’s so much easier. Alcohol is a well-known danger to math skills. You can point out that you drank tap water and you’d prefer it if everybody paid their share. That makes you the designated cheapster, annoying everybody with unnecessary calculations. New apps like Billr, Tab and Plates have made the process easier, but they don’t help with the psychological warfare: Volunteering your phone to figure out the check fairly still turns you into the buzzkill who just snuffed out the party. For years, I put on a brave face while seething inside, then pulled out my credit card and paid for my bloated share of the Chateau Selfish that everybody else had enjoyed. To those who say, “Big deal, it will all work itself out in the end,” I can only answer: No, it won’t. I’m not going to start drinking, so how is it going to work out in the end? Despite growing up in France — in a wine-making family! — I’ve never developed a taste for alcohol. I just don’t care for the stuff. And I’m not going to eat two entrées to make up for my part of the check. I don’t mind being around drinkers, but I do mind subsidizing them. This used to be worse when I was out of college and on a budget. I have a bit more money now, so I could easily pay my share of a split bill laden with $15 cocktails. But for me, it’s not about money, it’s about fairness. The only time I’m fine with splitting the check is if it’s someone’s birthday and we’re treating — plus going in knowing the deal makes it all easier to swallow (so to speak). Bill-splitting is such a touchy subject that game theorists have come up with something called “the unscrupulous diner.” If you go in knowing that the check will be split evenly, you will eat and drink more. If you know you will pay your share, you will think twice before ordering that extra bottle of Barolo. And this applies not just to non-drinkers, because bill-splitting gives headaches to a whole bunch of people. I’m sure the craze for small plates has wrecked friendships, for instance. The food seems like an excuse to sop up wine, and you end up forking over good money for a microscopic bite of caramelized cauliflower and half a goat-cheese ball. This is grating, but somehow less annoying than the booze problem. You just have to be the first one to the (small) plate. Vegetarians are in a similar rickety boat filling up with resentment — after all, a salad costs a fraction of a steak. As for me, my New Year’s resolution is to finally stand up for myself. Just because I don’t want to split the bill doesn’t mean I should also split off from my friends. And maybe I’ll order that porterhouse for two after all!
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