Welcome to the psychology of ordering. Because there is one. And it kicks in most acutely the moment we go out to lunch or dinner with other women. Does the following sound familiar?
“What do you feel like?” *looks shiftily from menu to friend and back again*
“Hmmm… I haven’t even looked actually [Narrator: she had totally already looked]… What are you having?” *looks nervously from friend to menu and back again*
There is so much at play here; so much revolving around our relationship with food and competition and perception. It all begins with bread. Will you? Should I? Can I? Will I ever forgive myself? Is this a blowout? If I have bread do I need to have salad afterwards or is bread the key to the floodgates? Does bread clear the path for chips and pudding? I can’t be the first to have bread. Or, if I am the first, will the others just stare at me or will they all dive into the lovely bread sea?
And, moving on, imagine the horror of ordering a starter when no one else does. And, conversely, imagine the horror of not ordering a starter when everyone else does and then feeling ravenous and jealous. And resentful. And ravenous.
And if I order the sashimi and you order the noodles then will I feel virtuous and thin or hungry and cross because, what I really want, is the sashimi and the noodles. Also my wine is almost finished and everyone else has had one sip.
None of this is about judging others on what they eat. We are too grown-up for that. It is all about having our needs met while trying to establish the food mood of the crowd. Generally we say fuck it. But if we’ve – slightly unintentionally – ended up with broth while everyone else has had pizza then we might not feel so thrilled. But perhaps vice versa is worse. Which is why, you will notice, that women in groups, will tend to order with the same vibe. For balance. To fit in. To form a funny food team. To not feel gluttonous or deprived. Why is EVERYTHING so complicated?