It feels weird to say, weirder than I’d expected. I changed my Facebook status today, from “Works at” to “Has worked at,” and it was like breaking up with someone—the finality of it, at the top of your profile: “so I guess this is it.”
I am not a waitress anymore.
I never really think of it as a core part of who I am. You know, when you think of your life, all the components that make up that person you are and that life you muddle through, “waitress” is never at the top of the list. Or even close to the top. But the truth is, I’ve been doing it for a long time. Ten years. Always an ends to a means, something I fell into, never part of my self-definition. It’s been that thing that happens while you’re making other plans—somewhere, when I wasn’t looking, waitressing became a central part of my life, who I am.
So it feels weird to think I’m no longer a waitress.
I remember hearing that in French culture people don’t begin cocktail conversations but asking what a person does for a living (we Americans love to endow the French with enlightened qualities we have no real way of substantiating)—they talk about, I suppose, far more cultured and important things, the substance of a person, what they think and feel and believe in. I was thirteen, in a French A class I ended up dropping out of, when I heard this, and I’ve remembered it, sometimes try to play a game with myself where I meet someone and have to engage in that chit-chat and try not to ask them what they do. I never last long.
And what will I say now? Now that I’m not a waitress?
It was strange to leave, stranger than I’d expected. Surreal. I love the place I’ve worked the last year and a half—I love the food and the people and the vibe and the money and how close it is to my apartment and how I can wear whatever I want and listen to good music and bullshit with my tables like they were my friends. So I knew it would be hard to leave such a good gig.
I sat on the back patio on my last night—which didn’t feel like a last night but just another night—and two more people told me how awesome they thought my moving was, how bad-ass and brave, and I told them how it felt neither bad-ass nor brave, just really fucking surreal. They’d said at menu meeting how much they’d miss me, how they knew I’d do great things, and they said it again in the card they gave me later, candles and a fancy ice-cream cake, at the 12:30 at night, when I blushed and ate two pieces and felt sick.
People gave me hugs and loved on me and were unbelievably sweet and I tried my best to soak it all in, but it still felt surreal. I basked in the love and the dimming heat of the pizza oven, and then I walked out to my car. Alone. Because leaving is like that.
I went home and threw out all my wine notes. I took out my wine key and tossed my apron on the floor. It still felt like something I needed, something I would pick up in a day or two, sauce stains and all, and tie back on. It didn’t feel unnecessary yet, like a house key after you’ve moved. Because leaving is like that.
So I’m not a waitress anymore. I guess that makes me a writer. Or just unemployed. (Which could be the same thing.) I’m not sure what it makes me. It definitely doesn’t make me French. For now it’s just surreal and strange and much sadder than I’d expected.
Because leaving is like that too.