Only a Dweeb Would Go Out for Dinner This Valentine’s Day

Don’t be like this dweeb.

Don’t be like this dweeb.
Photo: Stock-Studio (Shutterstock)

We are 10 days away from Valentine’s Day, which is right around the time unimaginative straight men normally take to OpenTable in an attempt to secure a reservation at a “special” restaurant for a “special” evening. This year, we all have a built-in excuse for skipping this entire ordeal, but something (social media) tells me that some people are still planning on dining out. Do not do this. Only a dweeb would do this.

I do not live in New York, but seeing uber-dweeb Andrew Cuomo is going to allow indoor dining to resume throughout most of the state on Feb. 14 has brought my dull pandemic-related depression to the foreground, rendering it acute and stabby; seeing him turn around and mock those demanding vaccinations for the workers he’s endangering has, in turn, made me stabby.

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Eating inside a restaurant is not safe. It is not safe for you. It is not safe for your date. It is not safe for the workers who staff the restaurant. Even if the restaurant is doing all the “right” things, no safety measure is perfect. In the end, the pandemic is a numbers game, and increasing the number of people you interact with indoors (or even outdoors for long periods of time) is a bad idea. You can get (and transmit) COVID even if you do everything “right,” and even if you have no symptoms, but sitting inside a building with other people’s respiratory droplets for the entirety of a romantic meal is not what “doing everything right” looks like. If you’re having a hard time grasping why it’s a bad idea, think of the coronavirus like virulent glitter:

By the time the virus is running rampant in your area, it’s more likely to be able to overrun your precautions. Think about crafting with glitter: If you only bring out the glitter for a few minutes for one final touch on your project, you may be able to keep it contained, and you can vacuum up the stray bits you missed. But if your child went on a field trip to a glitter factory and swam in the stuff, there will be glitter in your sock drawer the next day, even if you do everything possible, starting with hosing her off before she comes into the house.

Beyond health concerns, eating out this Valentine’s day won’t be sexy like it should be. I don’t know about you, but sitting at awkwardly spaced tables and tugging my mask down to take sips of wine in-between interactions with someone who is literally endangering their life out of financial necessity does not put me in an amorous mood. Such a scene leaves me longing not for my partner, but for the death of capitalism.

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Outdoor dining is a safer option, provided you are actually sitting outside in the open air, and not eating in a small plastic-walled room or tent. But even that seems dweebish, considering that Feb. 14 is a day a lot of people are going to try and snag a snazzy outdoor spot, which means those outdoor spaces (and their indoor bathrooms) will most likely be at capacity. I don’t know if you’ve dined outdoors or gone to the grocery store much during this pandemic, but a lot of people ignore the “six-foot rule,” and pouring a bottle of red wine or Champagne into the mix will only make people sloppier, less diligent, and less aware of their proximity to others (and of state of their mask).

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If your desire to dine this V-Day really is about “supporting restaurants,” then you should order takeout. If you’re worried about the waitstaff who will miss out on tips, call the restaurant and ask how you can tip them even though you won’t be physically dining in the restaurant. If you’re truly concerned about the restaurant and its staff, do a tiny bit of work and pick up the phone and ask them what they need from their loyal customers right now.

If you still think there is a good reason to dine out on Feb. 14, ask a restaurant worker about it. See what they think you should do—keeping in mind that a restaurant worker is different than a restaurant owner. Restaurant owners are bosses who have been put in an impossible position by a political system that does not care if their businesses make it through this crisis, but in an attempt to stay afloat and pay their employees, some of them are lobbying for fewer COVID restrictions and defying bans already in place, trapping themselves in a cycle in which their efforts to provide for their employees actually endanger them.

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I love restaurants and miss eating in them—even on cheesy, dweebish, prix-fixe holidays like Valentine’s Day. I love the people who work in restaurants, both existentially and intimately. I have watched some of my best friends lose their jobs, struggle with severe anxiety and depression, and contract COVID, all because our government refuses to provide meaningful relief to their industry. Every owner and manager I know is tortured by the fear they are doing the wrong thing for their employees, even though staying open during a pandemic is the only way they can afford to keep paying them. (Though there has been some small relief by way of two new executive orders, it is nowhere near enough.)

If you have the option to stay home this Valentine’s Day, you should do so. People who work in restaurants do not have that option, because they need money to pay their rent and feed themselves and their families. Please, I am begging you, just order some damn takeout, and put it on the “nice” plates. Order a lot of takeout—order the whole menu, plus drinks and dessert! Then tip really well. Keep your respiratory droplets out of the dining room. I don’t know if that will be enough to keep your favorite restaurant afloat until Valentine’s Day 2022, but at least it will help keep the people who work there a little safer.

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