This weekend Taylor came for a visit, which was very nice in all of the expected ways. For dinner on Saturday,we talked about making pasta caprese or steaks or artichokes but eventually decided to go down the road to Jamie’s, a burger joint located next to the local Albertson’s.
Jamie’s is the sort of place where they reheat the french fries and put a little too much chocolate syrup in the malts, with a vague fifties theme and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling, for no apparent reason other than to be decorative. What Jamie’s lacks in class it makes up for with the most delicious onion rings in the universe and some startlingly pretty waitresses.
On Saturday night, Taylor decided to be adventurous and order a steak sandwich, and I got a basket of chicken strips with aforementioned fantastic onion rings. We enjoyed it (for the most part, apparently the barbecue sauce on the steak sandwich was eerily similar to ketchup) and afterwards we moved up front to pay. One of the pretty waitresses was our cashier, a slender blonde with one of those stylish gold headbands across her forehead and a layer of eyeliner you’d need an ice scraper to peel off. Watching her run my debit card, I wanted to grab a wet rag, wipe some of the makeup off her face and then point her to a mirror.
“Look,” I’d say. “Look how gorgeous you are! Think of all the money you’ll save on foundation!”
And then she would have an epiphany and scamper off, secure in her self-image and ready to save the world.
I snapped back to reality as Taylor nudged me to sign the receipt. The waitress was being friendly, making conversation.
“Oh my God,” she said to me. “I couldn’t bee-lieve that you ate all those chicken strips.”
I glanced at her with raised eyebrows. I turned to Taylor, who made the slightest shrug.
“Oh, well, I was hungry,” I said. I wasn’t sure whether to be apologetic or not. Her tone was composed of equal parts amazement and disgust, and it was difficult to tell which had compelled her to make the statement.
“People come in,” the waitress went on, “and they’re like ‘I need more than two chicken strips’, so they get the four, and I’m just like what? I just can’t believe you could finish it.”
“I…uh. I don’t always,” I said. “Portions are pretty big here. You guys have this hot dog, this chili dog?”
“Yeah, the half pounder!”
“Yeah, and I got that once, and only got through like a third of it.” I felt the need to prove to her that I didn’t always eat like I was about to hibernate. For some reason, her approval had become instantly important. I felt uncomfortable.
“I brought that home for my son once,” said the waitress, clicking a button on her computer. “He ate the whole thing! I couldn’t believe it.”
“How old is your son?” I asked politely.
“Four. But he’s tall.”
“Oh, gosh! And a whole half pound hot dog?” I wheezed in faux-surprise and clutched my chest. I had suddenly become an middle-aged woman at a four-square church service. “My goodness,” I reaffirmed. “Wow. His little tummy would be all distended.”
“I know, right?” The waitress let the second receipt print into her fingers and tore it off with an expert swipe. The bicycle loomed ominously above us. It seemed threatening now. The waitress appeared unconcerned. “He can eat like, a ton,” she continued. “I’m like, thank God he’s not fat.”
“Thank God!” I agreed. Taylor was tugging at my hand, and we began backing towards the door. “You have a good night now,” I told her, and we fled.
We walked towards the car in silence for a moment. Taylor wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me over next to him.
“Wow,” I said. “I have no idea how to feel about that. Was I just complimented? Or insulted?”
“I don’t know,” Taylor said. We split to move to different sides of the car. “I don’t think she was trying to be mean,” he added.
“I know. I think she was just being…friendly? Maybe? But was she calling me fat? Or thin? Was it like, ‘Oh gosh you are so tiny I don’t know how you could finish that’? Or was it more like ‘How could you be that disgusting, Lardy McWhale’?”
“Because her opinion is very very important,” Taylor said. We shut the doors and buckled, and he started the car. I sighed. I didn’t know whether I was offended or not. More accurately, I wasn’t offended, but I had the nagging feeling that I should have been. It was disconcerting. “Did you catch that bit about her son?” Taylor asked as he maneuvered out of the parking lot. I nodded.
“‘Thank God he’s not fat,'” I repeated. Taylor scoffed.
“‘Yeah, well, he’s got this palsy, but at least he’s no fatty.'”
We giggled for a moment, and then sobered.
“That was mean to laugh at,” I said. “She was just being nice. I’m sure she was. Like…I don’t know. Eighty percent sure she was just being nice. And we shouldn’t laugh at her son.”
“No, we shouldn’t.”
I’m still not entirely sure what that waitress meant. I’m tempted to go back over there and ask her. Walk right up and say, “Hey, were you calling me fat, and if so, are you prepared to take this outside?” It occurred to me late last night, though, that before our confused interaction, I had been analyzing the waitress herself. The color of her hair. The width of her waist. The amount of foundation she has on, and in more than one occasion I had found something to silently criticize.
I think that’s called ‘hypocrisy’, but it might also be referred to as ‘being a dick’.
If I were with my friends, and one of them commented on my ability to put away potato chips, I would probably wipe my mouth and say, “Yeah, and I can burp The Barber Of Seville. Wanna hear?” The fact is that I was hypersensitive to the pretty waitress because she was pretty, and I was jealous. I had stuck her on a pedestal the moment I walked in the door, with her lovely figure and big blue eyes, and so from there an anything she would have said would have been talking down to me, at least from my deluded perspective.
I’m not sure if that habit (because it is a habit, I do it about as often as I walk through doors) should be broken by raising myself up to an equal pedestal, or doing away with the pedestals all together.
In any case, I have decided to take the waitress’ comment as a compliment. She was amazed. I was proud. And those onion rings, have I mentioned, were absolutely delish.