Meatloaf and Gossip
Learning to navigate through a new chapter of life
A simple craving for meatloaf turns into a humiliating experience – then into a lesson learned and embraced. Lois Mills, co-host of the Silver and Sensational podcast, tells the tale.
Who would think having a taste for meatloaf would become an excruciating experience and be one of life’s great lessons? I just wanted meatloaf … smothered with onion gravy on top of mashed potatoes. Just like all the moms cooked in my working-class neighborhood.
It was Saturday night, and I knew I could quell my cravings at The Mity Nice Grill. They had the best meatloaf in town. The problem was that this would be the first time going to a restaurant since the divorce, and the first-time dining alone … ever!
My anxiety and excitement mounted as I opened the tall wood door and approached the hostess desk. I sheepishly asked for a table for one. She nodded without saying a word and started to guide me towards the rear of the restaurant, and – I lost my taste for meatloaf!
There they were. Couples I knew from my married days. Three tables of them. Busboys were blocking parts of the aisle requiring us to stop every so often. As we did, either the wife or husband looked up, saw me, and gave their spouse that familiar “look, look” shoulder nudge. I felt like this was the walk to the executioner’s room on Death Row. They were the inmates waiting by their cell door staring at me. It was the longest walk of my life. Why hadn’t it occurred to me that Saturday night was a date night, couples’ night!
I knew what their conversation would be. Can’t she even get a date? Or do you think she got stood up? Why would she embarrass herself? And I imagined the phone wires being burned up on Sunday morning. All these gossiping lovelies replaying what they saw, tittering giggles at my singleness. Feeling smug about their husbands still with them. They would then rehash the old headlines of my husband leaving me for another Lois. My goodness, that story had legs! And no phone conversation would end without those vipers picking apart every stitch on my back and speculating whether the ex was still paying for my fashion passion. Why in the world did I have to have that darned meatloaf!
The meal seemed to last so long, but not long enough for those people to leave. Since the waiter had cleared my table and left the bill, I had no choice but to leave. I pushed my food around and sent most of it back. I didn’t know that I could ever look at meatloaf in the same way again.
My Monday morning therapist appointment with Dr. Ruth arrived none too soon. Still reeling from the pangs of mortification, I recounted my excruciating experience. She listened as I gave her the play-by-play, along with all the feelings of humiliation and shame. Without missing a beat, she said, “Did it ever occur to you they were wishing they had the nerve to eat in a restaurant alone on a Saturday night?”
I was speechless. Then I said, “Not in a million years would that thought ever occur to me!” As a cognitive therapist, Dr. Ruth would help me see there were other ways of looking at situations that would cause me anxiety or unhappiness. In short, if I changed the way I thought, I could change the way I felt. But I needed to open my mind to accept a new way of seeing things. To rethink my belief and then integrate it until it felt comfortable.
While trying to accomplish that, I refused to order meatloaf until I accepted my new belief. Meatloaf had become the barometer of my personal growth – the prize I awarded myself.
I need to go now. Postmates is ringing my doorbell. My order of meatloaf and mashed potatoes has finally arrived!
Lois Mills and Tom Burke, who bookend the Boomer generation, co-host the podcast Silver and Sensational in which they explore subjects relating to and affecting all seniors, or as they refer to themselves … Silvers.