Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

The hollow clang of ceramic dishes tossed, one on top of another. The sing song of voice echoed throughout the cafe, calling out orders. Servers were swiftly moving from table to kitchen to register to table. Impatient, but friendly, the servers took order after order, making recommendations. At times, they directed the novice patron to specific menu items, ones that their type are more likely to enjoy. Their Mandarin was perfect, or seemed so to Lacy. Lacy looked around her and saw tables packed with young people. Everyone was looking down at their cell phone, with heads popping up every few seconds to add to the fragmented conversations . Girls in their late teens took selfie after selfie, tilting their heads to that perfect 110 degree, where their chin was slightly tucked, but not so much that another layer of flesh was added o their chin. God forbid one looked chubby. The smiles were gentle so that wrinkles around the eyes were avoided. After every picture, the girls would carefully study the image, and then retake it from a slightly different angle, with the same 110 degree head tilt.

Lacy watched, annoyed, amused, and curious. How is it that we look so similar, but we are so different? Lacy sat with her legs crossed on her chair. She looked down at her baggy boyfriend-style jeans. She wore a cropped maroon t-shirt sweater and rust colored suede ankle boots. Her eye lids were shaded a dark brown and she wore bracelet sized hoop earrings, with her tousled bun framing her face.

The girls her age in this cafe were adorned in shiny jeweled hair berets, wore light mascara, had tofu colored complexions, and appeared much younger. They spoke with a slight whine in their voice and carried themselves demurely. But it wasn’t just the wardrobe and the sugary sweetness of their voice, there was something fundamentally different about their worlds. Lacy could feel it.  It was what made her parents and her relatives wonder what they did wrong with Lacy. 你怎麼 不聽話. “How can you be disobedient/senseless?” “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so’s daughter?” Etcetera.

Maybe they were better humans than her. Maybe they were just better at placating. Lacy watched with disdain and wonder.