Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Don't pity the people sitting in silence

When I was in college, I was pretty sure I knew most everything I needed to know already. Especially when it came to dating. One thing I knew for certain was that I would find my soulmate when I finally found someone who I could always talk to. No matter what, we would just always have something to say to each other. Road trips, mealtimes, even watching a movie- we would be so full of things to say to one other that we just wouldn't be able to hold it in. I went so far in my certainty that I used to pity couples I saw in restaurants just sitting there, not talking.

"How sad," I used to think, "their fire has gone out. Their spark is no more. What a boring life they must lead. Woe is me if I ever befall such a fate!"

What wisdom a handful of failed serious relationships apparently bestowed on my twenty-year-old self!

Let's just say that I have since eaten my words, many times over. Now, in all the wisdom of many more failed relationships and one (thus far) successful marriage, I would like to tell that little whipper-snapper college student that those couples weren't doomed to a life devoid of love. In fact, most of the time they probably had very good reasons for enjoying their meal in peace and quiet.

For example, (1) someone in the duo might have come from a large family. Several dates into dating my now-husband I thought that there was something wrong with us. We seemed to get along just swimmingly in almost everything- except while eating. As soon as a meal began, the conversation would dry up, only to spring back to life as soon as the server cleared our plates. Odd? Yes, until I finally realized that as one of ten kids, my husband learned early in life that meals were no joke and apparently somewhere amidst the chaos, he stopped talking while eating.  I accepted that and we still, to this day, do not talk much until the food is gone from his plate. Luckily, he eats much faster than I do, so conversations during meals do occasionally occur.

If that is not the case, then the silent couple might also be (2) in the middle of a huge fight. This one would perhaps on the surface appear to support twenty-year-old me's theory that the silent couple must not really be in love, but I hate to break it to twenty-year-old me that even people in love fight. They fight, but most of them are not being filmed for a reality TV show, so their fights do not involve much public screaming and throwing rolls at each other over a romantic dinner for two. Unless, of course, they are the couple my husband and I encountered on a rare night out not too long ago, but I am pretty sure they were drunk. All bets are off when alcohol is involved.

You know, it could also be that (3) the food that this seemingly poor, silent couple are eating tastes really, really, really good. I once read a memoir a sous chef in a crazy up-scale resyaurant. At his establishment, it was not just tolerated for couples to eat in silence, it was expected. How else were the patrons to truly appreciate the great creations they were eating? Next time you encounter a silent couple, ask yourself, what is on their plate? Does it smell good enough to steal for yourself? Then the love probably hasn't faded from their lives, their vocal chords have simply been overpowered by their taste buds. I bet you didn't think about that, did you, twenty-year-old me?

Do you know what else twenty-year-old me definitely did not think about? Maybe those couples sitting in silence are simply (4) basking in the quiet. Maybe that quiet meal is the first quiet meal they have had in months. Maybe the majority of their meals, nay the majority of their waking hours are spent in the company of grabby, whiny, screaming, laughing, food-throwing, nonsense-babbling, toy-banging, attention-grabbing, heart-stealing kiddos who make them simultaneously want to tear their hair out in frustration while crying with how much they love those small little humans. Maybe those two people sitting across the table from each other saying nothing are not falling out of love, but rather love each other so much that they are giving each other the precious gift of silence. In fact, now that I have gotten all of this out of my system, I have now decided what I would like for both Valentine's Day and my anniversary next week. I want the gift of silence. Sweet, sweet silence...

I don't know what you are talking about, Mom-
dinners with me are SIMPLY DELIGHTFUL!

Twenty-year-old me, don't you worry your pretty little head. You will find a man who you love and who loves you, but yes- you will become one of those couples you used to pity, sitting and saying nothing at the dinner table. Just go ahead and eat those words right now, please. Those, and many, many more things you were so sure you knew back then...

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