ELDER MUSIC: Life on the Road
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Dining Out With the Opposite Sex While Married

This issue has been creeping into my mind unbidden for the two weeks or so since it happened. I can't seem to shake it.

At first, I didn't believe it was a topic for a blog about ageing. Then I recalled that a whole lot of us who hang out here spent a great deal of time and effort in our youth taking part in marches and other activities to promote equality for women. So we certainly do have a stake in this and maybe today's post will clear my head.

The eye-opening revelation was buried in a short paragraph halfway into a lengthy profile of Second Lady Karen Pence by reporter Ashley Parker in the Washington Post.

”In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”

VP Mike Pence

Before that one small sentence blew up the internet for a day or two, I thought it was fairly medieval but consistent with what I have come to know of Vice President Mike Pence which, that morning, led to a joke-y email exchange with a friend about Pence's apparent inability to trust himself sexually without his wife by his side.

We weren't the only ones to have that thought as the one-liners flying around the Twitterverse showed. But then the subject took a turn toward the serious. Some examples:





Maybe I'm slow but it had not occurred to me that there would be a Republican/Democratic divide on the issue. A lot of the Republican pushback carried a hysteria that is hard to fathom, as this one from Katie Pavlich at the conservative website and print magazine, Town Hall:

”This, somehow, has been twisted as 'extreme,' with some on the left comparing his actions to Sharia Law. In actuality Pence is smart and does a service not only to his wife, but to professional women working inside the Beltway. His decision to err on the side of respect has certainly paid off...

“Washington D.C. is often a sleazy, filthy town. The stories you hear about smoky backrooms are true. Go to any D.C. restaurant at happy hour and you'll see scores of married men surrounded by and engaged inappropriately with younger women who are not their wives.

“This city is a place where a small, but vicious and significant population of men and women crave power. They will stop at almost nothing to get it, which includes breaking up marriages.”

Is Ms. Pavlich trying to say that without his wife at his side, Vice President Pence would succumb to the sexual wiles and aggression of a power-hungry woman? Is that what she's telling us?

This whole thing is sexist from so many retrograde angles that it can hardly be untangled. Let us repeat what is really at stake here. This from Olga Khazan at The Atlantic:

”A cheesy bon-mot popular among lobbyists goes, 'in Washington, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.' In other words, if you don’t schmooze, you lose — and so does the agenda you’re pushing. If Pence literally won’t sit at the table with women, where does that leave women’s issues?”

Exactly. And further, while this debate was at its most heated, I heard a woman who described herself as an evangelical Christian tell a cable TV news host that she was taught from childhood that once people got married, they could not have friends of the opposite sex, and that is how it should be.

What a cramped, impoverished view of life that, worse, results in discrimination against half the population. This is not, as the political right would have it, a moral issue. It is a women's issue.

Over the years, I worked, traveled, shared meals and drinks with married male colleagues sometimes in groups and sometimes alone with one. We each brought our areas of expertise to the job we were responsible for and I felt lucky, too, that my life was enriched by knowing these interesting, smart people. I do not recall a single instance of sexual suggestion or discomfort and I had no idea until now that there could be any question about it.

One of the best overall critiques of the Pence family meal policy and its consequences I've found is by Jessica Valenti at The Guardian.


What I find interesting is, there are a group of men who prefer the company of other men...and they are gay.

I found the original disclosure repulsive and demeaning. And so sexist as to be breathtaking.

What a nasty horrid little man.

I pity the girls and young women of today with 45 and Pence as his backup as the leaders of the "free world".


The world has gone crazy! It's so disheartening to see what is happening in the world today but one used to be able to count on some sanity in the United States. Not anymore. I find it very hard to cope with the downward and backward spiral I see weekly.

It takes both sexes to accept this archaic view—right wing, and especially evangelical women subscribe to it. Our only comfort is that, if we work at exposing this, we may see a change in the White House in a few years. Meanwhile, write, talk, Twitter, and post as if your life depends on it—because it does!

I assume Pence also won't eat alone with an adult daughter. Like his boss said about his own child, he might be tempted to "date" her. On the other hand, at least Pence hasn't specified that only young women were off limits. Makes me feel like a real vamp, that does.

Ms. Pavlich's description of Washington DC made my skin crawl. It also confirmed my suspicions' about what goes on in that city. If it is true that all the people who "represent" us are money hungry power brokers, than we, as a nation, are doomed.
BTW, except for business reasons (or an old maid aunt) why would any married guy be going out with a single women without his wife present or, at least, without her knowing about it?

Certainly an outmoded point of view; but surely he can invite other people along if he has a business meeting, and he's only handicapping himself when he refuses to go to an event without his wife. My question: Is there ANYTHING we can't be polarized about?

When I first heard the quote I wondered if it meant he was so lecherous he couldn't trust himself around other women ... or ... he thought other women are so lecherous he didn't dare be alone with them. Neither speaks well of him and both indicate indicate (to me, at least) an extreme religious conservatism that I'd never want to see in the presidency. At the time I only saw it as the peculiar hangup of one man, not a broader women's issue. Of course, if it means he thinks his wife is the only worthwhile, trustworthy woman in the world ... ouch.

...another thought is, if Pence is this "devout" to the sanctity of his religion and his wife, by then agreeing to be the unscrupulous Trump's VP-does this mean his lust for power entirely drowns his fledgling beliefs????

I see Pence as just another hypocrite posing as a devout religious person. What a narrow minded individual he is.

We are doomed for four more years no matter what happens. If they succeed in getting rid of the idiot in the White House we will be stuck with a misogynist who will take away every right a woman now has. And if he should miraculously resign, we are stuck with that power hungry dolt, Ryan and so on down the line.


Lol! Lyla said it above... can't have dinner by yourself with a professional woman, but if I remember correctly, more than one straight, conservative GOP politician has given or received a blow job in the MEN's room... you know, that place of sanctimonious, safe, pure male interaction!

And believe me, I don't care what they're doing in there but to insinuate that it's not ok to have a professional interaction with a female colleague at dinner is beyond ridiculous. He's clearly stating that he doesn't trust HIMSELF to act appropriately and therefore cannot be trusted be in the presence of any woman besides his wife without making sexual advances.

God, I get so tired of these people... including all the journalists who now label the idiot in the White House "presidential" because he bombed Syria. Apologies if I offended anyone.

We shouldn't forget there's an election in 2018 where some of the balance can be restored if only people who were stunned by this election get out and VOTE!

When I first read this about Mike Pence, my initial reaction was that I couldn't understand why women would find him so irresistible.

Darlene, above, said exactly what I've been thinking after the "dining with a woman" nonsense came along.

The only thing I could possibly add to her post is "religious zealot" but on rereading her post, I see she's got that covered too!

How totally ridiculous, VP Pence! Of course, Pence's stand could have an adverse effect on professional women who might possibly need or want to conduct business over a meal. Like much of the current administration's activity, it sends a message of inequality, condescension and less-than.

As far as Pence goes, welcome to religious fundamentalism Christian-style. I cannot help but agree that, if Pence were a Muslim man defending gender segregation on religious grounds, the Wingnut Right would be calling for his head; well, not literally-- that's an ISIS thing, at least so far. There's ample evidence that The Orange Apparition personally views women as little more than servants (of one kind or another). So we have a secular sexist president and a religious sexist VP, but the result for women is the same: we'll be shown "our place" at every opportunity.

It might be well to keep in mind that fundamentalism in ANY form is extremely dangerous, especially to women and minorities. Even in America, even in 2017, even with the positive changes over the past 50 years, the "default" when it comes to privilege and power is still White Male.

What the?

The dude has some weird rules.

Makes me wonder.

Darlene as usual hit this on the head of the nail.
I was the first woman in a formerly all male technical job. I learned as much about the job at lunch when we'd have a moment to go thru a particular situation without standing in a street yelling over the noise of passing cars.
It took a couple of years for full acceptance of women... the second and third women to join the crew were more easily accepted.
Pense wants to put women back in 1970 and earlier. Pre freedom of basic female rights isn't part of his conservative view.
His comment is foolish to the extreme. Frankly I think Trump is a big buffoon. Pense is scary frightening in his absolutes and certaintude.

Two incidents when last I worked:

a) I was told that if I wanted to be included in decision-making at our company I should show up at a certain bar every night and expect to spend a couple of hours schmoozing so as to be one of the guys. I declined.

b) I was offered what he thought was a step up -- to be the CEO's personal assistant. When I pressed as to what my duties would be, they included picking up his cleaning at the dry cleaners, running errands for him, chauffeuring business client/visitors, etc. At the time I was already running two departments, supervising six women, making decisions regarding shipments (container shipments overseas, factoring contracts, drawing up purchase agreements, etc. And he thought he was offering me a promotion!

I was taken aback, but somehow I tactfully declined the offers and still had my job at the end of the day.

Men have a whole different idea of what we consider a promotion.

The Pence attitude -- widely shared among too many unreconstructed men and women -- is that the opposite sex exists SOLELY as sex itself. There's no person across the table, just an occasion of scary urges. Poor things. What a cramped world they live in -- and want to cage the rest of us in!

It's five a.m. I'm reading the comments again.

Buckle in, this might be long.

Class of 65's comment reminded me of the years I spent working in offices.

Typing mostly. Long engineering reports, lots of tables, mistakes, whiteout, start over. Crappy typewriters.

It's in my memoir.

My job Included making coffee for bosses, some of whom sat reading the paper with their canoe feet up on their desks while I typed a stack of work and tried to decipher their handwriting.

The prevailing attitude back then was, since we secretaries made peanuts compared to the bosses, our time was worth less, so my job included brewing and serving coffee.

Imagine the joy in my heart the day I walked away from 13 years of secretarial work at many companies.

By that I mean leaving the Dolly Parton 9 to 5 (the movie) for my lifelong goal of becoming the teacher I had in kindergarten.

She was the best.

My last boss laughed when I said I was going back to school to become a teacher.

He said that was a waste of time.

Right, Mister Canoefeet.

Three years later..

I was decorating my first classroom.

In 1992 I received an Award for Teaching Excellence from my school board.

It's hanging on the wall of my home office, alongside other credentials earned at university night classes.

Who is laughing now?

Dolly Parton and me.

Doctafill, way to do it your way.
Cheers to ya!

ok at the risk of getting flamed I'm going to make a "different" comment. I'm male, almost 70, moved to Indiana recently (have no love for Pence and glad he is out of here), have managed and worked world-wide with people of all sexes and nationalities before I recently retired and am a life long Democrat originally from NY. So not in any way a Pence or Trump fan.

A story...
Once, many years ago, I lived in a small town and managed a team of folks. My style at the time was to do one-on-one lunches with everybody as part of my "how are you doing in the job" discussions. After one such lunch with a female employee I saw a table of ladies who knew my wife and I. Realizing the situation might be misconstrued (small towns being what they are) I stopped by the table and introduced my co-worker and mentioned this was a "lunch with an employee" event.

Why? Because both of our reputations and intentions would be suspect if I had not done this.

I still did the one-on-one lunches with employees all of my career but I had to establish a pattern of this so there were no misunderstandings. I had absolutely no idea that I was so desirable that I had to "protect myself" from my diner companion or that I could not control myself.

So I offer another "spin" on this "rule".

If I were a public figure, where any action is open to misunderstanding and comment without reason, I might be very careful not to put myself in a position where even a simple lunch with a woman alone would cause "tongues to wag" or the press to misconstrue the situation. The only way to do this "fairly" would be to just avoid this altogether - regardless of who the woman was.

I am not saying this is why Pence has this rule. But I can see a reason why a person in his position might want to establish this type of arrangement.

Just something to consider.

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