Every once and awhile I'll have a table with a sullen teenage girl. She'll be the type of girl who looks generally unhappy to be sitting in a booth at Hooters. Looking at her you realize how very uncomfortable she seems in her own skin. She's probably not the popular one at school. She gets by; covering her face in makeup she doesn't know how to wear because every one else is doing it. She tries to fit in, but never quite feels comfortable in the mold she's told is normal. Hooters is the last place she wants to be. Here she is at Hooters surrounded by beautiful, confident women that she thinks she'll never compare to. She feels unsure of herself and Hooters only amplifies her insecurities.
Saturday, one of these teenage girls sat with her parents in my section. She hardly spoke, speaking up only to refuse to order anything. I knew she was uncomfortable as she fidgeted in the booth and picked at the chicken strips her mom ordered for her. She appeared to have a general disdain for me, for Hooters and for everything both me and Hooters stood for. She probably wanted to be anywhere but here.
I tried so hard to be nice to her. I tried to carter to her and make her feel comfortable. It wasn't so much that I just wanted to make her feel more comfortable, but that I saw myself in that girl. I too was a super shy, awkward teenager. I was never popular. I never fit in. I was too skinny and too tall. I didn't have boobs or hips or any of the things I thought pretty girls where supposed to have. I felt anything but pretty because I was told so often that I wasn't. Not that I was told this overtly, I just assumed it because of what I read in magazines and saw on TV. And all I did was try to fit into those images that bombarded me constantly. Try as I might it never seemed to happen.
As I brought her a water she never asked for, all I wanted to do was tell that girl that I understood. I wanted to tell her that believe it or not one day she might be me because there was a day when I was she. Now I'm not saying that every awkward teenage girl will become a Hooters girl. I'm just saying that confidence can grow and bodies change. I'm saying even the most uncomfortable girl can learn to be comfortable in her own skin. It's not always an easy process, but it's an important one.
So to the girl at table 22, I understand. Believe it or not I was such an awkward, clumsy teenager that my coworkers - who I've known for nearly two years - couldn't even pick me out in old picture of me and my friends. Seriously. They had no clue. I didn't always have boobs and curves. Eventually my body changed. It just happened later than all those popular girls. But most importantly I learned how to be confident in myself and while the boobs certainly helped that process, time and knowledge had a lot more to do with it. So don't worry, things will be fine. You might never be asked to a high school dance (me) or not me kissed until you're seventeen (me) or be the shyest girl in the word (also me). But guess what, one day none of that will matter. One day you'll realize that all of those things that seemed so very important aren't so very important after all. And maybe you'll work at Hooters and maybe you won't, but you'll certainly have the confidence to do so.