March 15

The People-Behaving-Badly Lunch

My friend Yvonne and I have a great routine for the past 10 years or so that helps our mental health. We meet for the same salads once every couple of months mid-way between our houses at the Cheesecake Factory at 11:45 on a weekday. We’ve refined this plan so it’s perfect. 11:45 is before the lunch rush. The salads are healthy, light and someone else has to do all of the chopping while we catch up. We typically have one major topic of conversation but allow for other topics as necessary. Our default conversation is about the people in our lives who have behaved badly. It’s a variation of the Festivus celebration from Seinfeld that included “The Airing of the Grievances” except the grievances are not aimed at each other. The role of the other person is to say, “That’s ridiculous!” “Oh, geez. What did you say?” “I can’t believe he said that!” “Yeah, well, that’s age appropriate I guess.” “What the heck was she thinking?!” “Oh. Brother.” These comments are usually followed by laughter and witty remarks about what the other should have said. We both get equal time to vent and know that there is no gripe to small to have validated. We’re not mean. We don’t wish anyone ill. We just need to have the other acknowledge that an irritation was genuinely and legitimately irritating. And then we leave it there, in the booth with the leftover bread, the empty water glasses and the tip for the server. We hug as we head toward our respective cars, with our heads a little bit lighter and our blood pressures a little bit lower.