As kids, my sister and I dreaded staying quiet and keeping our napkins folded on our laps, hoping our parents would pay in cash so we could leave faster. We whined as we waited an extra hour driving into the city to break the Yom Kippur fast at a restaurant mom read about in New York magazine. As a teen, I scoffed because I’d been vegan for two whole months and nothing on the steakhouse menu suited my diet. I resented finding my napkin re-folded on the table when I returned for the bathroom. To me it represented “the system,” everything about society I wanted to reject: the over-abundance, the decadence, the ties. New York City had head shops, tattoo parlors, and CBGB’s, and I was stuck inside Palm Too with a bunch of men in suits.
Six years later, my younger sister and I had finished college and were both living in New York City. She was on her way to a career as a casting agent, and I was learning that “being a writer” wasn’t as easy a career path as I’d hoped. Living in Brooklyn in a shared loft with seven roommates and selling concessions at a movie theater, I changed my attitude about dinners with my family.
At Tablet, Jon Reiss discusses all the fancy restaurants he’s eaten at thanks to his parents paying for dinner, and his desire to pay his own way as he hit his late twenties and started to find more success.
The first time I was able to take my parents out for a nice dinner and pick up the check was when I was about 24 or 25 and started earning more money. We were at a seafood restaurant in Newport Beach, Calif. and my parents, not being the types who ever took themselves out to nice dinners, asked, “Are you sure about this? We could go somewhere else.” I was sure, and though they didn’t say anything about it at the time (mostly because they were still unsure about my career and my choice to live 3,000 miles away from them), it was one of those “the kid turned out all right” moments for them.