Are you being served?

I find the notion of service disconcerting.

I’ve been to as many fancy restaurants as I can count on both hands and I’m always uncomfortable when the waitperson defers, swooping down to push back my seat or refill my water. The stagey formality, the fact that yes, I cannot actually eat with a knife and fork with ease (I actually had lessons at age 28 with a chef friend of mine) are just a few of the reasons. I am so uncomfortable with being ‘waited upon” I pile the plates and cutlery and over-thank the staff obsequiously.

My brother and I used to go to friends’ places and do the dishes – sometimes we’d vacuum. It’s in our blood. Working class Irish mother, father’s family from rural Ireland, my grandmother would try to do the dishes trick on the rare occasion that she was ever out for a meal. I’ve inherited my love of cooking and feeding people, baking bread and basically dominating the kitchen.

Service is the illusion of control. When you serve/wait upon, you are in power.

My boyfriend and I toyed with the notion that we were servants in a royal kitchen in our past life. The first days of our romance was spent preparing and cooking food together while consuming huge quantities of rotgut red wine. We swooned and kissed all over the kitchen and shared the washing up. It was weirdly domestic, our passion. He chopped and cleaned beautifully. It was his humbleness and skill with the knife that won me.

We’ve never been out to a fancy restaurant.

As a lifelong scruff (my assignments were grubby and school dress smeared with paint, now I spill my morning coffee all over myself and wipe my hands on myself. Elegance is something I aspire to and imagined I’d grow into- in the same way I thought I’d wake up as an adult and have a fancy signature and be able to drive a car. But my nail polish is always chipped and my nails black underneath, I’m bound to have some sauce on my clothes and tobacco all through my bag. I don’t even smoke anymore.

So … I find myself at a café where the waiter drapes himself all over my table. He seats himself, calls me babe, dude, buddy, interchangeably. I find myself feeling haughty and indignant, pulling up my imaginary customer pants. Where is the deference? Does this make me a classist pig? What would my Mum or Trotsky say?

He’s crossed an invisible line; he’s flaunting his power/powerlessness over me.

Its something I avoid- the bad reggae, the cheers bro’s! the swallow tatts and general affections of cafés of this kind, which is meant to be an oasis to me, a place of refuge, to write and think and order very little with good manners and hope not to be booted out.

But I keep going back. Because in my endless drudge, feeding and clothing myself and taking care of others, getting sauce and coffee all over myself- sometimes I just want to be served.

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