Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Other Side of the Shilling

We have a weekly tradition, a Monday night routine, of going to our local Pub for half-priced fish and chips and a pint or two of our favorite beers. We waste away hours at the round table talking and toasting, leaning forward in our thrones when we're worked up over a subject and slamming down glasses to emphasize particularly brilliant points. The Pub is not charmingly authentic; it's kitsch. The Rolling Stones leer at you from their poster on the wall next to a cheezing Rod Stewart. Quotes about ale and women catch your eye amid dark paneling and British flags. Then there are the servers whose t-shirts subtly whisper "Bollocks!" and "Wanker!" If only Queen Victoria had lived to see it.

The Pub is a fun getaway of quality beer and affordable food, but it has one glaring stain: the waiters pair their t-shirts with kilts while the waitresses wear short, plaid skirts with knee-high socks and Mary Janes. It's difficult to enjoy the Pub experience when you're wearing sweatpants, a smelly t-shirt, and glasses while every man's Catholic schoolgirl fantasy walks up and offers your husband a refill. I've thought about protesting with my own attire, but I can't decide if I should go with a burqa or a bikini.

The thing that really gets my goat cheese, though, is not so much that the male patrons get miniskirts; it's that the female patrons get kilts. Kilts? Come on! I understand the whole warrior poet attraction, but that only comes with the mud, blood, troubled past, and uncertain future. Sans rugged mystery, a kilt brings to mind more of a Groundskeeper Willy than a William Wallace. If you insist on sending thighs into my husband's vicinity, then the least you could do is provide me with a nice fireman.

But that won't do either, will it? The thing is, men are stimulated visually, but women, well, it takes a bit more for them. You've heard it said that "the greatest sex organ on a woman's body is her mind," so, really, Danielle Steele is just Hugh Hefner with boobs. It doesn't take much to understand why there isn't a Hooters-type restaurant out there for women. Frankly, a restaurant of shirtless waiters wouldn't have that much of a draw for the female crowd. I'm not saying women don't have eyes; it just that eyes aren't enough. What surprises me, though, is that the restaurant tycoons haven't yet figured out that the way to a woman's pocketbook is through her heart, and that her heart, most often and most unfortunately, beats to the cadence of Nicholas Sparks' prose. If they want a man to come in for a pint, then they should hire Adriana Lima.* If they want a woman to order an extra glass of wine, then they should hire Heathcliff.**

Imagine with me the following dining experience:

You and your husband walk into a restaurant where a pony-tailed woman in loose khakis and a cardigan asks if you prefer smoking or non-smoking. Non-smoking, you say. You like your lungs. The hostess leads you to a table in the corner where, 30 seconds later, your waiter asks for your drink order. There is nothing particularly striking about your server's appearance, save for the troubled expression on his face. You ask him what's wrong. He does not speak. You press for an answer, and with a sigh he replies, "What's the point?" He retreats behind the counter to fill your Coke, and as he turns away you notice that the dark shadows beneath his eyes, which you thought unsightly on first glance, actually become him well when coupled with the sadness behind his eyes.

You brush away the thought as you turn to the menu. A few moments later, your waiter returns to ask for your order. Your husband orders the sirloin steak, extra rare. You order the tomato basil quiche and ask if you can get the strawberry tart to go.

"The what?" he says, his voice trembling.

"The strawberry tart," you say.

Tears spring from the corners of his eyes. He tries to hide them, but it's too late. You cry out in alarm, "Look, I'm sorry! I don't need the tart, really, if it upsets you. Don't worry about it. Here, take my napkin."

"I'm sorry, this has never happened to me, it's just..."


"It's just..."

"Go on. You can talk to me."

"It's just that this is the tenth anniversary of the day that the only woman I've ever loved, a strawberry-blonde, left me. I cannot tell you of the pain I felt when she ran off. I searched for her far and wide, desperate to make her come back, to persuade her that we were meant to be, but I could not find her. Two years later I learned that she had married a man who, though wealthy beyond measure, could never give her what I could - purest love. Stricken, I ran from place to place, woman to woman. I sailed the sees in a vessel that I built with my own hands. I lived among the remotest tribes of the Amazon. I built an ecologically friendly treehouse with large closets and extra shoe storage using just a machete and my own fingernail clippings. I sought to rid my life of everything that reminded me of her, and to fill it with whatever else I could grasp.

I've never shed a tear for her before now; the pain was too deep. But when I talk to you, I feel that I can tell you anything, be anything. There's a strange feeling in my chest, something I haven't felt in years." He looks straight into your eyes for the first time. "Can it be hope?"

You stare back, tears streaming down your flushed cheeks. Your husband looks from you to the waiter, the waiter to you, and says, "Check please!"

The hostess in baggy khakis escorts you out the door, and you give one last longing look at the waiter. Though his back is turned to you, he senses your stare and, looking over his shoulder, gives you a tender, knowing smile. He bends down again to tend to his next customer, a woman who asks him if anything is wrong, and as the door closes behind you, you think you hear a sullen, "What's the point?" over the din of the patrons' chatter.

Now that's a restaurant! It has endless possibilities too. You can have the melancholy poet, the dark rebel, the displaced cowboy who just wants some land and peace, the man who raised his siblings after his parents died and who donates his tips to cancer research, the dashing, billionaire playboy, the quiet type who lives off the land. Oh, the choices!

Unfortunately, the restaurant industry hasn't caught on quite yet. Until it does, you'll find me at the Pub on Monday evenings ordering fish and chips with a side of mild jealousy. You'll recognize me. I'm 5'1/2", brown hair, brown eyes, wearing a burqa.

* who is pregnant now, by the way
** a colossal prat


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I thought heathcliff was a cat

Natalie said...

Ummm, excuse me, while I found this ditty very entertaining and very true I want to hear about the honeymoon in ITALY, the wedding through the eyes of the bride and groom, your first weeks of married life and how you've fought over the toilet seat and which side of the bed to sleep on. Your adoring fans are waiting for details!

audra.marie said...

i am very much looking forward to the pub next monday. and the burqa. i also highly agree with natalie.

Six in the Mix said...

Large closets and extra shoe storage!!! HAAAAAAA! HAAAAAA!

Kilts? That's a bit disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could say I enjoyed this post. Oh well, at least I have the mini-skirts.

Anonymous said...

hey... i vote for the bikini:))) i've frequently had the fish and chips with a large side of jealousy!

and when you find this pub for girls.... let me know, i'll join you!

ummmm.... explain the asterisk at the bottom????


Emily said...

The asterisks are footnotes to two parts of the text. Adriana Lima is pregnant, and Heathcliff is a prat. :)

Anonymous said...

thanks! my computer shows this font as very grainy and i couldn't see the asterisks in the entry... only the ones at the bottom...

so, when are you going to write a book? you are fascinating to read.


Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...


That's hilarious. But seriously, Emily, I have NO problem with kilts. Put your Heathcliff in a kilt. Maybe I'll get John a kilt for Christmas. I boldly protest the allusion to Groundskeeper Willie, but then, I have walked the streets of Edinburgh and seen a swagger in a kilt that was astonishing. Astonishing.

I DO, however, comPLETELY agree with your idea for waiters. I would add "swashbuckling pirate," "charming, fumbling new immigrant" and "widower with small children." Let the tipping wars begin.

Of course...you could always buy a cheeky little plaid skirt of your own to wear around the house, say when you vacuum, or check things in the oven...

Emily said...

Funny, that's exactly what Jonny suggested...