Reason For Not Eating Out #41: Because I Don’t Need to be Doted On

I am not the type of person to get my nails done, or have my eyebrows plucked and pruned. If I could figure out how to cut my own hair, I would. Though I enjoy the convenience of it, I have never felt truly comfortable riding in the back of a cab, and get a slight jolt of awkwardness when a hired hand opens a door for me, or takes my bags. Don’t even tempt me with a foot massage from a stranger. Though I know these practices are all perfectly normal in our society, being pampered and served superfluously just makes me feel, deep down, useless and bored.

Therefore, when a waiter pulls a chair a few inches away from the table for me to sit down in, I am appreciative of the gesture, but ultimately, would have preferred doing so myself. Most of the time, at least. Don’t get me wrong, there is an art to serving at a fine restaurant, just as there is one to preparing the meals (but we already know how I feel about that). It’s a tradition invented and perfected by the French, and which many others have tried to imitate. But there can be a fine line between being hospitable and just being annoying. As a friend once remarked, after a waiter had interrupted our conversation to ask for the second time how our food was, “It’s like they’re fishing for compliments!”

Restaurants might misfire at providing service, like this, but it’s the customer who has the concept all wrong if he or she patronizes them more than they really need. In a few short decades, we’ve come to regard restaurant — whether sit-down, take-out, delivery or street cart — food as everyday, from being held mostly for special occasions. I joke at my readings and classes that it seems that in New York, we have it the other way around: cooking at home is a big production, a special occasion, while dining out is the de rigeur. So naturally, our expectations and understanding of food have become skewed. We want this, we don’t want that, we want this on the side, we think restaurants should hurry up and serve us quicker and quicker. Maybe we should just give them a break — literally.

Being doted on rather than doing-it-yourself is something that can seep into one’s psyche over time, too. I can say from the DIY stance that this made me feel more empowered in general, to cook for myself and my friends. On the other end of the spectrum, having more of your worldly needs taken care of by specialists inspires reliance rather than responsibility. We pass it on to our kids, too. We live in an era where children are often taught how to place an order with wait staff before being taught to peel an orange. This lack of direct contact with food preparation has other detriments, too, not knowing what food is, in particular — just take a look at these elementary kids on Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution scratch their heads at the sight of tomatoes. I used to find it cute to see little kids ordering off a menu, because it seemed so precocious. Now the real picture of novelty might be helping mom bake a birthday cake instead of buying one at a shop.

It’s not that I have anything against the various service industries in themselves, and the talent that so many exhibit within it. It’s just that I don’t need it all the time. Let’s face it, none of us do. And we’d probably enjoy something like fine dining even more if it was a rarity. Some people — myself included — may never learn for ourselves the intricacies of manicures, while others might find that cooking never strikes their fancy. But being active and open to learning a few new trades now and then rather than leaving it up to others has personal — and maybe personality — benefits.

On the other hand, I recently made an appointment with a facialist whom an old friend had highly recommended. I had never had a facial before, but was touched that this friend had thought so much of her facialist to send an email about it, out of the blue. So I went. Over the next seventy minutes, I laid on my back with my face and neck exposed to a series of being lubricated, smoothed, steamed, scrubbed, poked and massaged, to a softly playing CD of Om chanting. I was so relaxed toward the end of it that I actually fell asleep, like a baby. And my skin felt like that of one when I awoke. It was a marvelous experience, and I’d like to do it again. But not every day, of course.

By the way, all you local ladies, that facialist’s name is Diane at BeWellBK. I highly recommend.

8 Responses

  1. Jacob

    I love this article. At my cooking class this weekend, a thirteen year-old boy was cutting collards with unbreakable focus…and I just thought it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. My favorite thing as a kid was to watch Mom cook our breakfasts and dinners. I’d help her level out the measuring cups and flip pancakes. These are the memories I’ll never lose–homemade birthday cakes, Mom’s enchiladas, and being taught to make my own tuna salad before I was in the double digits. Thanks Mom!

  2. Martha

    This is EXACTLY true! For me, cooking a meal, unless it’s something frozen or involves neon orange “cheese” powder, is a special occasion, because it feels like such a production and because I’ve become so accustomed to eating out.

  3. Martha

    This is EXACTLY true! Cooking a meal, unless it’s something frozen or involves neon orange “cheese” powder, is a special occasion, because it feels like such a production and because I’ve become so accustomed to eating out.

  4. Barbara

    Was wondering if you address the social aspect or lack there of in eating at home. I am single would love to eat in more but like having people “around” instead of all the “alone” time. I am single and i have to say eating home with my cats not so much fun. the other issue what do with that head of lettuce i get tired of eating the samething for 2-3 days straight. HELP!
    Single in the City

  5. Barbara

    Not sure if you addressed the issue of being single and eating in. There are 2 issues for me
    1) what do i do with all the extra food. I get tired of eating the same thing for 2-3 days and i am not that good a cook to come up with new things off the top of my head.

    2) it gets lonel! i realized when i tried to eat in more to save money how boring it is not to have the hussel and bussel of the restaurant. TV isnt that interesting nor are my cats and it is not realistic to have someone eat over every night which kills the “saving money” goal for me.

    would love to hear your experience and help on this one.

  6. Jackie

    I hear you about not needing to be doted on. I, too, feel uncomfortable when this happens. My comfort zone is out in my vegetable garden. And somewhat in my kitchen.

    Long live Jamie Oliver’s mission!

  7. cathy

    Hi Barbara,

    Absolutely… the being single, and being at home routine got me bored really quick, so I ended up making my home and kitchen quite a communal spot for friends and frequent dinner parties, lunch parties, breakfast parties, potlucks, and guess what? It really caught on with them. Try it – it’s contagious!

    And about leftover food: it’s a great way to get creative! Think of it as Iron Chef: secret ingredient – leftover lasagna. (Or whatever.) And make something new out of it!

  8. Rachel Willen

    I’m hearing alot about how boring it is to eat leftovers or same things over a few day period…and I hear this from my clients too…and in that complaint is the idea that eating, food, our meals have somehow turned into another form of entertainment that has to have the quick, slick, stimulating effect on us of a manically-edited music video rather than just be what it is: nutrition. I tell my client…get over it! Cook and buy in smaller quantities…so you aren’t eating the same thing over and over…freeze leftovers and rotate them back the following week or a few days later… You want to be entertained? Turn up the music while you are cooking! Dance around the kitchen naked! Sing while you are cutting vegetables…Then eat and get out of the house and do something stimulating and entertaining…walk the dog, go to a park, take a class, volunteer…but please, let eating be the simple thing it is meant to be…fuel for getting out there and living your best life!

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