The restaurant was bustling with the dinner crowd, and the noise level was rising a decibel at a time with each new arrival. Servers were rushing around with arms loaded down with steaming hot steak and seafood platters. Laughter could be heard coming from a large party of men at the bar, dressed in brightly colored polo shirts and neatly ironed khaki pants.
It was hard to hear what my friend was saying over the noise, but suddenly I became aware of voices rising from the booth next to us. I hushed my friend, who was in mid sentence. She gave me a puzzled look and then picked up her iPhone to respond to the ding that had just alerted her of a text message.
“So what is the big deal?” The woman said raising her voice. She looked and sounded like Fran Drescher.
“What do you mean what is the big deal, how would you like it if someone called you ‘psycho’?” The man said with an air of annoyance.
I diverted my eyes and continued to listen.
Fran’s look alike said: “Well, I would know they were kidding, of course. People need to get over themselves. Everyone is so PC these days – it is ridiculous.”
The man said: “Really? So if I were to call you a porker, you would be ok with that?”
Fran responded with a flip of her hand: “That’s different. That is personal. It isn’t nice to talk about people’s appearance.”
The man said: “But it is ok to tell my sister she’s too skinny and needs to eat a cheeseburger?”
Fran exclaimed: “Yes! That was a compliment. Everyone wants to be skinny.”
The man shook his head and said: “So in other words, it is up to you to decide what is and isn’t okay based on your own personal rules.”
Fran said: “That’s not what I said. I just mean that I don’t want to be walking on egg shells all the time. Some things are obviously not ok, but there are a lot of things that are in the gray area and I can’t always be worried about hurting someone’s feelings.”
The man asked: “What if the person you are calling psycho has mental health issues, and what if the person you are saying is too skinny has an eating disorder? How do you think that would make them feel?”
Fran replied: “I can’t worry about that. Maybe they need to hear it and do something about it. People are too sensitive.”
“Well then…I am glad we cleared that up!” The man replied, standing up. He threw his money on the table and walked away.
I could hear the cold, awkward silence that followed, despite the dishes clanking and the carefree laughter of the men in the bar.
I wanted to go over to Fran’s table and tell her about my mom, who had just been hospitalized for schizophrenia. I wanted to tell her about the years of teasing and cruel remarks she had endured from people who misunderstood her illness, and how that impacted her. I wanted to say a lot of things and then walk out with the man, but instead I turned to my friend and smiled weakly, as she showed me the picture of her friend’s adorable new puppy.