The other night I was dining at State Road, one of my favorite Martha’s Vineyard restaurants.  It’s such a popular place I had to make this reservation two months in advance. My husband and I wanted to take our dear friends there as they’d just arrived that day on the island. I bring this up because I was excitedly anticipating an intimate evening with amazing food and good conversation. The four of us had not been together in a long time and had a lot to catch up on.

The last thing I wanted was a distraction. I love that my cell phone doesn’t work at this location and that I can only be reached when I’m back in my car. No technology, no disturbances….and an added bonus that my cell-phone addicted friends’ cell phone didn’t work either. It was to be an unplugged evening – which in my world — feels like an escape from my day to day and, frankly, a welcome respite.  It should have been the perfect evening.

What went wrong?

We were all giddy to be together and couldn’t wait to go discuss all the yummy local offerings on the menu.  Just-plucked oysters and the Katama Farm Chicken, fresh pizza and cheeses from the local farm not to mention fresh grown spinach from the garden right out front. We brought our own crisp Chardonnay and we tucked in for an evening at our farm table.

My girlfriend, Judi, seated to my left, I was facing her husband, Fred, and my husband, Bill  to my right. At this point I want to mention I have an issue with facial recognition. Though it’s a modest case (and yes, it’s real—60 Minutes even did a segment on it recently) – suffice it to say, I never recognize anyone famous.

My girlfriend, on the other hand, knows and recognizes everyone. In other words, she has highly attuned celeb radar. (Is there a term for this?) And wouldn’t you know it, just five minutes after being seated, she mentions – in a hushed voice of course so only we can hear her —  that Michael J. Fox is seated just behind Fred (who I am facing).  OMG, I am now staring into Michael J. Fox’s chicken!

I take in his entire table — gorgeous blond wife, and a very handsome other couple. Suddenly I hear nothing going on at my table. My friend knocks me out of my fog and brings me back home repeating my name multiple times with a kind patient smile. Startled, I look at her sheepishly,  “ I am so so sorry … I don’t know why I keep staring at that table … why did you tell me they were there … I promise I’ll be good – I’m going to stay fully present…  I don’t care about them … I really don’t. I can’t even remember the last movie he was in…pour me some more wine and let’s finish our conversation…what were you saying?”

That lasted for five minutes.

I heard my friend’s voice pierce through my fog — “Felice – hello – come back – check in – what are you doing?” I couldn’t believe I was once again riveted on how those four gorgeous folks interacted as they devoured their dessert.

Why did I care? Why was it such a challenge to stay present and not GAWK?

I took decisive action admitting failure and made Fred switch seats with me. But it didn’t take long for him to fall into the same fog I had been in. In just a few moments he was now mesmerized by what was happening behind my head; he was lost to our table and had fallen into the celebrity vortex.

Ok – enough – we needed to get a grip – we talked this over and tried to drill down to what our real issues were.

What we came up with were three pitfalls:

  1. When seeing a celeb in our normal life – we feel like we know them and we want to connect with them – they are so familiar to us – and so we naturally want to say something to them.
  2. We were breaking the rules which was kind of fun– we were doing something we weren’t supposed to do – like peeking into someone’s journal, or overhearing a private conversation.
  3. We were getting the inside scoop on a story before it hit People. We were the paparazzi – honestly not proud of this one.

Once we figured out the catalyst of our hideous unconditioned unconscious gawking, we were able to focus on just us … and that felt way better until ….

My girlfriend said, “I hate to tell you – but isn’t that Maggie Gyllenhaal over there in that other seat with her husband?  We all turned our heads and in full chorus: “Oh No you’re right!”  Needless to say, dinner was over.

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