You may not know this but The Writer Side is not my first foray into the blogosphere. Long ago now (well, 2008) I wanted to document my attempts to loose weight. This was started probably at my lowest ebb with my career and before I had the lightening bolt of inspiration of handing in my notice. I was not a thin person and I was very unhappy. I had a flick through the blog recently and came across this post that I remember being something of a turning point with my self confidence. As I have abandoned you a little this week, I thought I would share with you my people watching post from January of that year.
This afternoon I thought I would have a little me-time. Every once and a while I like to take a couple of hours to myself and meander around shops. This was such a day. I also wanted some dorothy shoes! So, I left school before 4pm (exciting for me) and went to the Fort, a smallish retail park.
I had my lovely polka dot outfit on with teal co-ordinated items and little black pumps on. I also had THE green coat on which I love so, it makes me feel so sophisticated. In this dress, strutting my 12 stone 6 frame around the complex, I walked past costa coffee. It suddenly dawned on me I had never sat in a cafe, drank a cup of coffee or eaten on my own. Yes I have grabbed food from Greggs or something on my own, but never actually sat down and lazed over a cup of coffee and enjoyed my own, relaxed company. So, instead of walking past straight away, I walked in. Without even realising, I had ordered a small black coffee and a low fat panini (if that is actually possible – surely its and oxymoron?!), sat down in a corner chair, and watched the people passing by.
Suddenly I realised how content I felt. I was sat alone, loving my own company feeling naughty, yet fantastic being there. Some people might not think this is an achievement, but when you have suffered from pretty much no self esteem, it is huge. The idea of sitting alone was totally paranoid making – everyone was watching you thinking you were a saddo. I didn’t feel like a saddo, and I knew no one was watching me – I was watching people!
I noticed two girls, early 30s maybe, walk in. I noticed them because of their gorgeous coats. Both heavy winter coats, down to the floor. They were also perfectly made up – straightened hair, make up, matching handbags. Vain yes, but you should not judge this in strangers. They sat down across the room, next to each other on a sofa, with their large lattes, no doubt with skinny, super low, no fat, no good milk (whatever posh name they give it, I dunno). They were engrossed in conversation on the second bite of my panini, when another woman, around the same age walked in. I noticed her because she had her son with her. I was convinced I had taught her son, was convinced, but I found myself staring at a young boy far too much than was appropriate, so returned to my coffee.
I glanced up again to see the mum and son approach the posh coated girls. She excitedly said “Hi!!! How lovely to see you both! What you doing?” Neither of the posh coated girls stood up. They smiled, looked at each other and engaged in what seemed to be limited conversation. Next time I looked up from the coffee cup, she had gone, the grils back to their deep gossip. However, the mum returned. I looked at her closely this time, she seemed a little dowdier than the other two, but I liked her more, she was obviously more down to earth. She asked Trinny and Suzannah if it was ok for her and her son to sit opposite them. “Oh god yeah! That would be great!” Trinny enthused. With a smile the nice lady returned to the counter to pay for her hot chocolates. I watched T and S. Hidden by a screen from the counter, they stared at each other open mouthed, shock and disgust on their faces. A quick, urgent whisper into one anothers ears, a rapid shaking of the head, a look that would crack a mirror; it said it all. They were vain. They should be judged on it.
How two faced and evil can women be? Less than 2 seconds after this poor girl had turned away, her so called friends were obviously bitching about her. Obviously recoiling at the idea she had dared to ask permission for her . . . and her SON, to sit opposite them. But they were having a jolly nice gossip about other people – how to ruin a lovely day! So the pretty coated ladies disappointed me, but actually, made me feel a little better.
I realised that I was far more than they were. I may have been bigger, I may not be in expensive clothes with matching handbags (mine was £4 from matalan!), I may not have their confidence and straight hair and make up, but my god I had so much more. Suddenly, they seemed drab, empty, nothing spectacular at all. I felt more confident than ever, I knew I had a personality that would outstrip them, I knew I was a better person, I knew that I wanted to go over to the woman and the son I thought I knew (I didnt) and invite them to my table. I wanted to know her, I wanted to talk interesting things with her. I wanted to let her know how beautiful she looked next to Skinny and Tranny. I didn’t though.
I finished my coffee, brimming with confidence and ease, conscious that I did not want to radiate vanity and left the shop. Maybe I was wrong about the posh coated women, but to be honest I don’t really care. It made me realise that I am not nothing, that there are traits about me which are likeable, even lovable. I realised I was someone who cared about people and that mattered, and if others don’t like me – well, it does not matter. They were obviously not meant to be as happy as me.
So my lonely coffee turned out to be quite theraputic. Most people who undertake therapy have another human being to interact with. I just need people watching in costa coffee.