Look everyone, Generation Z is anxious again. What a surprise! Color me shocked. What are they worried about this time?
For the most part, Gen Zers are anxious about important issues, like gun violence, food instability, housing prices, and the economy. But other times, they freak out about some of the dumbest things that make the rest of us roll our eyes. Which also upsets them.
Over the years, I have written about how people born between 1997 and 2012 get anxious whenever they encounter thumbs-up emojis, the 9-to-5 workday, periods at the ends of text messages, and WORDS IN ALL CAPS.
(Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten some of you there. Ah, who am I kidding? Gen Zers don't read newspapers.)
While the rest of the world is dealing with actual problems, Gen Z is afraid of everything; things that Boomers, Generation X, and older Millennials don't even notice because it's all part of being an adult.
Now there's a new thing that is giving Zoomers anxiety, and I don't know whether to throw my hands up or be sympathetic.
It's called "menu anxiety," and they're now "triggered" whenever they encounter large, complicated, or unusual menus.
Which means eating at Cheesecake Factory makes them foam at the mouth.
Also, I use "triggered" in quotes because it's a word that is otherwise overused to the point of uselessness. I believe some people ARE triggered — war veterans, victims of abuse and violent crime, or people with actual post-traumatic stress disorder — and it's very serious.
A PTSD reaction can be triggered by the most commonplace things: fireworks, loud noises, bright lights, or even the sound of tires squealing. And they can panic, have nightmares, and engage in self-destructive behavior.
But Zoomers have co-opted the term and now throw themselves in a tizzy over every little thing. Like when someone uses the words "died" or "killed," but they're written as di*d or k*lled as if somehow the little asterisk protects the delicate waifs from collapsing on the ground.
"Whew! I thought that was a forbidden word, but it has an asterisk in it. Cris*s averted!"
For those grown-ups who get anxiety from a dinner menu, I'm just embarrassed for you.
The survey found that menu anxiety was often caused by the cost of a meal, not being able to find something they liked, regretting what they ordered, or having too many options.
I agree with the Zoomers on one point: restaurant prices have shot up dramatically this year, as much as 6%. That's a bit much, considering everything is increasing except our wages.
But I roll my eyes so far back into my head when these baby diners can't find something they like because there are too many options. That's not a restaurant problem, that's a you problem.
For one thing, this is your chance to explore new options and new frontiers. A chance to expand your horizons and educate your palate on great food. Rather than watching food videos on TikTok, now you can see what it is that everyone else has been raving about. So quit whining about it and embrace this as a new learning opportunity.
Ask your server what they like and try that. Order the day's special. Ask a friend about their favorite food. Post a question to social media and let the Internet decide.
If you're going to a restaurant with too many choices, here's a simple strategy: Pick one thing you like — hamburgers, pasta, chicken, vegetarian, or whatever. Next, find that section on the menu. Now you only have a single item with multiple options.
Are there six types of hamburgers? That's better than the overwhelming pile of choices you were faced with. Are there five different pasta dishes? Focus on those five and choose one. Ignore everything else on the menu and zero in on the thing you like the most.
If that's still too hard, try this: Every restaurant has a children's menu. Since you're still operating at that level, order some pasketti and meatballs.
Or if you want to be a grownup about it, look at the menu online and make your selection at home. That's useful because 38% of Zoomers and Millennials won't go to a restaurant if they haven't seen the menu beforehand.
Finally, almost half of the Gen Z respondents said they were anxious because they weren't able to pronounce the options on the menu.
It's easy, say it with me: Ham. Burr. Grr.
Better yet, do what my dad does. Point at the thing you want and show it to the server. It's simple, easy, and gets the job done. It beats hiding under the covers at home.
Dining out isn't hard, people! It's nothing to throw yourself into a panic over. It shouldn't make you anxious when there are already plenty of real problems in the world. Stop manufacturing drama and focus on the things that really matter.
Like trying to decide what you want to watch on Netflix. I'm surprised more of you haven't di*d from that already.
Photo credit: Eric Fischer (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)
My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.