I almost always begin with my hands in the air. It’s not that I’m throwing them up in defeat, but rather, it’s my way of beginning an explanation while all my clever ideas tussle to come unstuck. My palms almost cupping imaginary, albeit wide set, breasts, do a little jig. It’s my charade of indecision, pantomiming my way through the zodiac to Libra’s weighty scales. “What? It’s who I am,” I finally say.
A backstory break: When Phil’s family last visited us in Austin, I was the buzzkill du jour. We had Norma at the helm, manning the home front and home fries, and we were ready set go on the restaurant scene. That is, as soon as we chose a restaurant. At that point, you could actually hear the buzz. It was killed along with any excitement due to my dieting. It’s no fun to gorge when there’s a pill at the table asking for lettuce cups in lieu of a bun. This wouldn’t be purdy.
I take absolute delight, and spend far too much time, in nominating a restaurant. There are a gazillion-seven (actual number) factors that feed into the eat-here equation.
I consider the people with whom we’ll be eating. “They have enough of that food in New York.” No staid chophouses, shadowy lounges, or rather-not rathskellers for dinner with the laws, or in general, anyone in the senior set.
Evaluate the people at whom you’ll be gaping. The clientele, if you will. Deliberate on the budget, atmosphere/lighting/music/furnishings, whether or not the venue accommodates special requests or us super special people, is there parking, do they take reservations, assess the service, cleanliness, food, and most important (to moi), let’s talk menu.
My mood of the moment usually weighs heavily over my prioritization process. Fat day? Sushi bar. Flirty? The cross-legged outdoor lounge with the artisan cocktails. Poor? The BBQ pit at the GAS STATION where they feature “Meat TV.” Foodie foot forward, and I’m reading up on menus like you, well, read about.
The particular week of his family’s visit I was in hardcore health mode, allotting myself many a WW point for wine (I was, after all, dining with the in-laws). And if I was going to feast on some food favorites, they’d better be worth the cellulite. I’m not about to fritter points away on a sub-par slab of cold rubber bread. No. No. I want to smell that yeasty steaming basket ten minutes before it arrives. Flavored butter, you say? A thousand times yes.
Phil came up with some tried and true suggestions, insisting I not spend the day making a decision. The process couldn’t be rushed; I had to weigh everything. Literally and figuratively. Libra scales meet Weight Watchers scales. Whatever the place, it became clear that I should order the flounder and wear my flip-flops. After downloading .pdf files of wine lists and menus, after assessing if their sides were inventive enough, I went ahead and lobbied for Congress.
Newly opened and favorably reviewed, Congress sated my needs across the board. Black truffle pommes frites, blue crab and corn fritters, and the words fundido and gastrique put a glimmer in my eye and a bounce in my (soon to be) misstep.
There seemed to be three options within the Congress realm. There was “Second Bar + Kitchen,” “Congress Bar,” and also straight up “Congress” all within the same building, different chefs, same owner. So upon arrival, when the hostess asked where we’d be dining, I blinked my eyes, tilted my head, and looked up at Phil. I felt my eyebrows raise and my eyes widen, my mouth spread into a smile, as if they were each waiting, as they do time and time again, for his answer. I looked to him as if he were the directionless dipstick.
What the fickle is wrong with me? Seriously.
How did I not have an answer, and why was I turning to Phil for one? I felt mute, as if (once again, for those of you paying attention) my words couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. Only this time, I didn’t even have the thoughts. I needed time and a breath to sort it out. But everyone was waiting for me to say something right then. I feared I’d rush into wrong, and we’d all sit and drink our waters and unfold napkins, then we’d realize we were in the wrong place, and we’d leave, and the poor waiter would have to wipe away rings of water, clean and change and arrange unnecessarily. There might be a longer wait. I didn’t know what to do. I felt as if I’d just awoken to a nameless goateed man: panicked and naked.
Yeah, and it gets worse.
I’d like to believe I asked a question or two, or maybe even requested to see the different menus. But that’s a tall tale I can’t hero. I’m afraid to report that all that came out of me was a finger. It wasn’t Tall Man, but Pointer. And with one short flick and finger, we ended up at Second Bar + Kitchen.
Thankfully theirs was the menu I’d studied earlier. Though “study” isn’t really a fair verb. It was the menu I’d gotten to know in a casual small talk way. We’d covered the basics, that there were pizzas, a burger, soups and salad, small plates, large plates, and pork belly. What else is there?
After I’d already fanned away my “ladies first” turn, once everyone had ordered, it was up to me. A hush came over the crowd. It was my turn to place my order with the waitress, and man, did I take command of that menu. I ordered with the confidence of Phil Connors. “Any questions about the menu?” Ha! I laugh in your face.
Only, no. There wasn’t laughing, not even in the general direction of her face. No. What there was, was another casual and confused mess of me. “So,” I ask her, “What on the menu would you say is your most healthy dish?” <Insert image of Phil hammering a nail into his forehead>
I had all day to decide. WTF? What is behind my indecisiveness? And is it something you can outgrow? Or is it something that can improve but will almost always be lacking due to the way I’m wired?
I do know that impatience about my uncertainty only exacerbates the issue. This is, in fact, part of my learning disability. Without the limit of time, if asked a question, I will often answer it thoughtfully and if possible correctly. But if asked the same question with a time-limit, I will rush for the answer and get it dead wrong. No one wins. So, be kind to the fence-sitters and occasionally throw us a bone. Maybe it’ll knock us into balance.
Side note: That would be Phil Connors from Groundhog Day, possibly one of the greatest comedies ever.