When i was younger TGI Fridays was a fun restaurant to go to; it was a slice of Americana, with red and white striped server shirts and electric blue drinks. It was a restaurant nice enough to consider “eating out” but cheap enough to go to with high school friends.
Tonight we were looking for that sort of bargain eating, and so the bunch of us attractive twenty-somethings drove to a Fridays in the city. In a nod to the TGIF uniform of my youth i was in the red striped shirt i had coveted for months, and upon arrival i had a fishbowl sized Sunset Strip in hand. Feeling attractive and pleasantly tipsy, we were seated.
You need to understand something about me and restaurants: i can’t focus on anything written on the menu. It’s a sort of site-specific ADD … too many people, too much movement, too much smoke and clinking glasses. Though i may peruse, i either have a specific favorite in mind or i just flip through and choose the most verbose description.
Here i should mention that Fridays, inexplicably, has joined forces with 7-11 to become part of the low-carb Atkins revolution. The way Atkins re-entered the zeitgest has left me bewildered, especially as i watch people throwing away the buns to eat twice the hamburger.
Does anyone see where this is headed? In my quick perusal i chose the most colorful picture, a chicken dish, and when it was (finally) brought to the table the waitress bellowed “Atkins Diet Chicken!” I laughed, heartily, that she had mistakenly brought this diet dish to our table. When she proffered it to me i joked, “Do i look like i would order the diet dish? Look at me?” The description had made mention that i could “save five carbs by leaving off the peppers,” i calmly explained, but i did not opt in. I had opted out of the Diet Chicken
I was sober now, steely and serious, as if the drink had never existed. I wasn’t on a diet, i told her. This was the third annoyance of the night, i stated coolly, on top of the pineapple in the drink and the slow service. I’d really just like to mention it to the manager. I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just that i’m not fat. I will explain it to your manager; i didn’t order a diet dish.
Or, well, maybe i did. I thought i had ordered the tasty looking chicken with cheese and broccoli. Instead, i inadvertently turned to the page, the one where we are all in on the hip trend, and we are all on the hip and trendy diet. It’s been around for years; South Beach was so mid-2003. I’m not really fat, it’s just these pants.
I delivered a brief but ultimately trite complaint to the manager, who offered to replace my broccoli with carb-rich mashed potatoes, and then silently choked down the food, ignoring my friends. I could hardly taste it, could not feel it in my mouth. Instead, i was feeling it sinking inside me, bloating my stomach, rising in my throat as soon as it left the back of my tongue. The room was suddenly contracted; too small, too loud, my side of broccoli shrub-like in it’s massiveness on the plate, my chicken the cardboard cover of a lean-cuisine box.
The conversation from the table across from me suddenly rose, punching through our table’s idle chatter. I heard the man speaking to the waitress (“Oh, make sure that i get the diet version of that beer. Make sure you take your time with it, i want you to bring it slow.”) and to the inexplicable pimply balloon-sculptor (“Can you make me a light balloon? It’s got to be thin. And can you give it red on the shirt? A really gay red.”)
From there it is a blur, screaming something over Lindsay’s head to the man across from me and his rambling reply floating back at me as i stood and pushed Ross out of the side of the booth, pausing only to throw down all of the large bills from my wallet. I was not gay. I wanted to leave. I was not fat. I wanted my non-descript flannel clothes back, and the underweight body from beneath them. I wanted my fingers flirting seductively with my epiglottis, head resting on the side of the bowl. I wanted to escape.
I walked around and around in the slowly drifting snow, 17th, Chestnut, Walnut, helping the small woman hail her cab, 16th, Chestnut, smiling at the strangers walking to and from the pricey bars, Market, calling Ross to ask him to get change for my big bills, lying easily, “No, no, the bus is only two blocks away,” 16th, 15th, Waiting to let the gorge slip solidly to the bottom of my stomach, the rage lie still.
I take my life for granted sometimes. I live, have lived for five years, in a calm bubble, where the only one judging me is myself. I have allowed my figure to fill out, supressed my irascible nature, embraced the wispy charm of my character, and just made sure to stay calm. Now i have a dozen dozen days of that left until my bubble is burst, one hundred and forty four days from here until i step off that stage into the real world. Everybody judges. Everybody hurts. Sometimes i need to open my mouth. I need to make myself happy a little more often.
I know that wasn’t especially interesting, but it’s what happened to me tonight. I’m always told not to apologize for my art, but it didn’t feel that artful. Thanks for reading. To cheer up, you should check out the bit about S&M in the last post.