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Scenes from a Coffee Shop

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Things that are not actually awkward that I feel awkward about when doing them on a date:

– Zipping up my jacket
– Ordering at a restaurant
– Cheese that is stringy
– Napkins that have obviously mopped up spilled coffee and are not tucked away
– Navigating the process of how to do something (e.g: pick up miniature golf clubs) that isn’t clearly instructed or laid out.

All this means I’m completely fascinated when I witness other people engage in these activities without hesitation. So, to seemingly change the subject but not actually change the subject, Megan and I go to coffee shops at least once a day. At this point we can order each other’s drinks (her: English Breakfast or Earl Gray tea; me: coffee with enough sugar and cream to rot your teeth) and preferred breakfast choices (her: a scone or a breakfast sandwich with meat; me: nothing or a spinach/feta/egg white wrap I’ll nibble on around 11 a.m.) without asking. Unless there is a line, this ritual is rote.

There was a line this morning.

While Megan and Noah chatted about which song he tortured her with as a wake-up siren,* I held up my phone in a manner that implied I was merely checking my email, but really I was glancing around the cafe in hopes of finding a candid vignette to snap a photo of. Generic art with bad lighting – eh. Surprisingly well behaved kids – eh again. And then I saw a pair sitting in overly plush chairs: one man, one woman, about my age. Her elbow perched on the top of her chair, her arm akimbo and strawberry blonde hair nestled into her hand. One leg was tucked underneath her and she was angled toward the man. The man, equally angled toward her, sat leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees.

I aimed my phone camera at the couple – only they didn’t quite seem like a couple just yet as from the looks of it, this was an early-on date, maybe the first time they’d met in the morning instead of under the guise of night – but my camera couldn’t pick up the subtly between them. Her animated movements, his subdued nature intrigued with her.

The line dawdled forward. Megan and Noah moved on to bantering about movies.

And then I watched as they started packing up their belongings, her futzing with a purse for a moment and him standing up. He tugged on a jacket and as he began to weave the buttons from bottom to top, the girl looked up at him and they kept talking. She continued to interact as she had before – carefree, chatting, her leg now untucked in her preparations.

That’s when I put myself in her shoes, imagining my behavior when I have watched a date perform a banal task. In my datingverse, I always feel like there’s a self-conscious, dare I say awkward moment when something like jackets are being pulled on or crowds are being navigated or ticket booths are in play. Like I’m suddenly too aware of myself, too aware of my date, and focused on our movements in the moment. I find awkwardness in the minutia of the mundane, which is probably the last place anything other than comfortableness should be found.

I know we were supposed to leave envious feelings of “normalcy” back in high-school or at least mid-college, but darn it if I didn’t watch that woman and think just how nice it must be – how simple – to not feel self-conscious about the way anyone, herself included, packed a purse or zipped up a jacket.

*Take a wild guess: Starts with Call, ends with Me Maybe.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Although I don’t share your sense of discomfort about zipping a jacket (or watching someone else zipping a jacket), your well-written and insightful blog posts make me acutely aware of my own Major Personal Discomfort #1: Putting my thoughts out into the world for others to read. Communicating with long-established friends is a snap, but even the simple process of writing this comment feels incredibly awkward. Thank you for demonstrating such a willingness to engage with the big wide world around you; It feels as though I may be learning a thing or two from your example …

    • Yay! I hope you find enough courage to give the world a tiny snapshot into your life. (Sometimes it helps to start small – you don’t have to write much or bare your soul. Just be yourself. Or start very small, and use Twitter – 140 characters, mostly sharing information instead of feeling pressured to always generate your own content.) Go get ’em!

  2. Erin says:

    I have a similar experience when I look at people out in the world and think, “She looks so confident! He’s so well put together! Why can’t I be like that?” I’ve realized over time that most people are as self-conscious as I am — it just doesn’t show as much as I think it does. Which means it doesn’t show that much on me either.

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