There are two crucial components to successful dates: good conversation and good food. Both distill awkward tension, distract both parties involved, and can result in a high level of satisfaction. However, if your mouth is full of greasy pizza, chicken wings, or chips and salsa—who the hell cares about conversation? Go with your gut. Trust me.
My sophomore year of high school I went on a date with a guy named Brian. Brian was a nice guy (quiet, reserved, respectful, you know the type) and I could tell he’d been mustering up the courage to ask me out for a while. When he finally texted me the long-awaited invitation to dinner and a movie, I immediately responded, “Sounds great. Where should we eat?” I couldn’t care less about the movie.
At my recommendation, we settled on a popular Mexican restaurant in town where I ordered my usual: the sizzling chicken fajita platter for two—the one that comes with three plates of food and four flour tortillas. Brian ordered tacos. The conversation was going fine, him doing much more talking than I, until I scraped my plate clean and shot a glance at his untouched taco. “Are you going to eat that?” I asked.
Disillusioned by the romantic notion of two dogs slurping up the same string of spaghetti in a Disney movie, I was warned at an early age never to order spaghetti and meatballs on a date. “It’s messy and boys aren’t attracted to slurping,” my mom would tell me.
But what was the rule on Mexican food? You see, I was more intrigued by my date’s unfinished taco than whatever half-conversation we were having. There was food to be eaten and I’d be damned if I was leaving that restaurant hungry.
Such was the case with subsequent dates. Brian and I didn’t end up working out—probably because he was interested in romance, while my stomach was more invested in the relationship than my heart and I spent the entire film wondering why on earth we hadn’t bought the large refillable tub of popcorn. This early realization on my part would play a significant role in my future dates. Nice guys were easy to find—but unforgettable meals? Well, those were a rarity in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The following year I was asked to prom by a guy I ended up dating for three years. On our first date, we, too, got Mexican food (at the competing venue of Brian and my date 15 months earlier). I again ordered my standard fajita, while he ordered two separate meals for himself. Much to my chagrin, he ate them both, leaving me no leftovers. I suppose in hindsight this was a red flag; that summer he promised me a homemade brunch, arriving at my house on the Fourth of July with a ziplock bag full of cold bacon. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
Never once considering lowering my meal standards, I’ve approached each relationship with food in mind. After all, the right meal, both in its substance and surrounding ambiance, can do wonderful things. I doubt there have been too many girls who have said no to an engagement ring baked into a slice of chocolate cake or a guy who refused to call the day after a night of burgers and fries. I’m telling you, food can make or break a relationship—you just have to know how to read it.
For years I did my best to adhere to my mom’s advice not to order anything remotely messy, sloppy, sticky, or slippery on dates (with Mexican food my only exception), but then I discovered poppyseed bagels. At first thinking this delicacy lay far outside the realm of all foods deemed “unattractive,” I’d devour it nearly every day for lunch during the summer, returning home at the end of the day to discover that each time I shot what I thought was a flirty smile at my cute coworker, he was assaulted by the sight of black seeds in my teeth. After this realization did I change my order? HELL NO.
You see, reader, floss was invented for a reason and there’s no point in wasting a perfectly good meal out—no matter who’s paying—on anything less than the best thing on the menu. What kind of a world would we live in if our hunger was never fully satisfied because we spent all of dinner with perfectly clean napkins in an effort to impress members of the opposite sex? How can a relationship thrive if one partner perpetually lies about what I believe is truly the greatest physical desire sought by mankind: the need for hot, steamy, sugar-coated churros?
If one out of two marriages end in divorce these days, I’m willing to bet that two out of two divorces stem from a case of what I like to call “Lying About One’s Satisfaction With Unsatisfactory Food and Pretending To Be OK With a Salad When Really You Want to Order the Mozzarella Sticks.” This ailment affects millions of humans each day, but the cure is simple: order what you want.
In my almost 21 years of life and roughly seven years of dating experience, I won’t pretend to know everything about relationships. I can’t tell you what to wear, exactly how many minutes to wait before texting him back or whether or not his proposed 6:30 pick-up time is actually closer to 7:00. But I can tell you that the deluxe fajita platter is only $12.99, guac is free, and you won’t have to worry about finding room for your box of leftovers on the floor of the movie theater.