During its 108 minute runtime, Eternal Sunshine asks no small number of existential questions, but the most relatable of them all may be one Joel asks after finding himself and Clementine, yet again, at a restaurant called Kangs: "Are we like those bored couples you feel sorry for in restaurants? Are we the dining dead?"
Unless you're a gifted conversationalist and/or freakishly extroverted, chances are you've experienced the death knell that is silence during a romantic meal. And the knell only intensifies with time. When your relationship reaches ripe old age, you start finding it difficult to even look your significant other in the eye while you eat.
But I'm here to say there's a better way to live, to raise your conversational corpses from the dead and never be that bored couple again. Normally I charge for information like this--just three payments of $89.99--but today my five easy steps are available for the low, low price of free.
1. Acknowledge you have a problem. This one couldn't be simpler to understand, but it's not always easy. No, you should not serenade your honey with the sound of your straw suckling at the bottom of your drink glass. And no, it's not okay that the most interesting thing that happened at your last meal was that you called the waitress Parm when her nametag clearly read Pam. Accept that these are hurdles to clear and move on to step 2.
2. Talk about your meal. It's the food, stupid. No, you don't have to go all "Portlandia."
Just focus on your five senses, and talk about what you hear, see, feel, smell, and taste. What individual flavors can you pinpoint? What could be the source of those yelps and howls from the kitchen? Why does the crunch of your leafy greens remind you of the The Blair Witch Project?
3. Get all mystical. Does the meal before you hold the key to your future? Notice how that bed of arugula glistens under those trendy industrial light fixtures. What do Edison bulbs and foie gras have to say about the future of your sex life? Is that trail of pureed parsnip leading somewhere? Or is it a river of pureed parsnip? And are you drowning in it?
4. Analyze your fellow diners' problems.
"I bet that one's named Sue."
"No, she looks like a Trish."
"You just like saying Trish."
"Well, yeah, but she looks like a Trish."
"Okay, fine, but he's definitely a Bertram."
"Bertram?! Nobody's a Bertram."
"Everyone's a Bertram. What else would he be?"
"I would say Paul."
"PAUL? OK, Paul. How's it going, Paul? Did you make that big deal your boss was counting on you for? Did you, Paul?"
"I don't think Paul's employed."
5. Quiz each other. Nothing like a little dinner Jeopardy to revitalize a relationship. Quiz your partner on Best Picture winners from the last two decades. Yes, I've done it. Yes, I only missed one: Gladiator (#RussellCroweHater4LifeSorryBoutIt).
6. BONUS TIP! If all else fails, embrace the silence. Introverts and their strange habits have been all the rage lately on the Interwebs. We all know the minimal level of understanding and respect they've received is just a fad and will pass, but why not work it while you can? Alternatively, pretend you're on a blind date but neither of you speak English. This will make ordering your meal a barrel of fun and is sure to make your server's night.