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What's our limit?

When I was a kid, going out to eat was simple. We walked in, sat down at a table, opened our menus ... and then either Alan or I (or both) would ask, "What's our limit?" Because when we ate out, we always had a limit: the maximum amount we were allowed to spend. It included drinks, dessert, everything. So we had to count up how much we were spending and make sure we stayed under the limit.

It always pissed Dad off when we would go to visit him and we'd ask, "What's our limit?" when he took us out to eat. "Just get what you want!" he always insisted. But the vagueness wasn't comfortable. We wanted to know! What's our limit?

We still ask, "What's our limit?" today when we eat out with Mom and she's paying.

As a kid, I thought this was completely normal, and it never occurred to me that it wouldn't transfer to the outside world.

Now, in adulthood, I'm always uncomfortable when someone takes me out to eat. I know it isn't socially acceptable for me to ask, "What's my limit?" ... but I'm always thinking it. How much should I spend? How much is too much? Should I get the caesar salad ... or does that cost too much?

In my mind, there's still some invisible limit, but I'm not allowed to ask what it is. And so I have to guess.

No wonder Alan and I preferred to have it spelled out for us.

Tomorrow, Shannon's dad and step-mother are coming up to Berkeley to take us out to lunch. I know that they would want me to just order whatever I want, but I also know that I will still dance the silent, invisible "What's my limit?" dance in my head.

I always do.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 1st, 2003 12:35 am (UTC)
I would also be more comfortable being able to ask "What's my limit?" when others take me out to eat (or do other things for me). After all, that limit is always there. Go over it, and you look rude.

A limit gives you freedom. You don't have to feel guilty for ordering an entree AND a dessert or appetizer, because you're under the limit.

I don't think you and Alan are alone in preferring to have that freedom.
Sep. 1st, 2003 02:06 am (UTC)
that's interesting. I never thought of it that way.. To most people I think that concept would be more limiting than freeing, but I can see what you mean if you think there IS one and you're not told what.
Sep. 1st, 2003 06:44 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know what you mean. When being treated to a meal by anyone but my parents, I usually take care to order low-to-median-priced items, and don't order appetizers/desserts/drinks if my host doesn't. If I don't know what my host is going to order, I pretend not to be quite ready when the waiter comes, and I make them order first.
Sep. 1st, 2003 07:33 am (UTC)
I know that they would want me to just order whatever I want, but I also know that I will still dance the silent, invisible "What's my limit?" dance in my head.

Sometimes it's enough to be reminded that we know ourselves.
Sep. 1st, 2003 07:38 am (UTC)
I always set a limit in my own head. I always order something priced at or below the average price, and I take my cue from the host about drinks, appetizers, and dessert (with no cue from the host, I'll allow myself one of the above, usually just a soda).
Sep. 1st, 2003 02:37 pm (UTC)
Think of the limit as being set by the restaurant. If they take you somewhere where most meals are priced at $20 then don't buy anything for more than $25. If they take you somewhere where dishes are prices at $100, don't spend more than $120.

They set the limit by deciding what kind of place they can afford to eat out at. Unless they then sit there ordering the salad and water, they are telling you that they are happy to pay for anything on the menu.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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