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Don’t get me wrong. You know I love restaurants. I spend many of my waking hours in them, and when I’m not in them, I’m thinking about them, writing about them, or talking to someone about them. But when I think about all the ways I could spend Valentine’s Day with my wife, just about the last place I want to be is inside a restaurant.
Restaurants, by and large, aren’t themselves on V-Day. They often have prix-fixe, severely limited menus. They are filled with couples determined to get drunk on champagne and screw (hopefully not in the bathroom). And they (the restaurants, not the couples) are trying like hell to get you out the door so they can flip the table and remain on their rigid, three-seating plan for the night. No thank you. I’d much rather make dinner at home instead.
Given my prejudice against dining at restaurants on V-Day, I read with delight Bruce Feiler‘s piece in Gourmet about the poor schlubs who take romance-and-dining one step further: They propose in restaurants, sometimes with disastrous results. I’ll stop short of saying these folks get what they deserve for wanting to share their intimate moment with a roomful of strangers. I mean, no one really deserves to choke down their own engagement ring. Writes Feiler:
When Carlos Lopes, former managing director at the Hotel Bel-Air, in Los Angeles, set out to propose to his first wife, he planned the evening to perfection. He selected a fine restaurant. He hatched an elaborate plan. He schemed with the maître d’. And, at the desired moment, the waiter brought Lopes’s girlfriend a crème brûlée into which the pastry chef had discreetly tucked Lopes’s life savings, in the form of a diamond ring. “Only I was so naïve,” he remembers today, “that I didn’t realize you ate crème brûlée with a large spoon and not a small one.”
Smash went the crust. In went the spoon. And before Lopes could say, “Um, I have something to ask you,” his brilliant-cut one-carat surprise went sliding down his intended’s throat. “Our first hug was the Heimlich maneuver,” he recalls. “My advice to a man about to propose is: Use creativity only up to a point. You don’t want your girlfriend to end up in the hospital on her engagement night.”
As chilling (and, well, funny) as that anecdote is, it still has a predictable flow. You know what’s going to happen as soon as Feiler starts the story. Which is why I like this little anecdote from Feiler’s article even more:
A surprising number of proposals are, in fact, turned down. At Gramercy Tavern, a woman once asked a man to marry her. When he didn’t accept the offer, the woman stood up, started cursing, and began throwing plates onto the floor. “Clearly, he made the right choice,” says the captain on duty at the time.
Image by Flickr user audreyjm529