Chapter 9 - Chicken or Fish
With someone you love, food becomes politics.
We're in a restaurant and I'm about to eat a big fried piece of something crusty, and my loved one, very discreetly, gives me the little "Do you really want that?" look. I think, "She's probably right." And I pass.
Later -- during the same meal, she orders some Chocolate Sticky Pie of Death, and I, in the most loving tone I can muster, step into the ring with "Sweetie, are you going to be upset later if you eat that?"
She looks at me for a long time, tells the waiter to go away, and then flings one of those really big spoons at my throat.
I say, "Hey, wait a minute, you said the same thing to me."
She says, "Yeah, 'cause you don't mind."
"Right, because you said it out of Love. Out of Concern."
"So, if I say the same thing to you, wouldn't you naturally assume that I -- "
"Because I mind."
You see how it works? There are different eating rules for each of you. But, again, you don't know what they are until you've broken them.
We're out for dinner, the food comes, and I jump in. I grab the pepper thing and put some pepper on the food. I start eating.
And I notice I'm getting the look. I've done something wrong. I look up. "What?"
She skips the specific and goes straight to the general. Very sweetly: "Let me make it easy for you: If you ever have something, anything at all, please see if I'd like some."
I said, "Do you want pepper?"
She goes, "No, but I might."
"But you didn't actually want --"
"It would be nice of you to think of me."
"Okay, I understand that, but just to clarify about the pepper -- you don't want any."
"You're not interested in pepper."
"Not this time."
See? We were just setting the rules for next time.
Sometimes you have to make up rules as you go along.
My bride is trying not to eat meat. I try to be supportive.
"Do you want me not to eat this chicken in front of you?"
"No, no, it's fine."
" 'Cause I don't want you to be tempted and then eat it and feel bad about it."
"And I don't want you to make me feel bad about eating meat."
"No, no, I won't."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Eat the chicken."
Fine. So I'm eating the chicken, and I notice she keeps watching me eat.
I say, "What?"
She picks up my plate and with a real sad face says to my food, "I'm sorry people eat you, Mr. Chicken."
"What?" she says.
I say, "Don't do that."
I had to think for a second, then came up with, "Don't apologize to my food when I'm eating it."
Isn't that sad? That was the best rule I could think of. In case it ever came up again, and we needed to refer to a mutually agreed upon bylaw, I decreed that from that point forth, "Thou shalt not apologize to my food while I'm eating it."
That should pretty much cover it. With, of course, the universally accepted sub-clause: "And don't call my food 'Mister.'"
Chapter 12 -- The "Turn Around and Look"
I was recently out for dinner with my loved one and noticed a striking woman sitting a few tables over. Now, because I'm not an idiot, I made a point of not noticing her. You wouldn't believe how I didn't notice her. She could have burst into flames -- I'm telling you, I wouldn't have noticed.
My wife notices I'm not noticing.
She says, "She is cute."
"'Who?'" she says, mocking me. Miss 110 pounds of blonde over there."
I didn't even get credit for not looking. I was apparently whimpering like a dog trying not to go for the biscuit on his nose.
Now, if you're ever out with the One For Whom You've Forsaken All Others, and you do find you're inadvertently gazing at an Other, you can try to recover some dignity by pretending you're looking for some specific reason.
"Hey, Honey, doesn't that woman look like your cousin Cheryl?"
And if they want to cooperate, they'll say, "Where? Her ? She looks nothing like Cheryl." And you laugh it off. "I guess I'm just a big idiot," and you keep walking.
Or, you say, "Hey, look at that girl over there. She's got a stomach like a guy."
Your loved one turns around. "Where?"
"Oh, you can't see it now. She just sat down."
The key to this one is bringing it up first. Otherwise, you have that much more ill will to overcome.
Now again, I'm not proud of this behavior. I'm just passing it on to you, the consumer.
Sometimes, you can both stare at people and enjoy a rousing game of "Let's Figure Out What's Wrong With Them." Fun in airports, restaurants, wherever you go.
"See that girl over there -- with the earrings? She's with security. Used to be CIA."
"Okay. The guy over there -- eating by himself? Just broke up with his girlfriend."
"No, she left him."
"For her aerobics instructor."
"Okay, okay, okay -- the lady over there, with the two kids? Those are not her children."
"She's not even related."
"She takes different children out every weekend, because she loves children but is sadly unable to have any of her own."
"Because of a radiation leak in the town where her husband used to work."
"Which killed him, by the way."
"Yeah, because otherwise, how come he's not here?"
Watching other couples is even more fun. You can make up stories and be really judgmental at the same time.
"Oh, they're not happy at all."
"No, they're not. . . Look how he doesn't look at her when she's talking."
"Just keeps eating his soup. . . she's talking, he's eating. . . "
"You know, they haven't made love in over five months."
"Because he's cheating on her."
"And she knows about it."
"Of course she knows."
"That's what she's talking about. She knows who the woman is, where they've been meeting. . ."
"And he can't look up because she'll see it in his eyes --"
"And she'll know she's right."
"Of course she's right."
"Makes me sick."
Of course, sometimes it backfires and blows up in your face.
"See that couple over there?"
"Look how he keeps squeezing her arm. And he really looks at her when she's talking. I love that."
"I look at you when you're talking. . . I mean, not now, because we're looking at them, but ordinarily. . . "
"Are they more affectionate than us?"
"They look really affectionate."
"They're not. They're exactly the same amount affectionate as we are. In fact, if anything, less so."
Then we watch them a little more desperately, looking for flaws.
"Do you like her hair?"
"Just tell me my hair doesn't look like that."
"You can't even compare. You have beautiful hair, and hers is all dyed and yucky and stupid. She has stupid hair."
"She really does, doesn't she?"
"I'm telling you."
A moment. "Then how come he's so affectionate?"
From the Paperback edition.