I am an evening grocery shopper. I do this to avoid any and all crowds, especially those of the blue or no-haired variety, because somehow I always end up stuck slow-walking behind a woman in a scooter cart and after helping her reach the Dijon mustard from the shelf, I accidentally become her personal shopping assistant for the duration of her outing (every damn time!). Hence, I generally shop at night. Plus there is an added bonus of going right after dinner so I don’t do that thing where I buy exotic food that I’ll never actually eat but am hungry enough at the time that I convince myself I might actually try it this once. There’s a spot on my kitchen counter I refer to as the Corner of Shame where all these “Meh, maybe tomorrow I’ll want to eat this” food items go to rot until they are so unrecognizable from their original state I cannot identify what they were in the first place and no longer feel guilty about throwing them away because now they’re not just decomposing former dreams in my kitchen but instead health hazards I’m removing in a heroic manner. But I digress.
One particular Sunday morning I figured all the elderly folk would surely be out to brunch with their friends instead of picking up their Polident. I hadn’t tried the Sunday AM crowds, and was on such a roll running other errands I decided to give it a try. And oh, how I should have stayed in bed.
It was fairly crowded in the store, which normally would have very much bothered me, but because I was getting so much done already and it wasn’t even noon, I was in a good enough mood to let it slide. Armed with my shopping list, my mini cart of food looked like I was keeping to my New Years resolution to eat healthy and cook for myself instead of the ease and convenience of microwavable dinners. I was walking past an oncoming elderly woman who looked suspiciously similar to Jack Donaghy’s mother from 30 Rock. She caught my attention by making eye contact with me and stopped in her tracks, as if to ask or tell me something. I stopped too, confused. She looked me up and down, then peered into my shopping cart, and finally said:
“Oh, you live alone, don’t you?” and just continued on her way, leaving me standing in the aisle with my jaw waving in the wind.
Given just about any other Sunday morning, she might have a point. I do have a tendency to under-dress on this the laziest of days. It’s the one day a week I justify not showering by convincing myself I’m building up my pores’ strength to resist dirt, an idea loosely based on an article I vaguely remember skimming in Cosmo a decade ago. My attire usually involves an oversized sweatshirt with the lettering peeling off and a green paint smudge on the right boob, even though I don’t recall ever being around green paint while wearing it. So in that regard, old Mrs. Giantsunglasses would have been right.
But this day, however, I was showered. I was put together. Hell, I even ACCESSORIZED with belts and bracelets and shit. I. Looked. Amazing. AND my shopping cart had fresh vegetables and a f**king pot roast in it. What about my appearance and cart contents suggested loneliness? Needless to say, I doubled back to the dessert aisle to obtain a gallon of Rocky Road and a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough for damage control.
Unpacking my groceries when I returned home, I carefully inspected every item, doing my best to surmise what each one could represent. Might the celery allude to an awareness of weight that I feel I must lose in order to obtain a man? Could the garlic cloves imply a lack of care for bad breath which clearly means I’m single? Does the 8-pack of toilet paper correspond to an excess of bowel movements thus sealing my fate as an old maid? As I put these things away, I just became more and more confused as to what the old lady meant, and more importantly, why it bothered me so much.
But the real question was why I did I feel accused of something, as if living alone is a sad not ideal state? Just because I live alone does not mean I’m lonely. I thought back to my previous week, wherein I’d hosted a potluck dinner with one group of friends, gone bar hopping in the city with another, and saw a show by one of my favorite indie bands with my best friend. I lead quite an active social life! And while, yes, it’s true I’m single with my own apartment, this just means I can watch whatever I want whenever I want on TV. My bedroom can be kept in a whatever state of disarray I like. And I can sing as much opera or boy band ballads in the shower as I deem fitting. In my fury trying to validate my single-living to myself, I realized I was just becoming more certain how not lonely I truly am. I was answering the woman’s “Oh, you live alone, don’t you?” with an affirmative “Hell yes I do!” as I danced around my kitchen island.
Though I still ended up eating all the Rocky Road and cookie dough I’d just bought, because hey, who’s around to judge me?
You can read more from Michelle Chapin on her blog.
Feature image via Flickr.