Bateman is having lunch with his old Harvard girlfriend, Bethany. He’s nervous, convincing himself that since she called him she must want to see (or have sex with) him. He couldn’t sleep the night before, and wrote Bethany a poem – something he used to do when they dated. That morning, the topic on “The Patty Winters Show” was “Has Patrick Swayze Become Cynical or Not?”
Bateman’s past relationship with Bethany is clearly something he has insecurities about; no other character, especially no woman, makes him act this way. The daily topic of “The Patty Winters Show” is definitely a strange one, signifying that Patrick’s mental state could be less than 100% clear on this day.
The maître d’, a young gay man, brings Bateman over to the table where Bethany is already seated – she looks beautiful. Bateman complains about a couple smoking nearby and insists they be reseated in the nonsmoking section. The maître d’ tells him there isn’t one. As he takes his seat, Bateman is extremely nervous, even shaking. Bateman nervously makes small talk, asking if his hair is okay and if Bethany watched “The Patty Winters Show” today; she thinks the topic sounds quite strange. Bateman tells her about the poem he wrote, and hands her a folded piece of paper from his pocket, encouraging her to read it. The poem is incredibly violent, filled with graphic language and racial slurs. Bethany is taken aback, but Bateman tells her to keep on reading, despite the looks they’re receiving from those around them.
Bateman smokes often and has smoked in restaurants a number of times in the novel, often having no consideration for those around him. His conflict with the maître d’ over the lack of nonsmoking section is an attempt for Bateman to display his dominance in front of Bethany and increase his confidence in this situation that unsettles him. Bateman has written a poem for Bethany – a slightly awkward thing to do for a first meeting with an ex-girlfriend – and makes her read aloud a disgusting and offensive poem. Because his feelings towards Bethany have mixed up his thinking, he reveals to her his dark side in a twisted and public way.
When a waiter arrives at their table, Bateman, displeased with the entire beer selection, orders a scotch, while Bethany orders a water. Bateman is incredibly tense, blurting his answers at the waiter, attacking his grammar, and interrupting constantly. Once the two are finally able to get through their order, Bethany notices that Bateman’s leg is shaking uncontrollably. “It’s the music,” he tells her, before launching into a strange conversation about new age music and the recent concerts he’s seen (U2). Bethany is polite and humors him, despite his strange behavior. Bateman asks her about her work and she about his, though she tells him she doesn’t want to talk about work, and if Bateman’s job is such a burden for him, he should quit – he doesn’t have to work, after all.
Clearly thrown off, Bateman is trying to overcompensate in his efforts to come off as cool and powerful, and ends up acting foolish in his interactions with the waiter. This is a blundering side of Bateman that we haven’t seen before. His attempts to make small talk are an unsuccessful cover for his erratic behavior and lack of composure, and Bethany seems to almost pity Bateman. Bethany’s suggestion that Bateman not work reveals not only the extent of his family’s wealth (though this can be inferred, especially from his dinner with Sean) but just how dependent Bateman is on his job as a status symbol; without it, he wouldn’t be who he is.
Bateman struggles to make his way through the lunch, his behavior erratic as he attempts to eat, whispering across the table and trying to hold Bethany’s hand. He comes to attention when Bethany asks if he’s seeing anyone. Though he thinks of Evelyn, he circles around the question and rebuffs it. He asks Bethany the same thing. She is; she’s dating the chef at Dorsia. Bateman becomes hostile, interrogating her as to why she is with him, if she wants to be married, have children. She’s taken aback, and reminds Bateman that he and her boyfriend were friends at school. “But he was a fag,” Bateman blurts out in response. According to Bateman, he used to get gang-banged by jocks at frat parties. Bethany is unsure how to respond, but assures Bateman that her boyfriend is definitely not gay. Bateman calms down and allows Bethany to discuss her boyfriend. While she does, he daydreams, remembering a girl he murdered his junior year of college.
Bethany’s revelation that she is dating the chef at Dorsia is a deeply ironic attack on Bateman’s dominance. His ex-girlfriend, a woman who, like all others, he feels should be clamoring for his attention and affection, is dating one of the leaders of the one exclusive institution he hasn’t been able to access on his own. This upsets him very much, and so he lashes out at Bethany and her relationship, trying to delegitimize it by attacking Bethany’s boyfriend’s sexuality (and, thus, masculinity). As Bateman’s thoughts begin to turn towards violence, we get a new understanding of how he uses violence as a coping mechanism, an outlet or escape from facing his problems or insecurities.
When they finish lunch, Bethany pays with her own platinum American Express card and waits for Bateman outside while he throws up his squid lunch in the men’s room. He convinces her to come back to his apartment. She is reluctant, but after a long back and forth and Bateman nearly begging, she agrees, citing the wine that she “shouldn’t have had” at lunch. Inside Bateman’s apartment, Bethany takes a moment to look around, and points out that Bateman’s David Onica has been hung upside down. Meanwhile, Bateman has put on black leather gloves and fetched a nail gun.
Bateman’s self-conscious anger has been rising throughout the lunch, and it seems Bethany’s insistence on paying the bill (for Bateman, an attack on his masculinity) is only reinforces it. From there, he puts into action a plan of violence, manipulating Bethany and taking advantage of the fact that she’s been drinking in order to get her back to his apartment. Her comment over the David Onica, implying that Bateman is not truly educated in his fine tastes, is the final straw for Bateman, as he begins a horrific and incredibly personal attack on Bethany..
Bateman turns Bethany around, nail gun in her face, and screams about her boyfriend. She makes a panicked run for the door, but is unsuccessful. He stops her with several blows to the head before dragging her to the ground and pinning her down by nailing her fingers into the wood. He shoots nails into her hands and body, until she eventually pleads with him to please stop and not to kill her. Overcome with pain, Bethany vomits and passes out, and Bateman begins to gnaw at her fingers with his teeth. When Bethany comes to, Bateman has opened all the windows and set up a video camera. He cuts her clothes off and her tongue out, telling her to scream as much as he wants, and having sex with her bloody mouth until he climaxes. He screams at her, sprays mace in her face, and tells he she was wrong about the kind of suit he was wearing – “Dumb bitch.”
Bateman clearly wants Bethany to suffer greatly, and to know that her suffering is at his hands; that he is the one in power. In this incredibly grisly scene, we also see Bateman’s first move towards cannibalism, starting to bite at Bethany’s fingers – this tendency will grow later. We also see his first true incorporation of sex and violence. While before he would often have sex with women before turning violent, this is the first time he commits a sex act on a body he is in the process of torturing and killing. This will become regular practice for Bateman