When Does Self-Consciousness Kick In?

I took my wife out recently (Applebee’s), and there was a three-year-old boy in the booth next to us, standing on his seat and staring at me through the glass partition. He didn’t blink for minutes on end. I think he saw my soul.

You’ve been caught staring before, right? I’ve been caught hundreds of timesover the years… an attractive woman, a dude with a mullet on purpose, a homeless guy pretending a banana is a gun, etc.

When that person turns and catches you, what do you do? I’m guessing you look away and pretend you weren’t staring like a creep. Not this kid…

He didn’t flinch when I looked back at him. There wasn’t an ounce of “I better look somewhere else” in his bones. Dude was on a mission to figure me out, and couldn’t be stopped.

Can you imagine doing that as an adult?

Imagine seeing an attractive person in a booth next to you at Applebee’s (pretty easy, as it only exists in your imagination). Now imagine they look over at the same time and you unintentionally lock eyes for a second.

But this time, instead of looking away, you did what this three-year-old did and JUST. KEPT. STARING.

Do they dig your confidence, or call the authorities? I dunno, I’m way too married (and too much of a wimp) to try.

That’s the difference between that kid and us adults. We’re self-conscious, and society hasn’t beaten that into him yet. He hasn’t worn a pink t-shirt to school and had someone call him gay, or had a group of kids point and laugh at how big his belly button is during swim class (these aren’t personal references, okay?). Right now, he’s pure.

As I finished off my shrimp scampi linguine, I got a little jealous of his fearlessness. Is this kid more secure than I am? Regardless, I kind of liked the fact he chose me as his muse. I was flattered that he thought I was so interesting.

Then my wife, facing the other way, pointed out a cute little four-year-old girl on the side of the booth she was facing. The three-year-old boy had been looking at this little girl the whole time — he didn’t give a shit about me.

And that’s when my self-consciousness kicked in.