Breakups and Chain Restaurants of Hope


So, it’s Thursday, and I’m thinking about going to a chain restaurant again tonight.

Let me take you on a journey of how much I’ve changed over the last five years…

I used to think chain restaurants were a treat. I mean, I come from a family who thinks Olive Garden is high cuisine. I’m also a super picky eater with the palate of a toddler. It got a little better when I met my kids’ father. Believe it or not, he was a lot more sophisticated than I was back then. I learned about meat, seafood, and wine. Then we had a gaggle of kids, and chain restaurants it was!

Give me an Outback Steakhouse or give me death.

Then I met Louis. We worked at a French restaurant and my palate horrified him. That’s where the whole, “If it’s beige and covered in Ranch dressing, she’ll eat it,” joke came from. He broadened my horizons quite a bit and I started eating much more diversely. I still won’t eat octopus, but my salads aren’t just iceberg lettuce and ranch anymore.

Then I met Whatshisbutts a few years ago, and he is a snob and a half. The only chain restaurant he will enter is Chili’s. I’m dead serious. He won’t eat fast food, either. I remember when things were all shiny and new and I suggested going to Outback, and he literally shrieked. He then proceeded to tell me how chain restaurant food was prepared.

Then we were both shrieking. You mean to tell me, that beautiful $30 steak I love like a spouse from Outback is prefab vacuum sealed and they MICROWAVE IT?

I’ve been lied to my whole life. It ceases to have any meaning. Goodbye, cruel world.

So over these last few years I have become TRES BOUGIE. Part of it is a new influence, some of it is having more money, and a lot of it has to do with being on the road a lot, and not having much of a choice. It’s amazing how much more of the world you see when you’re not eating at Applebee’s in Denver. I’ll concede the win on this one. He’ll LOVE it.

Here’s where this story takes a dark, sinister turn.

Life has changed a lot in the last year. It’s been quite the rollercoaster, actually. With all of the emotional ups and downs, I find myself craving human contact, which is odd for me. I’m told it’s a sign of not being a depressed hermit, but I think it’s more the fear of going to that dark place I was in when the kids went back to Chicago. I’m all over the map nutso emotionally right now, so I think not being home alone is a form of saving me from myself and not sabotaging everything.

As a result of this, I get super lonely. Like, not sad lonely, because I like to be alone, but that ‘I need to be alone around other people,’ kind of lonely. So when I’m by my onesie and having a rough day, like yesterday, I’ll end up at a Carrabba’s and get down with some $15 cuisine. Just me, at the bar, eating an awful chicken breast I could have made myself for $2 chatting up a criminally underpaid bartender.

I know. That sounds horrifically sad. Pathetic, even.

Let me tell you why it’s my medicine and I love it…

A lot like blogging, it makes me get out of my head. It changes your scenery, you’re not dealing with everything coming at you, there’s some predictability involved, and you get to hit the reset button. I always walk out better than I go in.

Yesterday was one of those rollercoaster days that has seemed to define my 2019 to date. I try to stay positive and focused, but ironically, the stronger I’ve gotten, the more emotional I have become. There are days I really wish I were how I used to be. But alas, growth and all that.

I was doing my laundry and stressing about all of the things that have to get done over the next week, the sad stuff that has to happen with the puppers (good for them, sad for me) and this particular friendship of mine that had to end.

This person didn’t do anything, necessarily, but I was starting to recognize patterns of behavior in myself that were very ‘ways abused people act’ adjacent. All relationships should be a give and take both people invest in fully. While I wasn’t outright mistreated by this person, I always felt like everything was about them. Not like me, where I’m self involved and sort of selfish, but in a way that diminished me and made me feel bad about myself.

For example, Mother’s Day happened. This person, after not calling or texting for an entire week (which is fine, but they knew things weren’t ok. A friend should check in.) calls me, and I give them the rundown of what’s going on and why this and that have to happen. Their response to this was…

“That’s it? So x and y happened and you’re moving?”

Mind you, I have listened to this person for HOURS lecturing me about how I’m a drama queen about all of this, and I should just let the kids go. I don’t have it bad. I have money in the bank and my lights haven’t been cut off, yet. THEY went through that and therefore know the true art of suffering. I’m a princess with a charmed life.


No. Just no.

That conversation stuck with me, as well as a few others, and it really bothered me on a visceral level. You know, when your intuition is screaming at you that this is off. Like, this person demands to be a priority in my life. Makes me check all of these boxes, minimizes my experiences and feelings, vanishes for a week at a time while I’m going through some super heavy things, and sprinkles a bit of gaslighting on top of it for good measure. Everything is about them and how you can make them feel good. Then when you have yucky feelings about it they will come back with, “I have been nothing but nice to you.”

Oh, oh, oh… I’ve been here before. The insidious mind fuck. Hello, old friend.

I remember saying to Whatshisbutts, who is not a fan of this person anymore, that they had very similar controlling behavior like my ex, but it wasn’t sinister. I chalked it up to their experiences and how those shaped them as a person. Obviously, my codependence kicks in when called upon.

I thought I was overreacting, because this person always tells me I’m too in my feelings and overreacting. I’m always like, have we met? Have we? Clearly not. Only one other person has accused me of this in my entire life… and…well…um…parallels.

Another week goes by… crickets. Now, THEY KNOW SOME REAL SHIT IS HAPPENING. Maybe I’m just being a Drama Queen (eyeroll) but friends check in. I have had a whole week to think about this. A person who would have me on the phone for HOURS if they had a hangnail has checked out, and I know I need to do something. My intuition is screaming at this point, and every thought I have about this person fills me with dread. Not one good feeling. I am teaching them how to treat me. I am showing them it is okay to use me as a vessel to fill their needs, not mine, when it’s convenient FOR THEM.

I had to work this out. So to Cheesecake Factory I went!

Whilst at the CF eating some kind of club sandwich, I got angry with myself. Here I had spent the last four years extricating myself from a very similar power dynamic and forming healthy relationships. I cannot go fight this battle with someone in my life who puts me in that previous headspace. Are they contributing to my happiness or my bank account? Nope.

Adios, Amigo.

I did it in a rather blunt way via text. It wasn’t mean, I was just done. I chose this rather cold tactic because I didn’t want to have a conversation with this person and have it flipped around yet again that it’s somehow my fault. They’ve been nothing but nice to me!

Did you predict the subsequent demon dialing that followed my text? Every. Five. Minutes. Finally, I just sent one more text telling them to stop calling, I get it. I. GET. IT. The one line text is clearly the actions of a drama queen, not the demon dialing from the perfect person. GOT. IT.

Back to yesterday… I still had icky feelings about it. I spent the whole week doing mental gymnastics, getting everyone’s opinion, wondering if I had been hasty, worried that I might have hurt them badly, etc. This existential crisis on top of everything else had me in a STATE. Not a linen gaucho with a Birkenstock state, but A STATE nonetheless.

So here we are at Carrabba’s. Garlic mashed potatoes will have the answers I need. If I want to stay friends I need to reach out. It’s been a week, and they probably truly haven’t a single clue about why I’m upset BECAUSE THEY ARE ALWAYS SO NICE TO ME.

I knew before my second bite of bread I never wanted to talk to this person again. It’s been a week. Their fingers aren’t broken. Have a little courage and call me. If you care, you call. Don’t demon dial me every five minutes in the heat of the moment, but call after a couple of days. I mean, we’re friends, right? I would want to know why my friend was upset and maybe fix things. I mean, I am so glad they didn’t and it was a blessing, but still…

Then the garlic mashed potatoes gave me my answer…

Nuke it with fire from orbit. Shut the door and nail it shut. Nobody in life should make you feel this way whether they mean to or not. Only good juju and healthy things around me. See the red flags, hear the alarm bells, and LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR BRAIN IS SAYING, not their brain… YOUR brain.

So I sent the nuclear text laying it out with some fuck you and fuck off undertones because I allowed myself to be angry. Drama Queen? HOW ABOUT AN EVISCERATING RAGE TEXT.

Then I blocked and deleted their number.

I feel so much better today. I was a bitch, but maybe treat me like a valuable human being.

Anyway, the point of this post is that while my habit of going to chain restaurants in moments of emotional duress is kind of sad on its surface, I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am right now had I gone back to old habits or just shut off my emotions entirely. This friendship ended, and I’m sad about it, but HOLY HELL I FEEL WONDERFUL TODAY.

I mean, I kind of want to go to Ted’s for a short rib later, but that’s mostly because I want a short rib. However, the day is young, and there is plenty of time to have an existential crisis.

If you have a happy place and it’s a bit quirky? Embrace it. You’re pretty awesome just the way you are. Don’t let anyone work their own shit out on you. As Lisa would say, “send that mess back to their mama.”

Jennifer Gulbrandsen