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Why does being 'treated' provoke such anxiety in some?

It seems that time after time whenever one dining partner decides to pick up the check for someone at the end of a meal, anxiety ensues. ("I missed your birthday last week, I'd like to treat tonight." or "I had no idea you got a promotion, please the meal is on me in celebration.")

Then it inevitably turns into a bargaining situation: "Oh no, no, no, that's not necessary." " OK, then let me get the tip." "Drinks at the next place we go to are on me."

No, No and No.

Why can't people just be gracious and say thank you? There is no power thing going on on the part of the friend picking up the check. I notice that the discomfort gets amplified when there are 3 or more people.

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  1. and there is little more awkward for the server than when guests are wrestling over the bill.

    people have forgotten how to behave graciously, i guess. a polite, "thanks so much" said sincerely would be much nicer for everybody.

    1. a friend of mine put a stop to that years ago, with a simple: "Can't I buy a friend a meatball sandwich?'
      now we simply trade off.
      On a visit to NYC, I bought the theater tickets, he bought the seats at the yankee game a few days later.

      1. As far as the amplification with 3 or more people, I'm sure every one else is thinking, maybe I should have offered or maybe we should all chip in or some such thing. Also in some cultures the birthday person is supposed to be the one treating everyone else so it depends on who you hang out with.

        1. we laid down a rule among our group of friends, if someone wants to buy you something...the correct reponse is *thank you*. Now, whenever it becomes an issue, I'll look at my dining partner wide-eyed and say, "Don't you know the rule?" it usually becomes a jokey thing and lets the person realize that they aren't being very gracious...much like the "can't I buy a friend a meatball sandwich?" that PB mentioned. Now as I joke, we've changed the correct response to "thank you. May I have another?"

          1. I think it's a personality thing. Some people don't mind treating back and forth, others feel like it's a lot to keep track of in their minds. In some cultures, it's an age issue, so if someone pays for the whole table it feels like that person's "older" or more "in charge" depending how you grew up. I live by the theory that it all evens out in the end and it's not worth worrying about. I have some friends with whom I usually split the bill evenly, others who switch off paying for meals here and there, and my younger sisters who I never let pay. I operate off the assumption that one day they'll spoil my kids rotten in return. Then there are people who take it too far for me, like an acquaintance who was bragging about buying her mom a car. The next time her own birthday rolled around, her parents bought her a car. To me, it seems like their family just likes to brag about giving each other big gifts.

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            1. re: Pei

              Holy Deadweight Loss, Batman!