The wait at the Korean barbeque was nearly two hours, so the three of them ended up at a skeevy little gastropub a block over instead. Zoe and Mark had both eaten there before, and while Mark only dimly remembered it — “I guess the food was OK. Couldn’t tell you what I had, though,” — Zoe had thought that the waiter had been leering at her the entire evening.
She kept that to herself.
The ambiance hovered somewhere between “nostalgically smokey” and “1970s lounge room”, everything covered in dark wood and black pleather, with the lighting barely strong enough to see your plate. “Is this place supposed to be ironic?” Neil asked as they followed the host to their table.
Zoe stiffled a laugh. “No one knows what that means anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that there’s no way to tell, just from looking at something, whether it’s ironic. Not anymore, anyway. It’s entirely possible that the owner of this place just loves pleather and dark wood and average-tasting food.” She waved her hand at the half-empty dining room. “It’s every bit as likely that everyone else here is also here as sincerely as we are, trying to find a place to eat and not worried about the optics of the situation.”
“I thought New Yorkers were good at discerning irony, though.”
Zoe waved her hand. “A myth. I mean, it’s possible that some people here are buried under layers and layers of ironic sincerity. That couple, for example.” She pointed at a guy about her age, wearing a turtleneck and loose blue jeans, sitting across from a woman wearing a long green dress. “I would venture to guess that they’re here for what they think are ironic reasons — both of them seem like they have enough taste to know that the food here isn’t great, and they can afford to eat someplace nicer — but they both also sincerely and secretly enjoy eating here. Not that they’d admit it. Sincerity buried under irony buried under sincerity.”