Odds are, at some point in your life you will have to break bread with someone you don't like.
Maybe you're a Real Housewife who wasn't invited to a perfume launch party that all of the other Real Housewives were invited to, so you have to have lunch with Ramona in an empty Italian restaurant at 4 p.m. on a Thursday because you're "not about drama." Maybe you're in bread breaking karate-type competition and the only other competitor is your nemesis.
Awkward lunches can happen for lots of reasons.
Yesterday, the White House announced that former Massachusetts governor and Twilight Team Edwardian Mitt Romney will meet with President Obama in a private dining room for lunch today. Press will not be allowed. Nor (I'm guessing) cell phones at the table, if Obama is anything like my dad.
These two have so much to talk about that they might as well not say anything, because where do you even begin?
You begin with Gawker's Guide to Awkward Lunches.
Who Should Arrive First?
After food, ambiance, conversation, quality of service, and who picks up the check, who arrives first is easily the most important part of any business lunch. There is no more subtle way to make your dining partner look foolish (except paying off the waiter to say his card was declined), than by plotting a devastating arrival time. But is it better to arrive early or late?
Early: Arriving first allows you to engage in reconnaissance and preliminary defense tactics. Identify all exits and trap doors. Set up camp in the comfier chair with the better view. Take all the knives and place them on your side of the table. You can also use this time to get the waitstaff on your side by giving them a wink (Obama) or slipping them a crisp $10,000 bill (Romney).
Late: For the meek, arriving second can make you feel like a visitor in your own home. Approached confidently, however, late entrance can be transformed into a brash power play. "I apologize for arriving 20 minutes late to this lunch you invited me to; I'm such a busy guy." "Sorry I'm 40 minutes late; I didn't think you'd mind waiting for the President." If you do arrive late, do your best to rush through lunch, so that your partner realizes spending time with him is an unpleasant inconvenience.
Wildcard: To really throw the other guy for a loop, hide near the entrance so that you can "arrive" at exactly the same time as him. Now he feels like he put a lot of thought into timing his entrance, and you just waltzed in off the street, too-blessed-to-be-stressed and fresh as a daisy.
What Would a Cool Guy Eat?
At a meal like this, you're going for poise rather than taste.
At my first "Let's talk about this," brunch, I arrived early to my dorm's cafeteria and scoped out a table that offered a comfy booth (me), and a small plastic chair (him). Knowing life would offer plenty of other opportunities to embark on tastetacular journeys, I selected a small bowl of cereal as my meal. When my dining partner arrived on time (AKA late), he piled his plate high with donuts and other breakfast delights.
Motherfucker had powdered sugar all over his face. Looked foolish. Don't do it.
Here are some other foods to avoid:
Soup. Unlike cereal, in which discrete pieces of food can be placed onto a spoon and eaten separately, soup is a sloppy, murky mess that will splash everywhere.
Noodles. You WILL have noodles hanging out of your mouth.
Anything eaten with the hands. Am I having a tense lunch with a former opponent or a rabid junkyard dog?
Jello. Jiggly sugar shapes are for old people and children.
Wildcard: Eat a small meal before hand. After your dining partner orders, raise your hand and say "I already ate. Just a glass of water, please."
Double wildcard: Eat a handful of pills without blinking.
Silence the Silence: Avoid Awkward Silence
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama has no specific agenda for the meeting, but would like to hear some of Governor Romney's ideas for making the government run more efficiently. This is obviously a set-up so that Obama can sneak in a, "here's what I've done to make the government more efficient: Not let you be President!" dig. After that joke, they're going to have some silence to fill.
Here's a list of Twitter topics that were trending across the United States this morning, to use as jumping off points:
Knowledge Is Power
One of the most disquieting things you can do to a lunch mate is prove that you know more about the restaurant than he does. To this end, Obama and Romney should both familiarize themselves as much as possible with the history of the White House Private Dining Room.
Then, midway through the first course, Obama can remark, "you know, for a long time these walls were painted yellow. The Carters reinstated the antique wallpaper." And just before dessert arrives, Romney can whisper, "a young girl once slept where you sat. This was her bedroom. She's dead now."
Is This a Date-Date or a Friends-Date?
Since this lunch is being held inside the White House, it's unlikely either party will be expected to couch up cash at the end of the meal. Still, there's always an opportunity for a Big Gesture at the meal's conclusion. Here's some candidate specific advice:
Romney: A quick, easy way to degrade someone is to send them scrambling to pick up money you have just thrown on the floor (even if they're just going to hand it back to you). Mitt should say he'd like to pay for his portion, and then make it rain in da club of the White House Private Dining Room. If Obama refuses to accept money, he should regurgitate all the food he just ate and, wiping his mouth, snarl, "I don't need your charity."
Obama: Have Mitt Romney escorted off the premises by security.
Enjoy your noms!
(Washington Post //Art by Jim Cooke )