by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
One hard of hearing lady lamented:
For the last 3 years I have avoided like the plague a candlelight dinner that my husband and my friends go to each year at the holidays. Does a hard of hearing person hate anything more than a dark room with flickering candles and everyone talking at different tables while trying to eat? My heart is pounding as I type this even though everyone talks about how nice it is, how romantic, how fun, etc.
If I told my friends the reason I don’t go, they would immediately call for lights on and hang everybody else! This year they are planning it again, and I will again have to come up with a realistic excuse. That, or try it and see if I live through the experience. Should I advocate for me–one person, at the expense of everyone else?
I know how you feel. I used to feel the same. To answer your question, no you should not spoil it for everyone else, but yes, you should advocate for yourself. The trick is to find a solution that meets both needs.
Believe it or not, there are some tricks that can actually make a candlelight dinner a reasonably enjoyable experience in spite of the low light. Here’s how.
First, who said you could only use 1 or 2 candles per table? Use lots of candles, the more candles–the more light! (Let’s not get carried away and have an inferno burning on your table–but 6 or 8 candles gives you much more light than 1 or 2 candles and yet doesn’t spoil the romantic ambience.)
Second, the placement of the candles makes all the difference. Traditionally, you place candles in the center of the table. Unfortunately, this means that you you, the hard of hearing person, have a candle shining right in your eyes making it difficult to speechread the person across the table from you.
A much better way is to arrange the candles to the sides. For example, you could line up several candles in two rows–one on each side of you. Now you have adequate light in order to speechread your partner, and at the same time you don’t have any candles shining directly in your eyes.
One final tip. Try this out at home some time. See how many candles you need and their best placement for you. Then, when you are dining out, you can ask the waiter for the number of extra candles you need. As an added bonus, you now already know how to quickly arrange them for the best effect.
Just doing these two things can make dining by candlelight possible–especially if it is just the two of you. It works for me.