I hate going out to dinner. There, I said it – and bolded it.
Conversely, I have always loved going out to breakfast and lunch. I’ve finally decided to decipher this discrepancy and offer up a formal defense of my last-meal-of-the-day loathing. Being on the verge of 50 gives me free rein to eschew when and where I am asked to chew.
Let me begin with the caveats. I absolutely loved suppertime in Cambodia because many restaurants there offer beds for the evening meal repose. I also enjoyed a Bedouin-style banquet in the Arabian Desert because we lounged for hours on blankets and pillows. And I will happily sit down for a picnic anytime anywhere.
Is being upright the source of my outrage? Is being outside the key to pleasing me? Am I the lone sufferer of oppositional dinner defiance disorder?
Everyone else I know loves going out for a big fancy feast — sitting around a table for hours on end, talking about this and that, sipping and slurping with aplomb. Meanwhile, this tactical maneuvering of mouths and mealtime apparatus drains me to the bone. I refer to this palate ballet as “negotiating flatware.”
Even though I can appreciate a well-set table — and pride myself on setting a fine one — I inevitably feel that the forks and knives are taking on a larger philosophical stratagem. The place setting actually begins to represent your place in the world. You are confined — literally in your place. I understand why the dish finally ran away with the spoon.
I would rather have sex on a first date than go out to dinner. I never understood why people thought sitting across the table from each other — napkins, plates and glassware with which contend — was a good way to make each other’s acquaintance. Freud would have a field day with my suggestion. But I’m simply arguing to appease oral fixations before sitting down to sup. Better yet, wake up with your new lover and head out for sausages.
So what makes breakfast and lunch different? To me, omelets and ham sandwiches come with less pomp and circumstance. People at diners and bistros are more efficient with their cutlery and economical with their language. Heck, with the right order, flatware can be circumnavigated altogether. Before 5 p.m., meals don’t come with an obligation to eat, drink and be merry.
I will, without complaint, go out to dinner with friends and family as circumstances and celebrations dictate. There, I will utilize my utensils with grace while suppressing my desire to kick the china to bits with my boots. Politeness rises above my fight-or-flight response. I’ve even been known to enjoy certain conversations, especially if they involve cannibalism.
My father – who had the manners of a true Southern Gentleman and the budget of a successful neurologist – loved to dine at some of the finest restaurants in the world. After settling into his chair, no doubt uncomfortable for his 6-foot-6-inch frame, Dr. Bercaw delicately placed his linen napkin in his well-dressed lap. When waiter requested a drink order, my big bad dad would look up with a gleam in his eye and say, “I’d like the apple pie first.”
There was a period of time when I recoiled in horror as my dad took a stab at social constructs by ordering desert first. But I grew to respect the act of putting a fork in it. A technique I have yet to perfect.