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Aug. 11th, 2006 | 03:33 am

This time my nook faces the order pick-up counter, and beverage kiosk, quite the stage for people to hustle and bustle, and I have a front row seat. I like being back here at Panera, it feels especially good to be here by myself. I've noticed that its rather easy to tell when a person isn't comfortable being somewhere alone. I used to feel strange being by myself a public place, a weird discomfort that I was absolutely positive everyone around me could see radiating from me as if I were holding a sign that said "please gawk and stare".

I see a girl in her early to mid twenties sit down at the table on the other side of a dividing wall. As soon as she sits down, she tugs on the edge of her shirt, pulls up the waistband of her pants, and then lets out a small sigh. She glances around the room and then starts to examine her hands, she starts to dig around in her small black leather clutch and retrieves a cellphone, quickly she begins thumbing the buttons playing a game or sending a text message to a friend. I remember being this uncomfortable with myself in public, but I just don't feel that way anymore.

I started to wonder why I'm suddenly so comfortable with myself, and I realized that it is part of the growth I have experienced as an individual over this past year. I'm perfectly ok sitting here enjoying a lunch all by myself. I'm enjoying my "Mission Chicken" salad on its kidney bean shaped plate. I feel a sense of comfort breaking off a piece of baguette and scratching notes down every few seconds. I'm not worried about other people wondering what it is I'm writing. I'm not concerned with what the family in the booth behind me thinks of me being there by myself. I no longer allow myself to be haunted by everyone else's worries and wonders. She looks so relieved when her little food alarm starts buzzing and glowing, she finally has something to occupy herself with.

A mother and daughter are squawking as they appear stage left, they are giggling over something trivial in some kind of attempt to bond, but that is not what catches my attention. The duo are quite the Stepford-standard. The mother is pearl and cardigan clad, with a neatly trimmed fluffy bob a la Mrs.Camden from 7th Heaven (you know what I mean, admit it) a sensible sized woven tote bag with monogram, with classic unassuming pumps peeking out the bottom of her perfectly tailored black pant. Her daughter is wearing a denim skirt, but its more Gap than Abercrombie, (I'm sure her mother enforces the "fingertip" hem length rule religiously) her torso is covered with a polo shirt the color of Pensacola Beach where the water hits the horizon line when the sun is high in the sky (I'm such a cheeseball, but it was that exact color) she has on a pair of well-loved Rainbows, and her hair has been neatly swept back into a pony tail secured with a pink satin bow to match her mini-mom monogrammed tote. Their costumes are important to their characters, because it is my belief that people dress in a way that either highlights or disguises who they really are, sometimes both. I have noticed that, for instance, women who wear men's clothing to be "comfortable" are actually self conscious, and I will even go as far as to say that I tend to show off my best assets (or...toppetts...) in order to highlight the good in hopes of distracting from the bad. But back to the stage...

The mother and daughter pick up their trays of food and head to the beverage kiosk. The daughter, whose name is no doubt something classic like Ashley (going by the monogram A) picks up two cups and begins to pout about not being able to purchase a Jones soda instead of a fountain drink even though she was willing to pay for it with "my own money, Moooom!" I know you all remember those days, when you think you should be allowed to buy anything as long as its with the same $20 of leftover birthday cash you keep spending and respending. We've all been there. Stepford Mom, with the monogram L, is no doubt a Laura or a Linda, just flashes her pearly white veneers at her daughter and suggests that they sit down first and then fix their drinks. The daughter slings her bag back over her shoulder and follows after her mother. They walk past me like some kind of two-person prissy parade, both smelling of Chanel number 5, spritzed about 500 times, its quite the smell.

As if the stank cloud isn't enough, the mother has this atrocious cackle anytime her daughter says anything remotely funny, and sometimes she begins to laugh when her daughter isn't saying anything that is supposed to be humorous in the least. Its almost as if she just wants people to think they get along well. It makes me wonder if she is truly having a conversation with her daughter, of if she is just trying to "bond" to feed her own conscience and boost her mommy-ego. I hate mommy-egos. I despise it when people think they are perfect mothers. The idea of parenting isn't to be perfect, its to be human and make mistakes because your kids will no doubt make mistakes, so just set an example and let them see how mistakes are dealt with in a healthy and effective way. A lot of times people tend to hide or run from their problems, and it isn't healthy. That much pride just isn't healthy for the soul. We make mistakes, that is true, but when we are faced with a mountain we climb it, and it may be difficult on the way up, but when its all over with we know a little bit more about climbing, and the next one isn't quite as hard.

I feel bad for this woman. My heart goes out to someone who clearly has had so much plastic surgery, from her large chest to her Angelina pout, because something must be missing from her life to care this much about how others view her. A simple caring about one's appearance is one thing, we all feel good when we look good, and "looking good" varies in people from wearing a rhinestone gown and red lipstick to just putting on a clean shirt and running a comb through their hair. But there is always an aspect of the outter that makes the inner feel a little bit more special than usual. That amount of caring is healthy. But to constantly care that much about every aspect of the outer beyond the time span of pubescent awkwardness? Its strange and unusual. I truly do hope that her daughter doesn't inherit that kind of dissatisfaction with herself. Why are the people obsessed with plastic surgery always pretty darn attractive to begin with? I know the answer to that question... but I'll let you pick your own brain.

Side Note: I am in no way opposed to plastic surgery. I think that if there is something you want smaller/bigger/tucked/lifted/spackeled/sanded/buffed/waxed/enhanced/removed then by all means go right ahead. I do however think there is a point beyond getting something done in order to get rid of an imperfection that is distracting one's self rather frequently, that goes beyond into a realm of obsessive and constant approval seeking. Yes God did create us the way that we are, but he also gave us free will. God also gave us cramps, but that doesn't stop millions of women from speeding down to their neighborhood Walgreens for a giant Hershey bar and a bottle of Midol. Wow... did I just?... I'm not even going to touch that one...

Here comes another thing I'm not / would never ever touch... Oh my lord somebody call "What Not to Wear" homeboy is rockin some Jnco's! I'm not even kidding, this guy is wearing a shamrock green wifebeather with some intentional paint splatters, and some huge ass Jncos (you remember... the kind you could steal a 24" TV with... and I'm not talkin flat screen) and FLIP FLOPS! I could barely tell what was on his feet because of the huge pants, but its flip flops. I feel like I should go throw myself on him to keep people from seeing him and vomiting. The good people at Panera don't deserve this. Then again... I have incredible amounts of respect for a guy wearing Jnco's in 2006. I should go ask to borrow his Spice Girls cassette, he looks decent enough. If you aren't decent enough for Spice Girls then what good are you in this world? Ain't nothin wrong with a little Spice in your Life and damn if those Jnco's ain't spicy.

Thats all for now kids, I hope you enjoyed my sass.

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