The woman purses her lips and takes her sweet time perusing the menu. Her husband’s already ordered. The clock ticks. I have other tables to attend to. If she takes any longer roots are going to sprout out of my shoes.

“Can I help you make a selection?” I offer cautiously.

“Is the salmon wild or farmed?” she asks without looking up.

“It’s organically farmed,” I reply.

“Organic?” the woman asks, “What does that mean?”

“Organic means they don’t use pesticides or fertilizers in the fish feed. There’s no use of antibiotics, pink dyes or genetic modification,” I say. I get asked this a lot.

“I only eat wild salmon,” the woman huffs.

“Sorry madam.”

“Why don’t you have wild salmon?”

“Wild salmon is much more expensive,” I reply truthfully.

“Well, you should have it,” the woman says testily.

“I’ll tell the owner.”

The woman returns to the menu. While she’s looking over it, I’m looking over her. In her late forties or early fifties, her face has the taut brittle look of too many botox injections. Her lips are over ripened with collagen. Her bosom is silicone enhanced. You can tell this woman was once beautiful. Now she looks like retired Malibu Barbie.

“Yeah sweetie” I think to myself, “The salmon isn’t organic but, then again, neither are you.”

Finally Barbie makes up her mind. “I’ll have a salad and the Striped Bass Livornese,” she says.

“Very good madam,” I reply.

“But I want the salad dressing on the side.”

I already wrote “dressing side” on my dupe pad. Call me psychic.

“Of course madam.”

“And I want my entrée’s sauce on the side.”

“Yes madam.”

I place the orders and take out the food. I note wryly that Barbie eats all her dressing and sops up the Livornese sauce with a slice of bread. When you order dressing or sauce on the side you actually end up getting more of it. If you eat all of it, and most people do, you’re not saving calories. You’re only kidding yourself.

Dinner finished, Barbie passes on dessert and orders a cappuccino. She stirs in so much artificial sweetener her body will be preserved like Evita Peron.

I feel a twinge of sadness for Barbie. It’s tough being a woman in this day and age. I wonder why she felt the need to look so artificial. I don’t have anything against cosmetic surgery but for God’s sake don’t try and turn the clock back to when you were twenty five. It ain’t happening.

Barbie’s husband pays the bill and they leave. As I watch her go I think about the pressure women are under to look perfect.

Perfection is overrated. The feminine ideal that graces the covers of magazines is intimidating and impossible to emulate. Don’t get me wrong folks. If Charlize Theron or Monica Belluci walked in the door it would take a concerted effort for me not to drool. But experience has shown me, when naked and vulnerable, a woman’s imperfections are what make her endearing.

And trust me – Charlize and Monica have them too. Of course, I don’t know that from experience.

But there’s time.

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