Here’s the third of a monthly series of columns I’ll be writing from abroad, as originally published in my hometown paper, the Barrington Courier-Review.
Romantic Friday dinners were my favorite in college: at the end of each school week, one of the dining halls on campus would dim the overhead lights, put out dozens of tea candles and hire a pianist to play some generic, swoozy-jazzy tunes while we munched on Ginger-Scallion Stir-Fried Chicken and Apple Tofu Crisp. The weekly event took place in the dining hall that also had the infamous “Awkward Tables,” which were unusually narrow and had seating for at most two people to squish together side-by-side. They were perfect for situations when you didn’t want anyone else to join you, and also for when you wanted to minimize direct eye contact with whomever you were eating. In other words, it was the ideal setting for breaking up with a significant other, confronting a suitemate about their flatulence or talking about touchy-feely things in general — especially on Fridays, when the background music and candlelit glow would have a general soothing effect and help smooth over any ruffled feathers.
The thing is, I never questioned until now why “being emotional” qualified as an activity that best took place surreptitiously at one of the Awkward Tables; it was just a fact that most seemed to accept. (I think part of it’s because our collective societal machoness tells us that talking about feelings is inherently superfluous.) Looking back on my four years as an undergraduate, I realize that the majority of my time spent eating candlelit dinners Continue reading