It’s not every day, or every year, even, when my brother comes through town and buys me lunch at a fancy restaurant. So I wasn’t wasting a moment of it on reading the menu!
It took me just ten seconds to make my decision before snapping the menu shut. “I’ll have the special,” I told the waiter.
“Which one? The chicken, the veal, or fish?”
I kept my answer brief. “Chicken. And before you ask, I’ll take the salad, not the soup, and the house dressing.”
“Very good,” said the waiter, who quickly took my brother’s order and scurried away.
“Way to go, Judy!” said my brother. “Since when did you get so decisive?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Of course you do. This is me, remember?
Your baby brother, who sometimes conned dad into buying me a second dish of ice cream while you were still deciding what flavor to have for your first one.”
“I never noticed that.”
“And now, look at you! Bill Gates himself couldn’t be more efficient!
Who are you, and what have you done with my sister?”
I laughed. “I’m blaming my kids. You even warned me this would happen. Remember the first family reunion you came to when your kids were little, before I had any?
I remember you just shoveled your food in, so fast, because you said it would only be five minutes before the baby woke up. And it was!”
“Four minutes and a half, actually.”
“Yes, I know — my husband’s the one who timed it.”
“And when you’ve only got five minutes to eat, you’re not going to spend them deciding between chicken and fish!”
“Hmm. I guess, looking back, I felt that every decision was a form of self-expression, and so it had to be perfect. Had I chosen the perfect ice cream? The perfect earrings? The perfect apartment? Whereas now, I just want the decision to be over with.”
“I’ve got it — you’re a High NFC!”
My eyes widened. “A High Whatsee?”
“Sorry. That means people with a High Need For Closure. There’s a psych professor at the University of Maryland — Arie Kruglansky — who writes about this. ‘High NFC’ people want things over and done with, where other people can tolerate more ambiguity. For example — do you remember that NPR podcast ‘Serial’?”
“Yes. I didn’t like it.”
“Of course not. It only went to No. 1 on iTunes! But some people just couldn’t stand it because it never came out and said whether the guy it talked about all season was guilty or not.”
“What’s the point of all that reporting if you leave people up in the air?”
My brother was smiling at me. “And I don’t suppose you were a fan of how David Chase ended the series ‘Sopranos’? Where it just went to black and you had to decide for yourself what it meant?”
“Don’t get me started! What was the point of that? Were they “whacked”? Or not? Why should I spend time watching a TV show if it ends up just as pointless and confusing as life itself? Who needs it?”
By now my brother was laughing so hard he almost snorted his water at me. He would pay handsomely for this! I flagged down the waiter and requested the dessert menu.
Two seconds later I knew what I wanted. “Tiramisu,” I told the waiter. “And a decaf cappuccino.”
“Same for me,” said my brother, not even looking at his menu.
“So — you’re a High NFC, too?
“Guilty as charged.”
“So does it matter, being High or Low NFC?”
“Well, according to some people, if you can put off having to make a decision, sometimes you can make better decisions, with more information, at work, or in politics….”
“Oh, no you don’t! You are not dragging politics into this discussion! Now — Are you finished laughing at me?” I asked in my severest voice.
“Never! Come on, it’s funny! You’re funny!”
I said nothing. I was too busy spooning a coffee-flavored dessert confection into my mouth. When I was done with my own plate, I started in on my brother’s.
“Hey! That’s my dessert, there. Knock it off!”
“That’s just to make up for all those extra ice creams you got, when we were kids. And anyway, you said so yourself — it’s not my fault! I just need this meal to be over with — I have a need for closure.”