Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were taking the day off and decided to get lunch at our favorite Mexican fast-food joint as a little treat. Usually we take food home and eat while watching a movie or something, partly because I have lingering issues with social anxiety and eating disorders that make me extremely uncomfortable eating around strangers. I’ve been trying to deal with this since childhood and now as a young adult I feel like I’m in control of these feelings, but they haven’t gone away. And what happened yesterday pretty much cemented that they never will.
My boyfriend is very understanding about my “food weirdness” as we call it and does his best to reassure me. I had assumed we would take the food home like usual but he suggested we eat in the restaurant and plan the rest of our day. I wasn’t entirely feeling up to it and said, only half joking, that I didn’t want the restaurant staff to “judge me”. (I’m not a big girl, but I do have a large appetite and am self conscious about it.) He told me I was being silly and in we went.
The restaurant wasn’t very busy, but there were a few people in line at the counter and seated around, and one woman taking orders. When it was our turn I smiled and greeted her politely and placed my order. When my boyfriend began to tell her what he would like, she suddenly looked startled and cut him off in mid sentence, exclaiming loudly enough for everyone to hear: “Wait, all that food is just for YOU?!” She then started guffawing loudly, flapping her hands around like nothing so funny had ever happened in her entire life, repeatedly making comments about how much I had ordered.
I was absolutely mortified but had no idea what to say, so I just kind of nervously laughed along hoping she would finish our transaction quickly.
She finished taking my boyfriend’s order, still chuckling to herself, she then turned to me and asked me a question but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I don’t know whether because she was still laughing or because all the blood rushing to my face was affecting my hearing. I grabbed my receipt and turned to find a table as she reposed the question to my boyfriend.
We ate our meal in near complete silence. I felt totally embarrassed by what had happened but was trying not to let it get to me. When we were walking back to the car, I asked him what she had said because I hadn’t understood her last comment. She had asked him if I was pregnant!!! Needless to say I didn’t eat dinner that night …
What makes me feel worst of all was that it was my usual food order and now I feel that every time I have ordered it the staff and other customers have been disgusted by me and thought I was a ridiculous over eater. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be eating out for a while. Or ever again. 0322-11
Youth seems to exacerbate a person’s flustered inability to respond to the rude boors of the world. It’s like being a deer in the headlights….caught unaware that there is a epic faux pas barreling down on them with blinding ill manners.
What you need to do is exercise your confidence muscles by remembering a few things.
1) Who gives a flying flip what a total stranger thinks about you? Does this person have any investment in your health and happiness? No. Your rude boor was a cashier. Enough said. When I was much younger, I used to exercise my confidence by remembering that my husband loves me and that it really doesn’t matter what these freaky strangers might think.
When I was pregnant with baby #2, I was grocery shopping and had put 2 cartons of ice cream in my cart. A complete stranger came over to me and proceeded to point out which items in my cart I didn’t need, including the ice cream. I don’t really like ice cream, it was for my husband but I was so flabbergasted that some woman would have the audacity to actually presume to lecture me on what to buy that I had that “deer in the headlights” moment. Being older and wiser, if this had happened again, I would have gently removed her hand from my items in my cart, told her to mind her own business while giving her a look that was sure to convey my belief that she was a rude alien from the planet Booron.
2) Sometimes others’ comments can be a useful tool for personal reflection but once you come to a conviction that X is just fine with you (such as what you choose to eat, etc), what others think shouldn’t rattle your cage. It does get better as you getter older because you gain confidence that’s OK to be you.
3) Know etiquette right from wrong. I’m a firm believer that the more we know about etiquette and how to behave in society, the greater our confidence to deal with those who don’t. There is a quiet war against the invasion of aliens from Planet Booron and we must win! For heaven’s sake, don’t stop eating out at restaurants or else the aliens have succeeded.
If you had to do it over again, this is how one could react to that hyena cashier. Fix her with a steely look and ask to speak to the manager immediately. (And btw, while it is rude to stare at people with true disfigurements, it is quite OK to stare at aliens from Booron as if they had five horns growing from their head.) When manager arrives, explain that the cashier was behaving inappropriately by mocking your food choices and that you would appreciate it if he would deal with the poor customer service. If hyena cashier IS the manager, ask to speak to the owner. If all else fails, simply say, “I see. Well, that is unfortunate.” Once home, hightail it to every online restaurant review site and submit a truthful but scathing review. I did this once years ago and the next day returned to the restaurant with a handful of print outs from the sites I had used to review the restaurant, silently handed them to the manager and walked out. Restaurant closed six months later. Hmmmm, I wonder why. Could it be that there are consequences to bad actions?