When I go out to dinner with my friends, it is because I want to talk to my friends live and in person. I don’t want to thumbtype awkward messages via text or have the voice-to-text app garble what I want to say. I don’t want to be on the phone and misread social cues because I couldn’t see their faces. I want to have a regular, normal conversation like a regular, normal person just like we used to do in the olden days.
I’m so silly and naïve.
Whoever designs restaurants these days designs them so as to ensure that no one can understand a word anyone says. If the acoustics don’t create an audial mud of all the ambient sound, then the 47 competing televisions on the wall and blaring speakers playing crappy pop music drown out my friend’s story about how his mother died a tragic death at the hands of terrorists. Or maybe it was a story about how he got a new terrier puppy. Honestly, I couldn’t hear well enough to tell you which one it was.
I’ve got to be in the minority with this opinion or the constant barrage of noise wouldn’t be so prevalent. Every time I set foot in a restaurant, I’m forced to stare at my dinner companions, trying desperately to read their lips and gather context cues. Generally, I cannot figure out what they are talking about, and find myself just mirroring their facial expressions because saying, “What?” and cupping my ear at the end of every pause is exhausting. This works until someone asks an open-ended question and demands an answer of me, and then I am forced to admit that not only do I not know the answer to the question, but I don’t even know the topic of the conversation.
Sometimes, after food is put in front of me, I will just shout randomly into the void, “I can’t hear squat” and then concentrate on mindfully eating instead of pretending to pay attention. The older I get, the sooner this moment occurs.
I’ve given a stupid amount of thought as to why people would want to go out to dinner with a group of friends and not be able to talk to them. Why pay $12 for a plate of spaghetti you can make for a dollar and $6 for a glass of wine you can get for $6 a bottle at the grocery store? Just so someone else can do the dishes? The only thing I can think of is this: people are so afraid that they won’t be able to come up with anything to say that they prefer an environment in which they won’t be able to say anything, or in which they can fill an hour long dinner with the same three sentences repeated so they can be heard. They want to look good and be seen. They’re not interested in being heard. It’s the same reason Ariel gave up her voice to get Prince Eric.
Me? My insecurities are completely opposite. All I’ve got going for me is what passes for my sparkling wit. If you’re just at a table watching me eat, all you’re going to see is a passable enough looking middle-aged woman who is dropping food on her chest every third bite and oblivious to the salad dressing on her chin. Not exactly a charming floor show. But I can have a conversation. I have opinions (obviously) and can make you laugh (even if it’s at me) and I’m a decent enough storyteller. If you take away my voice, you take away not only my superpower, but 85% of all my other powers as well. And honestly? That’s what I want from you, too. I mean, I’ll admire your fashion sense and good bone structure and whatnot, but I didn’t agree to have dinner with you so I could stare at you. I expect you to entertain me. Tell me a joke or some good gossip or reveal an intimate secret.
If all I’m gonna do is look at you, you can just send me a Snapchat, and I can wear sweatpants and sit on my sofa without the constriction of supportive undergarments and the greasy feel of makeup.
Got that restaurant owners? Market yourselves to the over 40 crowd. “Quiet Burgers: The Conversational Diner.” I’d go. Want to go with me? We can talk and be heard.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was a number one Amazon Hot New Release in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.