I WAS WRESTLING with a dirty apartment and a sour mood, and the commercial came on four times that day: soothing shades of seawater blue, laughter and eating, intimate shots of pristine lobster kissed with a squirt of lemon.... Suddenly I knew--Red Lobster could solve my problems. I needed to feel fresh and light, and a luxurious lobster dinner would nudge my world back into alignment. The closest Red Lobster was 20 miles away. I convinced Patrick, my boyfriend, to drive.

Forty-five minutes later, we found Lynnwood's Red Lobster. While walking toward the front door, I noticed how uncomfortably tight my pants were: The waist dug harshly into my stomach, making it hard to exhale; the taut fabric around my hips and thighs pulled as I walked, pinching my flesh. I cursed myself for wearing old pants out to dinner. Then I remembered they weren't old.

While waiting for a table, as I plopped down on a bench next to the lobster tank, the top button of my pants--unable to bear the strain any longer--popped off and shot across the room like a stray bullet. Mortified, I looked around. No one else seemed to notice, so I pulled my sweater over my pants. We were seated quickly, and I focused on the faux nautical surroundings, grateful for distractions. Our waiter suggested a Lobsterita® ($6.99)--24 ounces of slushy strawberry margarita in a glass approximately the size of my face, with "lobster beads" (a plastic necklace with a lobster pendant) slung over the thick rim.

Besides fried shrimp, butterflied shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp cocktail, shrimp fondue, and peel 'n' eat shrimp, the menu also offered crab legs, heavy seafood pastas, steak, chicken, various fish, and of course, lobster. In honor of "Lobsterfest," we started with the satisfyingly salty and cheesy Goombay Lobster Dip ($7.99) and Lobster & Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, generously stuffed and--like everything else--smothered in cheese ($6.75). My RockZilla (a mega-sized Rock lobster tail, $30.99) came with white-cheddar mashed potatoes, "Cheddar Bay Biscuits" (the house's cheese-infused table bread), and a fresh, crisp garden salad, garnished with a clumsy fistful of grated cheddar.

Totally idiot-proof, the lobster tail burst like a hothouse flower, its shell perfectly pre-cracked. Patrick's Maine lobster was hidden under white cheese sauce, alongside a creamy linguini mountain. I was confounded by how salty and overcooked my lobster was, stiff with kitchen mistakes. I glanced around the room. Practically everyone was overweight. Four women in pastel sweatpants and T-shirts with inspiring logos ("Goddess Power!") stretched across their chests giggled over fried calamari and Crab Alfredo ($11.50). Behind us, two kids shrieked and pelted each other with popcorn shrimp. Their mother wearily slurped her Alotta Colada™ ($5.99). Elderly couples with surf 'n' turf and "Seafood Feast" combo platters dangled in my peripheral vision. I was suddenly very aware of my busted pants, shabby sweater, and greasy hair. Everything felt wrong. This wasn't like the commercial. At all.

"What are we doing here?" I whispered to Patrick. He looked at me blankly. "I mean... look at us. We used to be cool, right?! What happened to us?!"

"Are you crying?" Patrick was shocked.

"Look at us," I moaned, "eating our cheese dinners. We're so pathetic. We used to... do your PANTS still fit you?!"

I started to hyperventilate. "You don't understand... it's Sunday night and I'm 23 years old and I'm in Lynnwood and the pants I bought six months ago DO NOT fit me anymore and I just wanted plain lobster tail with lemon, like in the commercial, because I cleaned the house all day and we never go out anymore and I just can't even believe I'm sitting here right now wearing a fucking lobster necklace and a BIB because MY PANTS ARE BROKEN, OKAY?!"

Patrick hastily paid our check and we left; I awkwardly held up my failed trousers in one hand, clutching a bag of soggy Cheddar Bay Biscuits in the other, (because after all that, I was going to take something home). The combination of seafood, dairy, and sodium left us queasy and parched. We drove in sulky silence, and I stared straight ahead. All I could think about was buying new pants.

Red Lobster

4231 196th St SW, Lynnwood. Sun-Thurs, 11 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-11 pm. Full bar. $$.

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-20; $$$ = $20 and up