Friday, June 17, 2011

Dated Dating Accomidation

"But what will YOU eat?"
It's become something of a sticking point at work that when any group of greater than one person is trying to decide where to go for lunch, much precious time is lost in the deciding.  It's much the same with any group of friends: rarely is their anyone so confident in their preferences that they state that we "must" go somewhere.  Nobody wants to give the first suggestion and then be shot down.  Inevitably, we all stand around being overly accomidating, telling each other we'd happily go anywhere and that it "doesn't matter."

I had a similar experience with a woman I was joining for dinner recently.  She is a vegetarian -- I know this from previous conversations where she makes plain that she doesn't eat meat.  This isn't really a problem for me: I don't eat meat by "design", merely familiarity.  It's not a food that I particularly need to have at each meal.  My breakfasts usually never contain meat, and the other two meals depend largely on what I cooked or prepared.

In any case, I took this as an opportunity to try a restaurant in Kansas City called "FÜD", pronounced "food".  You know it's got to be good if you have to tell people how to pronounce it!  It's a restaurant that prides itself on being local and organic and vegan.  What better place to take a vegetarian date?

As she sat down in my car, she asked, "So where should we go for dinner?"

I lead with my good card.  "What about FÜD?", being careful to say it clipped like a Glaswegian because that amuses me: "foot".

"But what will you have?"

"I'll just have... err... what do you mean?"

She looks at the dashboard in thought. "Well, you aren't vegetarian."

"No, I'm not," still unsure where she's heading.

She tilts her head compassionately.  "I don't want to force vegetarian dinner on you..."

I explain that I can eat lots of things and have no trouble eating a meal without animal products.  "I'm not a strict carnivore, or anything.  I'll eat practically anything that doesn't still have eyes attached!"

"But I feel bad that you have to 'bend to my weird eating'.  We should go somewhere where you can get something you want."

I no longer know how to play this situation -- AT ALL.  "I'm sure I can find lots of things to eat.  Besides you're the one who has a specialized diet," I try to point out, being both logical and helpful. 

Danger tone.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

Me, driving slowly towards exasperation.  "Imagine a big square that has all the things I eat inside.  Your square is slightly smaller, since it doesn't have the meat in it."

She begins helping herself to umbrage.  "This isn't some kind of contest that you can win by eating more things."

Me: "I'm not trying to win dinner.  I just want a place where we can both order from the entire spectrum of the menu.

And so it goes.

We did eventually settle on dinner.  At a steakhouse.  She had a salad.

*** *** ***

I may not have wanted to "win" dinner, but I think both of us lost.  One of my many faults is that there are some topics where I cannot conceal what I'm thinking.  If I think someone doesn't understand what I'm saying, I tend to get all rational and professorial, breaking the problem down into simplified pieces.  It's like trying to triumph in a Socratic method conversation.

It usually sounds patronizing.  Which is not something I want to be, ever.  I fully confess that I probably could have stopped about two sentences in during the above conversation and simply said, "Where would YOU like to go?"  Then perhaps she'd say something, I'd say "sounds delicious", and we'd be off. 

So who's the more obsequious diner?  Me, for going to a restaurant I wouldn't normally go to so I could accommodate her dining preferences?  Or her, for going to a restaurant she wouldn't normally go to, accommodating my dining preferences?

She didn't want to be a bother.  I wanted to give her one meal free from the "tyranny of the omnivores". 

And I still don't have any idea what happened.

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