Breakfast With The Devil

So, I’m not a badass. Quite the opposite.

I work from home, so my morning bagel field trip is one I’m unwilling to do without. It’s a blessed reprieve from the daily-waged work/chore war. Trying to focus on an email whilst ignoring the criminal whisperings of under-the-couch dust bunnies is no small feat. It takes monumental effort to not reach for the broom once every fifteen minutes. It’s my penance for getting to witness my baby growing up (i.e.: steamrolling through spit puddles all day).

I go to the same place every morning. It’s a stone’s throw from the kids’ school, the servers are good-humored gated-community rejects who know what I want without my having to ask, and the new owner is a Great Neck straight shooter who refurbished and added a bakery. It’s yummy and convenient and friendly.

UNTIL TODAY. My morning Isabel Allende fix was chopped up and filleted and handed to me on a sliver platter of catastrophe.

I was three pages and half a bagel in when I noticed a woman to my right. She was hard to ignore, mostly because her toddler was crying and she kept saying things like, ‘why is my kid so f*cking annoying’ and ‘godd*mnit, this f*cking kid’ and things of that nature. So, whatever. I wanted to bitch slap her and adopt her kid, but what’re you going to do. The kid didn’t seem too surprised at this language, and she was still sitting on her lap. I tried to let it go.

BUT THEN, this classy mom starts mouthing off at and about the server. ‘Where’s my f*cking coffee? No milk? We got this guy again? I f*cking hate this guy.’ Etc. Etc.

So I’m like, hold up. These are my skater bois. You can’t talk to my guys like that.

So I put on my sorority girl face, put my book down and look her in the eye. And I say, ‘Seriously?’

Big mistake.

She went ape sh*t on me. I had messed with the wrong silverback. For this next segment, I’ll forgo the asterisks. Please stop reading if you are easily offended.

‘Who’s this fucking bitch? Mind your own fucking business. Yeah, keep on reading, you ugly bitch. You’re not pretty enough to not be wearing makeup. You want some makeup? I got some mascara in my purse. Where are your fucking eyelashes, ugly bitch? Do you even have any? You’re lucky we’re here. I’d drag you in the gutter and beat the shit out of you. Go on, call the cops.’

This because I was texting someone back about a meeting this friday. Though you can see why she thought I was texting about her.

So I laughed and said, ‘I’m married to a cop.’

I’m neither married, nor is my boyfriend a cop. He works for the police department, though, is a burly paramedic and a badass, so I think I’m entitled to the claim.

‘Oh, of course you’re married to a fucking cop. I’m not married to a cop. I’m on the other side of the law. I’d bust your fucking teeth in if we weren’t here. I hope I see you here again.’

Here. At the BAGEL SHOP in BOCA RATON. Our copatrons were either coming home from tennis practice or escorted by an aid and a wheelchair. This girl was way out of my league.

So, between measly comebacks like, ‘real classy’ and ‘I’m not scared of you’, my heart was auditioning for the f*cking Lord of the Dance. My vision was blurred, my lips were twitching, and I couldn’t stop swallowing. I looked like when my mom’s schnauzers are getting ready to throw up.

What’s happened to me? I was once rumored to throw a chair at my science teacher. I wore whatever I wanted, said whatever I wanted, skipped class, back-talked bullies, and damned the man any chance I got. I wasn’t scared of anything.

Now, my dear friends? I’m a wimp. I’m a shaking, non-confrontational wimp. I pride myself as ambassador to the customer servant populace, but give me one retaliator and I’m a quivering non-threat. Holy sh*t, it was awful.

So I got my check and I left. I got a few fist bumps from my bois, but I left all the same.

Here’s the best part: I came home, woke my man up from his after-overnight-shift slumber, and told him the story. Without a word he got up, put on a shirt and drove to the bagel place. The family was still there, so he calmly approached the owner, suggested that his was not the place for that sort of riff raff. The owner agreed and asked them to leave.

So I’m a wimp and I’ve found my knight. It’s a give and take.

Please remember this: a million compliments wash away with one insult. To be human is to trip on the negative. We don’t remember that the people we love think we’re beautiful and brilliant. I do remember the popular kid in fourth grade that called me ‘mustache lady’. I remember my enemy in fifth grade pointing at my pimples. I remember a cheerleader friend admitting she and the rest of my class nicknamed me ‘pear’ behind my back. I remember being called fat and ugly and stumpy and stupid.

But now it seems that with my knight the universe has granted me a different kind of confidence. I might not be able to spar with a grown-up bully, but I didn’t call her fat or ugly. In fact, I heard her say she was 59, and I couldn’t help but think she looked great for 59.

Listen, teach your children never to pick on the physicality of another human. It cuts deeper than you can ever imagine. I’d rather my kid say ‘fuck’ than ‘fat’. We’re all here for not a very long time. Try to spend it cultivating a generation that isn’t out to f*ck up one another’s lives.

But bullies are like cockroaches. They’ll be here til the end. While teaching your kids to not be one, teach them to love one. Meeting insult with kindness tills the soil so compliments can take root.