I’ve come across a lot of interesting types working at a coffee shop. It’s really the perfect job for me. People-watching has become almost a hobby of mine, and here I get paid to observe and talk and analyze all I want. It’s pretty great. In the past year that I’ve worked at Starbucks, I’ve accumulated many memories and laughs and definitely more than a handful of headaches. I’ve had my future predicted, I cultivated a work-hours relationship with a homeless man, I’ve been asked if I could offer up a room in my house for the night, and I’ve been compared to Zooey Deschanel one too many times. I’ve been hit on and complimented and yelled at. (all more than once and in no particular order.) I’ve heard beautiful accents and met people from all over the world. I’ve wanted to give some big hugs and slap others across their face. And I’ve had wonderful and even meaningful conversations with so many. It’s been a ride. But the guy I met just a week or so ago? Well. He takes the cake.
Here’s the thing. I freeze when people insult themselves. I feel really awkward and I don’t know what to say,especially if I can’t white-lie compliment myself out of the situation. Self-insulting is something I personally don’t do in front of anyone but the husband & occasionally a best friend. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why do people publically insult themselves?! I understand it if a slender teenage girl says something about how she needs to lose 10 pounds and her friends then tell her that she’s being stupid and looks great. It stems from insecurity and the need for reassurance. I get that. But what do others expect you to say when they tell you something like “I’m sooo fat.” …And they actually are very overweight!? I do not get that. Sadly, because I work at a coffee shop with skinny vanilla lattes and nonfat fraps, I hear things like this from people a lot. And every single time that I hear something like “Oh, no I can’t drink that. Look at me!” or “Better order the skinny today,I’ve gained so much weight.” or “With nonfat milk. Lord knows I need it.” I completely choke. I can’t lie at the risk of sounding fake or obnoxious and I’m obviously not going to reply with “Oh, well, yes. I do see that you are quite large. Let me make that extra skinny for you today, ma’am.” I don’t want to just stay silent either; I feel like that would be just as uncomfortable and I hate weird silences. What I’m saying is, I’m a neurotic and nervous over-analyzer. So instead, I usually just give a weird sounding half-giggle and strange smile that probably makes me sound and look like I belong more in an insane asylum than a coffee shop. The other day I finally had the courage to try something that I thought resembled a compliment.Let me give you the background information first.
The self-insulter: An overweight and very sociable black man probably in his 40’s walks into Starbucks. He comes in quite a bit and he’s always extremely friendly. I have the feeling he was quite the player back in his day. I’m working with a girlfriend of mine and we’re both talking to him when I pick up his cake and scan it. I say “Mmmmm. Cake. This looks good. I might buy a piece later.” He then gives a piece of advice (but not cake. Boo.) to both me and my girlfriend. He tells us “Oh,No. You girls are too pretty to be eating cake. That’s what happened to me! Look at me! How do you think I got this way?” Well,poop. There it is again. The awkward self- insult. My mission: Say something! Don’t give manic, crazy person giggle. What I say: “Well, it could be a lot worse.” It seemed like a compliment at the time. In retrospect, not so much.
The dude proceeded to stick around for the next ten minutes and talk about my compliment, which he seems to have taken as an insult. Oops. However, he was laughing and seemed to be good-natured about it. He asked my name before he left and told me I could watch him on the news that night, jumping off a bridge and saying “Christina did this to me.” He lied. He visited me twice at work yesterday and (jokingly, I hope) asked what it would take for me to leave my husband for him. When this didn’t work, he told me he sometimes tells other girls with boyfriends that it’s okay, he can just be the boyfriend on the side. That’s sweet. I’m a nice girl and I humored him but it eventually got a little old. When I was finally getting rid of him he left by telling me “There’s only so much beauty I can stand for one day.” As tempting as this conversation was, I couldn’t leave my husband for this voluptuous piece of meat. He’d regulate my cake-eating.
The verdict: I suck at complimenting self-insulters. Therefore, nice 40 year old men with bad pick-up lines should just buy their coffee and be on their way.
The good news: Whenever I come home to my husband, every-day moments like this always remind me. Hey. It could be a lot worse.