Tonight is this season’s last episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” a must-see for Laurel and me ever since a friend, Randy, recommended this HBO show to us. Randy, quite reasonably, told me once that he is Larry David, personality-wise. However, I, starting from a lower rung on the in-your-face-take-me-as-I-am ladder, am only now—after several seasons—finally starting to feel that I am becoming Larry David.
One could argue, of course, whether this is a good thing. If you don’t watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” or if your home is a cultural HBO wasteland bereft of this show, the “Sopranos,” and “Six Feet Under” (how sad I feel for you), I wish I could encapsulate the persona of Larry David, who plays Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But I can’t. Larry David is an entirely original character, which helps explain why I and so many others find him so appealing. Also appalling. Appealing and appalling, maybe that’s the best way to describe him.
I don’t consciously try to emulate Larry David, but perhaps watching so many episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is having some kind of subliminal effect on me, amplifying my inherent Larry David tendencies. Last night we had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Silverton with four friends. So it was two vegetarians, Laurel and me, sitting down to dine with four meat-eaters.
Picking up our menus, my vegetarian radar immediately started picking up some nascent danger signals in the casual pre-ordering conversation. “How about if we go family style? Everybody pick a dish and we’ll share.” “Great, that’s a good idea.” “I’m thinking of this beef curry.” “Noodles and chicken, that sounds good.” My future started flashing before me, and it wasn’t pretty, given how hungry I was. Laurel and I were going to order two vegetarian dishes. The other four people would order four meat dishes. So we would get to eat part of two dishes, and everyone else would get to eat part of six dishes.
The Larry David side of Brian began talking, and even worse, out loud, along the lines of, “OK, we vegetarians can go along with family style, just so long as the rest of the family keeps their meat-eating hands out of our tofu dishes. That’s fine, order what you want, dead cows, dead chickens, whatever you want. We’ll make do. I don’t eat eggs, but maybe I can scrape off the proto-chickens from a few lettuce leaves in the egg salad.” And so on in that vein.
After that I pretty much lost track of what people were ordering, since it was by number, not by name. Amazingly, my Larry David schtick paid off. When the waiter brought all the Thai dishes to our table, every single bowl was vegetarian-friendly. A tofu-bonanza, with not a piece of beef, chicken, or fish in sight. I ate like a (vegetarian) pig. I didn’t feel guilty. Am I a bad person? Is Larry David? These are profound questions, not easily answered in a Sunday evening posting, especially since a pre-dinner nap is calling me.
My short answer is that honesty combined with humor is almost always a good thing. With this caveat: those who give must be prepared to get. If I say what I feel—“hey, family style eating screws the vegetarian minority!”—then I have to be prepared to feel the pricks of some psychological skewers from the carnivores. There is nothing worse than a joker who can’t take a joke.
And even when I’m in my Larry David tell-it-like-you-see-it frame of mind, I try to keep a portion of my psyche attuned to how I’m coming across to others—something Larry David doesn’t do on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” very often, which is why the show is so funny (you can see the train wreck coming, but the engineer has the throttle wide open).
Bottom line: given a choice between spending an evening exchanging superficial pleasantries with shallow acquaintances and sharing edgy honesties with deep friends, I’ll take the latter. Hey, this is the truth: Vegetarian friends concerned with preventing karmic consequences don’t let carnivorous friends eat meat—at least, when it is served family style and everyone is splitting the check.