Well, that's it. I can't stand it anymore: tonight I'm going to break my Lenten promise and meet my husband for dinner at a restaurant. (Note to atheists: Easter is tomorrow, the day Lent ends.) That's right, I gave up restaurants for Lent. Do you know how hard it is not to eat in a restaurant for 40 days and 40 nights when you live in NYC? Do you know how hard it is not to pick up a salad for lunch when you're at your day job, no deli bagels when you're on the run, no pizza takeout, no Chinese delivery, no Friday-night-meet-up-with-friends drinks and dinner at your favorite dining spot, no popcorn at the movies, which I also counted as restaurant eating, just to make myself more miserable? Well, do you?
And I was so good. I just broke my promise one other time during the 40 days of Lent, and that was when a friend invited me and a couple other friends to be her guest at a restaurant because she was celebrating her recent admission to grad school. Oh, I suppose I could have refused, but refusing would have meant punishing her with my Lent promise, as if I'm some kind of holier-than-thou Christian, which I am not. And I was already punishing enough people with it (see below), plus she was paying.
So why did I promise myself not to eat at any restaurants during Lent?
1) To see what the deprivation would feel like.
2) To explore the feeling of going without in a very specific way.
3) To make myself be more mindful of the food I was eating.
4) To cook more at home and try new recipes, which I did.
5) To lose weight, which I didn't.
6) To be part of a springtime cycle of repentance and preparing new spiritual ground. (In yoga class last night, we did springtime poses, and I imagined myself as a curled-up crocus bulb with shoots emerging out of the ground.)
Anyway, according to a religious web site I just googled, I got Lent all wrong this year. Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a similar manner to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting. However, according to the site, "the New Testament teaches us that our acts of fasting and repentance should be done in a manner that does not attract attention to ourselves," and then it goes on to quote Matthew 6:16-18:
16Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
What a sinner I am. Here I was, whining for 40 days (OK, make that 39) to Dave and friends about how hard it was not going to restaurants and what a great sacrifice I was making, and then telling them that if they wanted to go out with me, we were going to have to do something other than eat at a restaurant, duh, which in New York City, everybody eats out all the time. I even forced my girlfriend Bella to cook dinner for me one night, for fuck's sake. And let's not even get into how much I tortured Dave. Which is why I'm going out with him tonight on a date, where we're going to have dinner and a few drinks and go listen to some live music.
Next year, I'm definitely not giving up restaurants for Lent. The bigger question is whether I give up anything at all, and if I do, whether I can just keep my big mouth shut about it.