Tag Archives: Dining

Put The Baby Down


Picture if you will a lovely restaurant: equal parts festive and posh, a place where you’re as likely to spot birthday celebrations as celebrities. The lights are dim, the tablecloth routinely brushed to hide your shame and the prices are calibrated to reflect all this. It’s a proper time of night to be dining; somewhere between post early bird special and post theatre. It’s late enough that generous amounts of skin and inebriation are on display. As are the babies. And by ‘babies’ we are not casting dispersions on the nieces/dates of men eligible for monthly federal checks and movie discounts. We instead refer to actual babies too young to sit, let alone eat solids. Why? Why are babies having their night feeding in an upscale restaurant (late in the evening)? The babysitter canceled at the last minute? Perhaps, but that would suggest that a babysitter was procured in order for the adults to have an adult experience. If that were the case, upon cancelation wouldn’t the take-out menus come out? It’s more probable that the baby makes three, in every conceivable way.

The particular baby in question was silent (to the point where someone who maybe had one too many french martinis would’ve thought it was a doll and the whole thing was a prank.) Yet the (assumed) father futzed and fussed over the infant seat throughout the meal. There were bottles, there was bouncing, there was picking up and walking about (for a silent baby.) There’s a pretty good chance that the person being comforted was the father. Not everyone is comfortable in social situations. There is quite a continuum between introversion and extroversion, and most people are a wee bit closer to introversion. Sometimes a little psychic or physical prop is all that’s needed to smooth the way. Smoking once served that purpose. One could take long breaks from patter with a drag a flick or a light. Drinking has always served that purpose (and many more.) Having a glass of champagne while dressing, meeting for a drink before dinner, or ordering a drink before dinner are all ways to smooth out the awkward edges. There are people who use their own appearance to distance themselves and/or gain comfort in social situations. Style can be used as armor or distraction or even take the place of conversation. A grown person who’s dyed their hair bright blue sends a message of “let’s just talk about my hair.” A person who’s dressed in baggy neutrals while toting a small person styled for her/his close-up, is saying “please just focus on my child.”

The child as “detractor” is at its roots more neutral than noxious. If we had to choose only one of two parenting approaches, focusing on the child rather than ignoring the child would win hands down. But somewhere past “focusing” on the child lies “using” the child and that’s just plain icky. Children are not accessories and should not pave the way for adults. Using your child to ease your social phobias is no more kosher than using your child to fulfill your waylaid dreams. Sure there could be other reasons that baby or toddler is at the restaurant, wedding, funeral (!) or dinner party. But it is challenging to imagine any explanation that is actually in the best interest of the child. Children (of any age) actually benefit from other’s care. Creating a fear of non-family members increases the odds that a child will ‘inherit’ social phobias. A babysat child learns that other adults are trustworthy and that the world is not comprised of strangers. The child gains knowledge and perspective from other adults, and the parent creates/maintains/nurtures his/her own identity and relationships, which is an important thing to model for a child.


Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Childhood, Cultural Critique, Well-Being


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I’ll Have What She’s Having

Have you noticed the latest fall-out from the “restaurant as theatre” syndrome?  It seems now an expectation that the selection and consumption of food should be a communal experience.  Forks fly and plates are shuttled back and forth in an attempt to “try” as many menu items as possible.  To me this is somewhat tantamount to talking during a performance.  Please be quiet and please remove your fork from my plate.  I’d like to enjoy what I’ve selected without interruption please.

I am not anti-communal dining.  I enjoy a good potluck or buffet.  However there is something intrinsically self indulgent about dining out.  Perhaps it is just my emotional make-up that makes me relish having someone prepare something for me that I know I’ll enjoy.  I’m not interested in experiencing other people’s personal tastes or selections.  I would like just 30 minutes or so to enjoy exactly what I asked for.  Considering how rarely I dine out, I don’t feel too Veruka Salt saying this.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I’ve never been that great at group endeavors.  I failed at the one-week session of Girl Scout day camp, begging my mother to allow me to quit.  I was asked to leave Brownies after being inconsolable upon learning there would be no actual brownies.  The very idea of a sorority made my chest constrict.  I never did the “summer share.”  In fact my number one goal as a young adult was to rid myself of roommates and live alone.
Before one makes the logical conclusion; “sociopath!!!!” let me assure you, I am very socially functional and a good little sharer.  I toss books, clothes, shoes and advice, hither and yon.  I take great pleasure in the daily opportunities there are for human kindness.
But when it comes to mealtime, I’m not sure I’ve ever graduated past the Bread and Jam for Frances phase of life.  I (and my sister for that matter) could eat the same thing everyday for the remainder of our solid food lifetimes.  My packed lunchbox is as exciting to me as a Faberge Egg.  All morning I look forward to the predictable contents.  And for the record, I have been known to share some of it as well.

I’m just not that interested in what others choose to eat.  Make no mistake, I am thrilled to be invited to a homemade meal or catered affair.  I am not harboring any Howard Hughes idiosyncrasies about what I ingest.  It’s just that when I dine out, if it isn’t too much to ask, I’d rather not have the table turn into a giant lazy susan.  All personal food choices aside, isn’t it simply more civilized to not play Red Rover, Red Rover over a white tablecloth?

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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Table Manners

Celebrity interviews seem to always include a question about celebrity itself.  This question is answered more often than not with the wholesale disingenuous; “Well, it does get me a good table in a restaurant.”  No doubt this reply has become shorthand for; “I am hesitant to admit what we all know, which is in fact that I am worthy of special treatment.”  Okay, that’s fine.  I have no issue, per se, with self-delusion.

What does baffle me, is what in the world a “good table” is?  For me it means; clean, not directly under the air conditioning or speaker system, non-teetering and the right size for the party.  But I think it means something entirely different in this context.  Recently I watched a (current) movie in which a diva character pitched a fit about not being at a “good table.”  I’ve even had dining companions make reference to “getting a good table.”  Clearly, once again, I am socially clueless.

I am almost certain that there are few if any tables actually by the kitchen door.  (I’m thinking of the night club scenes in On The Town and certain Carol Burnett sketches.)  So what then is the criteria for a “good table” and what exactly does it have to do with the dining experience?  I suspect perhaps it has something to do with visibility?  But this is where it gets tricky.  To be seen or not to be seen, that is the question.

If you consider yourself a celebrity, is being seen a plus?  Can’t being too visible threaten one’s air of elusiveness?   Doesn’t being front and center in a venue filled with one’s lessers merely tempt intrusion and hangers on?  Or is a “good table” one in fact that allows a peaceful dinner, similar to those had by mortals?  If so, wouldn’t the party be better served in private (a la Nicky Arnstein?)

Perhaps it means nothing.  A temporary and disposable bon mot meant to fill a void.  If you look at a paper moon long enough…

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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