I have a memory of being a kid in my kitchen at my childhood home. I am pushing my tall sister aside of the full-length mirror that is positioned on door to our cellar stairs. The youngest of four girls and the shortest (and fattest), I always had to fight my way to the mirror to "check myself" before going out into the world. Moments before, my mom might have called to us from our position on the rug in front of the TV watching "Rin-Tin Tin" saying, "We have to get going. Slick-up and run a comb through your hair. "
Somewhere, that parent-recording is cemented in the guilt of my mind. For years it has reminded me daily to be ready and to look presentable before going anywhere. It has faithfully told me to check in the mirror before answering the door, going to work, running to the store or even going to the "Y." With five women in the house, there was one kitchen drawer full of makeup, combs, barrettes, headbands, white gloves and scarves; all in a location that in other households might have held measuring cups, knives, wooden spoons or silverware. Early on I learned food and looking good went hand in hand.
So why am I thinking about this? Last week, I ran into a good friend at the grocery store. I often get my inspirations from casual grocery gossip. My friend asked, "Why don't people dress up when they go out to eat? I don't mean fancy, but why can't they dress decently?"
He got me thinking. I had just left McDonald's where a young girl, a very pretty young girl, was standing behind me in a T-shirt and pajama bottoms, adorned with teddy bears and moons. Her feet were covered in fuzzy turquoise slippers and her hair had not seen a brush since the day before.
So why don't we dress up to eat out? Why don't we at least, look presentable? Why do some people not care at all and others pay attention? Why does the dress code in some fine dining restaurants seem to run the gamut from anything to everything?
Oh busboy, there are probably a lot of reasons. We are a more casual society. Many formalities have been misplaced. We have put our values in different areas. We are just too busy. Sometimes just getting the kids in the car and off to the restaurant after a day of work is enough. Who has time to wash their hands? I think another reason is we eat out very often and restaurants, fast food or fine dining, are more part of a routine rather than a special occasion. And, of course, in this economy a restaurant doesn't want to turn anyone away.
Whatever. I'm against looking lousy whenever one is eating out. My recommendation is that we should dress up when fine dining and look presentable when dining at a soft eatery.
Why is that? Well, why not?
1.) You are paying for this meal. Make the best of it. It is just nice to look good. Zig Zigler, a well-known motivational speaker, says, "Wanna feel better? Dress up!" Being dressed up and looking good makes you feel better. Period. Your mood enhances the meal for yourself and those with you. Your style enhances the meal for everyone. Do it up big time, or not, but do it up.
2.) You are part of the dcor. The atmosphere is part of what you pay for when you eat out. Everyone who walks into that restaurant becomes the atmosphere. Like the wallpaper, the decorations, the carpeting, the paint, the furniture, you add to the dcor especially in a fine-dining restaurant. Think about it. Do you want to be the unshaven, unkempt, smelly centerpiece at the table?
3.) You will get treated with more respect. Experience and statistics show that if you look better you get treated better.
4.) The neighbors are judging you. Oh, I didn't mean that. My mother-in- me made me write it.
5.) Lastly, I will make a case for sanitation and appetite. You are paying for and putting food in your mouth. Others are eating too. Please, be at least clean and neat. I don't want to look at someone or eat in a booth after someone who hasn't showered for weeks. There aren't a lot of you out there, and unfortunately you probably won't read this or see yourself in it even if you do.
I don't have the space, so another time I will serve up ideas about proper dress, such as men wearing hats (dare I?), jeans, shorts, etc. In the meantime, when you go out at least slick-up and run a comb through your hair.
P.S. To those of you that took my foodie quiz, I have to apologize. The answer to number one - "What handheld, footed tool, slices firm fruits and vegetables with precision into thick, thin, julienne and waffle cuts?" - was mandolin. The answer key was wrong. I'm sure it was my computer's fault!