It is 6:30 on a Thursday night.
I have eaten like a French woman all day, and I am famished.
French women may not get fat, like the best-selling book claims, but I'll bet you a croissant and a wedge of triple-cream Brie they're walking around Paris right now, lightheaded and crabby with really bad breath. I mean, bonjour? Leek soup, baguette and a glass of pinot for lunch? S'il vous plait.
I worked late and did not prepare anything for dinner, as tends to be the case on Thursdays. Because after hump day, all bets are off for home-cooking, laundry or activities requiring the smallest amount of focus, energy or advance planning.
My husband comes downstairs after performing his daily online check of our 401Ks' performance. His expression tells me that a) we lost money today or b) he is hungry, too.
And so it begins, the horror movie that is the dining-out decision-making process in our empty nest. The dialogue is always the same.
"Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know. What are you in the mood for?"
"I don't care."
Then we stare at each other like people stare into an open refrigerator at midnight. Zombie-like. (Think: "Night of the Living Dead.")
"Too expensive. (Cue theme from "Jaws": Dun-dun. Dun-dun.) "Mexican?"
"Hmm, probably shouldn't. (Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun.) Burgers?"
"I should get a salad."
"I had a salad for lunch. (Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dundundundundundun.) Thai?"
"Thai. Hmmm. ThaiThaiThaiThaiThaiThaiThaiThai."
He thinks if he repeats it over and over really fast, he'll make up his mind that much quicker. And this makes me want to kill him. (Cue shower scene in "Psycho": REE! REE! REE! REE! REE! REE!)
"Not the one we always go to. I'm tired of that place." (REE! REE! REE!)
"But the other one wasn't that good last time, remember?"
"So the other one then?"
"The first one?"
"The one we went to that one time." (REE! REE!)
"But it's too bright in there."
And now he wants to kill me. I can feel it. There's new tension in his voice and a maniacal look in his eye (Jack Nicholson in "The Shining": "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!")
"We've only been there once!"
"Yeah, and it was too bright. It hurt my eyes."
"What about Chinese then?"
"I thought we agreed on Thai."
And the tension turns into fear as we both realize it might be hours before we actually sit down somewhere and eat.
"Let's just get in the car and figure it out on the way."
"OK." (Cue "Tubular Bells" from "The Exorcist.")
We drive to the edge of the driveway, and he looks at me.
"Left or right?"
"Right! Left! I DON'T CARE! YOU decide!"
And he turns left, toward downtown. Downtown with more than 20 dining options. Why are we so overwhelmed by the choices we want so desperately to have?
And I think to myself, "I'll bet French women don't have this problem."
First of all, French women would never admit they were famished. And if they did, they'd simply grab their men by the berets and drag them to the bistro of their choice. And that choice would never be this difficult.
Because, really, how many places in Paris can there be serving soup, bread and wine?