I push back my chair, spilling my coffee a little. And with a HEAVE I upend the table like Jesus and the moneychangers. Glasses shatter! Dishes crash! Everybody looks up, shocked, most of all, the man with the thinning hair sitting opposite me.
"You don't think every living moment of my life since I was maybe 12, I have not hated my body?" I yell.
"Thought it too fat, too zitty, too this and too that? Hated my thighs, my a**, my uneven boobs! You don't think I have avoided the swimming pool because of my cellulite? You don't think I've tried every diet known to woman? Grapefruit, high fat, low fat, no fat, smoothies, pills made in China?"
The restaurant goes silent, but I can tell everybody is rooting for me.
"What about YOU?" I go on. Look at your hair! Dude, you are almost 60 years old, did you know the combover has been dead for, I don't know, 20 years?! Do you READ the paper? You think it's a given that I want to get with you and be spooning you apple sauce in 10 or 15 years? Do you?! What is so great about YOU?"
I'm winning this one, oh yeah. I'm on fire, en fuego, I'm a Viking ship landing on a rocky shore to lay waste, to plunder. I'm a berserker.
"And I just want to ask you, on this second freaking date, and yes, a third is out of the question -- if you have given thought to what, exactly, you plan to do about that terrible excuse for hair you have?! I want to know. I have to know. Sorry, I'm just asking! Oh, what? Did that hurt your feelings? Too personal?"
The man blanches. He is ashamed. Suddenly, he feels terrible, awful, for how he has made me feel, like an object -- or worse -- like a farm animal at auction. Lifting my hooves, checking my teeth to see if I am good enough as a woman.
"Have I considered what to do about my weight?! As if I am the one lacking here?! Have you considered what to do about you pocked skin?! Have you?! Because I need to know. Because I am deciding right now whether or not you are physically attractive enough for me to date. Forget your job, your career, your home, your life, your complexity -- are you pleasing enough to me? Are ye not entertained?!"
I am a gladiator in the arena of feminism. My blood-spattered face looks upon the crowd, aghast at first, then slowly, something starts to happen.
Somebody in the restaurant begins to clap. Then another. Louder. Everybody joins in. Even the men.
Mercilessly, I go on -- "Do you know my lover is half your age and is covered with tattoos and loves my body?! HALF YOUR AGE!"
I'm getting to him. I can see it. But still, the fire rages through me.
"And he has HAIR -- on his HEAD -- he has it!"
The women smile and clap even louder -- you tell him! I bask in their approval.
"The only reason I'm even HERE right now is because I thought I should date someone closer to my own age, but this was a huge mistake!" I go on. "And my lover? He's so not threatened, he doesn't even CARE! Have a good time, he said -- order the steak!"
The man blinks. I've gotten to him. Right where it hurts.
"And you dare ask me, in the pretense of enquiring about my overall health, if I have considered losing weight?! What kind of man are you? How are you so entitled, so insensitive, so completely self--"
I begin to peter out just a little. Nobody is clapping. No, everybody is still eating. Dishes clank. I've lost my appetite. For food, for men, for dating.
The man looks up at me: "What?"
"Nothing, nothing," I say. He pays the bill and winks at me. I have taken one for the team. I will tell my girlfriends about this and together, we will be outraged.
I go home and despite myself, I cry. I cry for me, for my daughter, for all of us. Then I get mad, which is when I concoct my detailed fantasy.
Maybe taking one for the team is not about kowtowing and humiliation -- again. Maybe it's saying something in the moment. Maybe it's about insisting on my humanity in this double-standard world. Yeah, next time some guy comments on my boobs -- which are spectacular -- or my weight -- which is fine, thanks, Botticelli would have adored me -- or the way my butt looks as I walk by, maybe then I'll really have this conversation. Yeah, next time.
I call my lover up. He gets on his motorcycle and comes over. "Oh baby, who made you cry?" he says? And he holds me tight.