We celebrated my girlfriend Maddie’s birthday earlier this month, and, as always, I looked forward to the occasion. Not only because I like showering this beautiful Leo queen with gifts and reminding her how special she is, but because the choice of where to go out to dinner defaults to the birthday-haver. I would pay for the meal, of course — I just wouldn’t have to pick a restaurant, which is the hardest fucking thing in the world for some fucking reason.
The internet is full of people frustrated by the passivity that afflicts a relationship when it’s time to figure out where the two of you want to eat. Women seem to be accused of culinary indecision more often than men, though in my experience, it has nothing to do with gender: Unless there’s something new you’re dying to try, settling on a restaurant is a chore. And when one partner refuses to pitch in, it makes the other less willing to take it upon themselves.
“I (24m) have been dating my girlfriend (23f) for a year now and have always had to pick what to do or where to eat since day one,” writes a young man on Reddit’s r/relationshipadvice. “She loves going out and doing stuff but I’m always the one who has to pick or make plans. This is extremely exhausting because I want someone else to pick once in a while. When I ask her, all I ever get is an ‘it doesn’t matter to me.’” A woman posting on r/relationships has the same problem with her boyfriend of six months: “Sometimes he says he doesn’t care, sometimes he lists options and waits expectantly for me to pick between them. Every time I try to push him further to pick a place it never works. I know that this concern seems silly, but I feel like I’m putting all the effort in here.” She wonders if it means he’s mostly indifferent to her as well.
I can’t help noting that both of these relationships are somewhat new, and the complainants beginning to realize a pattern. In seeking advice, they clearly hope to resolve the issue so it doesn’t bug them going forward. However, as a guy who has been in a couple of long-term relationships, I’ve got bad news for them: No matter what you do, this will just get worse. You could fall in love and enter into a beautiful marriage, but your partner will continue to beg off selecting a restaurant for date night. You will continue to resent this, and therefore begin to effect a stalemate, trying to force them to pick. Now neither of you is stepping up to the task, you’re getting hungrier, and soon everything is going to close. Shit! Even the nice woman who Sandra Bullock played in that movie The Blind Side struggles to figure out a lunch spot with her husband of almost 40 years, and this is a couple that owns literally dozens of food franchises.
What I’m saying is, give in to the attrition. There’s no fighting it. Save your energy for the exhaustive process of combing through the same local options you’ve had for as long as you can remember. Or pick one out of a hat. Why is this so difficult? Maybe, as another woman on Reddit has suggested, we are wary of attracting blame: If our partner is dissatisfied with the cooking or the service at a restaurant we’ve chosen, we feel responsible. And maybe, as another man has commented, we believe we’re being nice by going with the flow and leaving the call up to our beloved. The whole situation is exacerbated by the vagaries of mood that influence our cravings. Who the hell knows why you want Indian takeout tonight and they don’t?
Ultimately, you come to an agreement to avoid a more painful discussion, i.e., “what should we make for dinner?” It is the threat of kitchen labor that compels us to venture out into the world for sustenance — probably at an establishment you’ve visited many times before. We bow to the easy and familiar. I know that’s what happened when I kept pestering Maddie to pick a restaurant for her birthday dinner, proposing high-end joints all over the city, most of them acclaimed yet still untested by us. I couldn’t interest her in any, and when I put my foot down, saying we had to make a reservation somewhere, she named our usual seafood place across the street. So that’s what I booked. The oysters and lobster roll were delicious — as we knew they would be. Nothing tastes as good as having already made a decision, am I right?
Pity we’ll have to do it again.