Don’t Change, Baby

I ate lunch today at one of my favorite places, a little place called Keys Cafe, in this case the suburban version in Woodbury, MN. I was all prepared to sit quietly by myself, which is what I did for the most part, but my attention was divided by the four women sitting at the table beside me.

They were obviously former high school friends, possibly college friends, all in what I would assume were their late 20’s to early 30’s. When I first sat down there was only one, with what looked to be about a four to six month-old little girl. I like babies, so that’s what initially caught my eye. I never really got a look at the mother, who had her back to me. Within minutes the other three friends had all arrived, and a reunion/baby ogling festival soon began.

I like to surreptitiously observe people when I’m in public; I try to divine some reality about their lives based on the narrow window of my experience, however long that may be. I suppose that’s the essence of people-watching, at least for me. I feel like I have pretty good instincts about people, but of course I rarely get the chance to corroborate whether my flash impressions of the people I (don’t) meet are as accurate as I presume them to be. It’s all a matter of sample size, really. I may see a forlorn looking person on the street as I pass by and suppose them to be in a poor relationship, or struggling with the declining health of their parents, or constipated, and of course the narrative I build may not have any correlation to their romantic or gastrointestinal realities.

But if I get a longer sample, say a lunch hour full of conversation and glances and “private” conversations when one of the parties goes to the bathroom, I feel pretty comfortable with my impression. I’m not saying you can judge a book by its cover, but I’m usually pretty comfortable judging vapid women by their mind-numbing conversations, large (real) wedding rocks and even larger (fake) racks. Actually, only one of them had what I would consider to be artificial physical enhancements, at least that I could see. Man, you should have seen that baby’s eyes get big when that women pulled her in close!

As their lunch went on, I came to feel sorry for one of the women. She was pretty, but also had probably put on some weight since whenever they were friends. She had the jogging suit going on, and she just seemed uncomfortable with herself generally, especially talking to the two women who were what I would describe as “high physical maintenance”. They looked like they spent a lot of time and effort on what they wore and how they looked. Let me emphasize, there’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily. Yes, I’m totally putting my own biases and presuppositions on those women. That’s the kind of thing that always sounds wrong when somebody else does it, but not so bad when you do it because you tend to trust your instincts and experiences, to a point.

So anyway, the jogging suit woman. I think she felt bad about the fact that she probably, I suspect, was once the cat’s meow of this whole group, and now she didn’t seem to fit. But, she was still a part of their world; she hadn’t exactly started following the Dead and cast off her old life and values, at least outwardly. She was still Aging Former Suburban Cutie, just one trying to hide her figure under a bulky designer sweatsuit rather than fit it into stretch pants and a fantastic designer sweater. She looked bored with the two former cheerleaders, and I caught the tell-tale eye roll at one point that she thought nobody would see. I wished she had shown up to that meeting in a leather jacket, or with a tattoo, or at least a better self-image.

As I said, I never saw the mother of the baby. I couldn’t see her expressions or read her body language when her enhanced friend asked her if she had a chance to get to the gym since she’d had the baby. (That’s when the eye roll happened.) I can’t tell if the mother was annoyed by the lack of gym time or the question itself, or maybe none of the above. But I wondered about her little girl. Would she grow up thinking more of her body than she thought of herself? I caught her eye a few times and she smiled, but whether due to my facial expressions or her own gas is difficult to say. It’s hard to convey “You’ll always be perfect by just being you” with a face stuffed full of cheeseburger, but I tried the best I could.

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