Glaring-at-Children-in-a-Restaurant Years Old

My grandmother once attended a BBQ with my family while she was staying in town with us. I was maybe 16 and justly mortified by siblings, parents and most anyone who wasn't a cute boy or BFF. We took a few minutes for the initial walk-through upon arrival, my parents introducing my grandmother and forcing us kids to say hello to everyone we passed, me performing the expert teenage smile-and-eye-roll wave, my sister and brother pinching and shoving each other. We were just finishing up the hello/good to see you formalities, an old family friend halfway through the "look how grown up she is!" routine, when my grandmother pushed passed us to get to her. She hugged this woman like she hadn't seen her in ages, and blurted out, "Julie, honey! Just LOOK how FAT you've got!" and cackled shamelessly while my parents fumbled for words. Julie, fortunately, already knew how fat she had gotten and waved off the comment with a cackle of her own.

Years later, mom would still recall the incident with humiliation and wonder. My aunt would say, "She's just getting old, Mary. Old people don't worry about that stuff." My mother was appalled by that logic.

She was even more appalled when, in his fifties, my dad threw his (exact) change at the cashier in Kroger instead of patiently waiting on her to take it. She retold the story with wide-eyed concern, "I think he's getting old!"

Last night, my sister and I gave her another bit of disconcerting reality. We sat at Dewey's, attempting to have a lovely dinner with our parents and failing miserably because we could not hear each other over the party of 68 (I might be exaggerating) in the table right behind us - most of whom were children under the age 5. These kids were loud. They ran around their table playing tag, bumped into my seat every other time I tried to sip my drink, and whined to their parents about hating pepperoni. Their parents ignored them.

My sister and I can be just as obnoxious as a dozen unsupervised 4-year-olds. We can stare down a grown man who is trying to pretend he isn't on parental duty and exclaim, "I can't hear a THING over all these kids." We can reproachfully glare at the child who knocked my purse off my chair. We can stand up and ask to "scoot our table AWAY from these rude people who let their kids run amok in a restaurant." We can channel our crotchety 92-year-old selves and laugh at how over the top we are.

My mother, conflicted between annoyance at the other table and solidarity with the parents who were trying to ignore their kids' embarrassing behavior, made me realize - we just keep repeating ourselves. We go from behaving shamefully to feeling self-conscious, over and over and over in life. It's not always about being immature or too old to care. Sometimes it's about standing up for yourself. Sometimes it's about letting loose and having fun. Sometimes it IS about being direct because you're old, but sometimes it's about one too many beers and competing with your sister for your parents' attention. Sometimes we're just dumb, regardless of age.


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