Friday, February 25, 2011

At the Grocery Store--Some Thoughts

You always end up with a shopping buddy, someone who either started two minutes before you did or two minutes after. You are going up the canned food aisle, she is coming down. You are going down the laundry detergent aisle, she is coming up. At some point you acknowledge one another with nods and awkward smiles. Yes, we are shopping at the same time, your smiles say. You are each others' shadows for the next thirty minutes.

I always avoid getting in the same check-out line with my shopping buddy. It would be too much. We have been so intimate, our fingers touching the same cans of beans, our eyes meeting over the bananas. And yet we will never see each other again. Small talk would be awkward, painful. Impossible.

***

I fully believe that everyone in the checkout line is judging me by the contents of my shopping cart. They care if my meat is organic and local and notice if my cereals are sugary. They raise their eyebrows at packaged cookies (I made two dozen chocolate chip cookies at the beginning of the week, I want to tell them, and I often bake my own bread) and think well of me when they see all the fresh produce.

***

At the same time I understand without a doubt that no one cares what's in my cart. I am a forty-six year-old mother and housewife who drives an ocean blue Honda Odyssey minivan. I am the most invisible person on the face of the planet, and my food choices are of absolutely no interest to anyone. That's why I spend my time in line reading People and Us instead of Newsweek. You can get away with that sort of thing when you're invisible.

***

Last week a carton of grape cherry tomatoes was 3.99. This week it is 4.99. Which is to say, my relationship with cherry tomatoes is officially over until July, when I will pick them from my garden, and they will taste so much better than they ever did plucked from a plastic carton.

14 comments:

Sara Padrusch said...

Becoming invisible was one of the hardest parts of motherhood. One year I was young and attractive- receiving looks from men. The next I carried a baby, a diaper bag and suddenly I was invisible.

I am mostly used to now. My husband insists that I still get looks, but I think he's being kind.

xoxo
Sara

Ali said...

I quite like being invisible - it gives me greater opportunities to check out what's in everyone else's trolley!! I invent whole back stories for them based on what they pick up. Makes grocery shopping so much more fun.

Angela said...

I am like Ali, inventing the back-story. Wondering why that smartly dressed man is just buying 2 bottles of whisky, 8cans of beans, a tube of toothpaste and dandruff shampoo.I concluded that halitosis, flatulence and flakes of dead skin on his shoulders means he is a solitary guy who sits and drinks alone!!
I have a nice blue fleece jacket which I used to wear when shopping - no longer, the staff have similar ones, and other shoppers keep stopping me to ask where the detergent is!

the crew said...

I am even more invisible at the grocery store - I shop online from home! Then I can order whatever I want and the only person wondering why in the world I am ordering what I do is my personal shopper! :)
Amen about the cherry tomatoes...I cannot wait to eat my own, if I can get them off the plant this summer before my children get to them!!!

debbie bailey said...

I refuse to become invisible. I drive an old Yukon with travel stickers all over the back, and my clothes reflect the gypsy within. I'm one of those old ladies shouting, "Woo Hoo! What a ride!"

You're so right about shopping buddies. After being together for two aisles I'll skip over two and then make my way back just so we won't keep running into each other. I like for my shopping experience to be solitary. Unless I'm in a social mood. Then it's, "Hey, let me help you with that on the top shelf." Or we laugh together over the cute child's antics in the cart ahead as if to say, "We remember all those cute, sweet moments with our own children."

I'm completely at the whim of my emotions. No wonder I'm so hard to live with.

And for Sara P., I don't really think young mothers are invisible to men. I think it's more out of respect for motherhood that they don't look at us the same way as before. And that's a very nice thing.

The only men who notice me now are the fifty and above crowd. When I catch an older man looking at me, I give him a big smile in appreciation! Yay! I'm not invisible after all!

Funny post, Frances. You're always so insightful.

wayside wanderer said...

I can't believe you are 46. You are so youthful looking! (I saw your picture somewhere...where?)

Shopping is in my near future and I will be keeping a lookout for my shopping buddy. =)

Melissa E said...

I think people are looking in my cart and judging me too, but then I guess I might be guilty of looking at other peoples carts too and wondering why they choose the foods they do! I go to the store at the same time each week, so not only do I have shopping buddies, but I often have the same one two weeks in a row!

Pom Pom said...

Oh, Frances. You really have the writer's eye. I hate having shopping buddies especially at my grocery store where all the "yoga pants" shop. I usually skip an aisle and revert back to avoid this occurrence. I embrace invisibility. It seems entirely fitting for this journey, at this juncture. As far as the contents of my shopping buggy, I feel quite encouraged when the "sackers" ask me about the things I choose or say, "Oh that looks really good" or "I really like the smell of this, too!" I'm a weirdo.

Tracy said...

I like checking out what other people buy. But I rarely seem to have a shopping buddy. It is worse, though, when you KNOW your shopping buddy! How do you do or not do small talk every other aisle?

Since we're at the end of summer I am thoroughly enjoying a bag of cherry tomatoes handed to me by our Prep teacher, who grew them at home. Oh my they taste so good!

GretchenJoanna said...

You've nailed it, in a few places. The subject of my grocery shopping I now see, from your example, is a very large and interesting field; maybe I need to add that to my blog drafts. I could never reveal the humor as you do, though.

The dB family said...

I feel the very same way! I have to confess, I do love peeking at what is in everyone else's carts though.

Blessings!
Deborah

Gumbo Lily said...

I enjoyed your grocery shopping story very much. Because I live in Hometown, USA where you shop with your neighbors, I always see people I know and I end up visiting too long over the bananas. Or I find an old, crusty cowboy who can't find his favorite barbecue sauce so I help him and then he tells me one of his life stories.

Dreaming of homegrown tomatoes with you.

Jody

victoria said...

Once I'm in the supermarket I generally enjoy grocery shopping but the Shopping Buddy thing I hate, so awkward.

magsmcc said...

I stand and read Hello! in the magazine aisle blazenly and possibly even with a smile on my face. And I smugly check through my healthy trolley load- sense of self-satisfaction that lasts right up until 10pm that night when Prince Charming and I simultaneously realise that there is absolutely nothing in the whole house that we want to eat....