It’s Really Not My Fault I Can’t Decide What to Have for Dinner

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I know that. I really do. I’m not trying to decide whether or not to invade Syria. I’m not picking out a wedding dress. I’m not attempting to determine if I should donate my kidney or if I’ll need it in my old age. But still I hem and haw and go back and forth.

What do you want for dinner?

How many times has this question been tossed out over the years? Better question: how many times have I actually had an answer? Sometimes I just know. I’ve got a craving for a particular place. Or I’ve decided to whip up a recipe I found online. But far, far too often my answer is the one I know offers zero help, “I don’t care.”

So, we go through the list of places we frequent in the local area or we toss around things we could make. And I can usually quickly veto what I do not want. “See, ” my dad says, “You do care.” Of course I care, I just don’t know what the best, right option for dinner might be.

Because I don’t want to make the wrong choice. Isn’t that what all this dinner dilemma is about? If I’m just providing my own meal, then I can usually quickly pick out what I want no sweat. There’s no one else’s tastes and preferences to factor into the equation.  I don’t have to concern myself as to whether or not they will like my choice. This makes everything easier.

But it’s not just about factoring other people into the equation. When we finally land on a place to get food, then comes the decision on what to get. Do I want this or that? Do I want my “usual” or do I want to try something new. If I try something new and it’s not good, will I regret not ordering what I know I really love?

I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a restaurant called I Don’t Care for goodness sake:

I’ve noticed this seems to be a much bigger problem in the female population. I’m not trying to be discriminatory here, it’s just what I’ve observed. I mean sure I’ve seen guys debate a few times but not to the level that gals do. Take this classic scene from When Harry Met Sally:

Waitress: Hi, what can I get ya?
Harry: I'll have a number three.
Sally: I'd like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar
on the side and the apple pie a la mode.
Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.
Sally: But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice 
cream on top I want it on the side and I'd like strawberry 
instead of vanilla if you have it if not then no ice cream 
just whipped cream but only if it's real if it's out of a 
can then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

Nora Ephron knew that men are like, “I think I’ll have the steak, mashed potatoes, and the house salad with ranch. While women are more like, “What should I get? What do you like here? Have you tried the ________?  Is the ________ here as good as it is at XYZ? Hmmm… I can’t decide between this and that, which do you think I should choose? Do you want to split something?”

And it doesn’t stop when the food arrives. I survey my plate. I contemplate where to start. I try a little bite of each item. Then, I decide which I liked most. I debate if I should save something I really enjoy until the end or if it will get too cold. It’s not a lengthy process. I do it pretty much unconsciously at this point in my life. Again, this isn’t that weird, okay maybe it is a little weird- but it’s not uncommon. I know other girls who do the exact same thing.

It’s funny to watch this happen in large groups. I’m all for chivalry. I mean I practically swoon when guys open doors and walk me to the car to make sure I get there safe. There’s nothing quite like a Southern boy whose mother raised him right. But seriously, guys, please, please we don’t like “ladies first” in food lines. Especially if there are a lot of options. I know I like to get the lay of the land, determine how many people are there, what’s going fast, and exactly how much to put on my plate. I don’t want to miss out on something delicious but I don’t want to over-do it either. And Lord knows, not a single one of us gals wants to be first in line (at least no one I can think of off the top of my head). And while we’re all meandering along the counter/table like it’s a Sunday stroll through the park, we can feel your impatience growing. We hear your stomachs growling. We know you’re getting hangry because we’re being so slow. Want to know the solution? Open our doors, carry our bags, offer us your arm, but just jump in line first. I won’t hold it against you. In fact, I’ll be grateful because then I don’t have to be the first one to dig into the pretty dishes.

And don’t even get me started on food and guilt. Oh, I really shouldn’t. Maybe just a teeny-tiny slice. Put the dressing on the side. Normally, I wouldn’t but it’s been a horrible day and I deserve this. I’ll just have half a grapefruit. It seems ridiculous but it happens way too much. So, with all the other dilemmas about food, I try not to associate it with guilt. Try being the operative word.

Why is it such an ordeal deal? Why does deciding what to eat feel like such a BIG decision? Why do women have such a hard time with this? Could it be that subconsciously we know that it could change everything? Wasn’t the first wrong decision a woman ever made about food. Oh, that Eve. Sure, ultimately it was a decision as to whether or not to obey God. But on a smaller scale, she just picked the wrong piece of fruit. Bam, one bite of that and there was shame, death, separation from God, and the whole painful childbearing thing. Plus, she gave some to Adam. Now, she didn’t make him eat it and he knew what he was doing, but she still chose the wrong tree to go to for dinner. She listened to the wrong sales pitch and paid for it in the ultimate food poisoning.

I’m no theologian. I don’t have any supporting evidence.  Nor can I can’t cite any studies. But could it be that along with all of those curses, women carry some innate fear of making the wrong decision about what to eat. What if I could have picked any other item and I pick the ticking time bomb? What if my wrong selection affects someone else? See, sometimes it really does matter what you eat. It could be life or death.

So, the next time you’re debating food options like you’re on The United Nation’s Ethics Committee, do what I do: blame Eve. It may not be her fault, but sometimes it’s nice to let yourself off the hook (Don’t worry. She’s an old pro at taking all the blame!)

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