It was her silver hair I noticed first.
As women, going gray is a daily test for self confidence and acceptance. At 41, I now see more of gray hairs every time I look in the mirror, and each one rattles me just a little bit, even though I know full well I shouldn’t. Each time is an opportunity to accept my age, life and mortality and carry on. So when I see younger women with all silver hair who proudly made the decision not to dye it away, I immediately credit them with a level of confidence I strive to have.
Rebecca rocking her gloriously silver hair in a short cut, was sitting at my restaurant. Is she yet 40? Maybe. Then when I heard her speak in a distinctively direct way I made my final assessment: If there were a war to fight, we’d win if we sent her into the battle. I don’t know what war I was thinking of, but probably any war, any battle that’s worth the fight.
Weeks later I had made a connection that she is @thepoetryofthings on Instagram I was beginning to pay attention to and a mutual friend thought we should meet. Days later, we ran into each other at VMFA, where a small talk about ramen life led to all-out business in no time.
Rebecca> Can I give you an unsolicited advice?
R> You and your servers shouldn’t interrupt guests by asking if they need anything so often. Needing the validation the guests are doing OK comes partly from your insecurities. Take the water pitcher, fill up their glasses without interrupting. They will tell you if they need you. If not, all things are good and you walk away.
WHAT? Did she just read into my mind, pointed out something I need to improve on, then suggested a solution? Yes, she did, without missing a beat, feeling uncomfortable or making me feel uncomfortable.
Those of you know me well enough know that I eat this shit up. I love NO BS women who are direct, know their stuff and get stuff done, but do so without losing warmth and elegance.
I went back to dinner service that night and tried this new trick. Worked like a charm! And I did feel more chill and confident.
So that’s how Rebecca got on the top of my Ramen With Strangers guest list. I could not wait to spend more time with her. When she showed up for a late lunch, I discovered the softer side of this Joan D’arc when we chatted about work, family, fighting cancer and true to form for two single women in 40s, dating.
our lunch menu:
House sodas with ginger beer and pear shrub
Karaage Buns of Steam
Veggie Hiyashi Chuka
Rebecca is a co-owner of a fine dining restaurant in Fredericksburg, kybecca. She is a full-time Richmonder now, but still commutes to check in and take care of business a few times a week.
S> How do you not get bored of the monotony of daily service?
R> You have to find things you want to learn and improve upon, whether that’s wine, sprits, service or management. There is always something to learn.
RE: marriage...and tinder
RE: fighting a battle worth fighting
S> You are renovating a house in the Jackson Ward?
R> I bought an already renovated house in the J-Ward. It was renovated by a grandson/grandfather duo. I love its story and being able to ride my bike to everything.
An hour rushed by, not enough time to talk about everything that pops up in your head when getting to know someone. But it certainly made me feel she is no longer a stranger to me, especially when she answered me this when I asked what she wants most out of her life.
R> When I was going through cancer treatment and looked back at my life, I had achieved a good amount. I’ve been working for myself since I was 24 and with successful results. My only regret was that I did not experience real love and companionship. I think it is possible, and I’m looking for it.
S> …I don’t think I expected you to have such a delicately feminine dream. That’s surprising.
R> (Laughing) Yeah?
S> Yeah. This woman who I’d send to lead an epic battle to victory just told me she wanted true love. Let me just.... process this.
Processing I did, after Rebecca hugged me warmly and dashed out to her next engagement in black sheath dress and heels. Images of tree and reed floated around in my head as I sat reviewing our conversation. It’s a Chinese proverb that I heard countless times growing up in Korea, “Reed that bends to the wind is stronger than the mighty oak tree.”
There is graceful elegance about Rebecca and the way her eyes find beauty in her daily life (seen through her Instagram) -- girlish love for shoes, textile, beautiful nature and objects, her nurturing of a stepchild as her own. And with all that grace, she also carries so much strength and fierceness, much more than that of an oak tree. I do not doubt that any battle she chooses to fight, that she deems worth fighting, she wins every one of them.