What’s Your Trip To the Grocery Store Like?

I was working on another post for today, but the questions raised by Creative Liar in her post “The Cart Ruiner” provided far too much fodder for just the “comments” (or, as she likes to call it, the “Lie to Me” section). Thank you, Creative Liar, for inspiring me today!

Creative Liar asked folks to weigh in on a few questions, such as, “Oh and what’s your trip to the grocery store like?”

Previously, I blogged about one particular grocery store trip. This piece describes a fairly typical outing to the grocery store. Unfortunately, it did not feature my husband or my daughter (though they were there in spirit!)

Fang and Fangette often enjoy going to the grocery store with me. They are usually the ones adding the pretentious items to my cart full of Wonder Bread and Chef-Boy-R-Dee Ravioli. Things like “Tom’s of Maine” toothpaste. Pshaw. If cinnamon Close-Up was good enough for me, it should be good enough for them! (Perhaps the cinnamon Close-Up is the reason I need the soft foods like the Wonder Bread and the Ravioli in the first place— this line of reasoning cannot be dismissed out of hand!)

They also like to purchase organic snacks and breakfast items. Unfortunately, they prefer to eat the less than wholesome selections made by me. So, guess who’s left holding the organic breakfast bar (at $4.99/box) and the Fourth of July (does anyone know how to get that TM sign????) mini peanut butter cracker snacks? I always think I am coming home to a Little Debbie’s Peanut Butter bar or awakening to a mouth-watering Entenmann’s cheese danish, only to discover that, somehow, they are no longer in the house. So, I’m stuck with the organic crap. The boxes they come in probably contain more flavor (not to mention the fiber content of cardboard!).

I try to avoid trips down the hair care aisle, especially when my daughter is in tow. She has champagne tastes does Fangette; Mrs. Fang has a beer pocketbook. She often manages to catch me off guard, though, and I don’t realize that I have invested $19 in something called “hair tonic” until it’s too late. Even back in my drinking days I didn’t spend $19 on gin to mix with actual tonic. At least I was a frugal drunk.

We always seem to come home with various and sundry other things that most people buy at places like Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Home Depot, or, even, Victoria’s Secret. We are the people that treat the grocery store like it’s BJ’s or Costco. We have purchased Keurig’s, air conditioners, hair straighteners, toaster ovens, jeggings (okay, that was me, but I needed them and, well, they were there), socks, window exhaust fans, lawn chairs, and, of course, ladies’ panties (Again, me. But, again, they were there and I needed them.) at the supermarket. (Isn’t that why they call it a “supermarket”? Because they have everything?)

Creative Liar also asks: “Does your husband have a tendency to wear clothes? If so, do you think he could host an intervention for my husband?”

Sorry, dear. My husband could benefit from an intervention himself.

Fang’s typical “weekend wear” can best be described as mid-20th Century immigrant, replete with the white socks and black sandals (which, I swear, he buys at the grocery store when I am not looking), long shorts (for ease of ball scratching or, as he calls it, “rearranging”), and a t-shirt. He completes this look with one of the many afghans that are hanging around the house (most of which have been painstakingly crocheted by yours truly). Because he’s cold. Of course it’s cold in my house. All of our expendable income is going toward organic breakfast bars, deluxe toothpaste, and fancy hair products.

photo credit: inkity.com

Shoes, T-shirts, and Peanut Butter. Oh, My!

My husband has five pairs of shoes. I know this without even having to get up and stick my head in the closet. I could name them, but that would bore even me. And I read “John Adams”— all of it, cover-to-cover, for crying out loud! Go ahead and throw rotten tomatoes at me McCullough fans! I don’t care if he has so many Pulitzer’s that he uses them as garden gnomes. He’s a snooze! And I have a degree in History, so I know a thing or two about snoozes! I’d rather read Hofstadter (and that, my friends, is saying something).

When my husband gets a new pair of shoes it is only to replace a worn out pair. It goes without saying that the “replacement” pair will be, whenever possible, an exact replica of the dilapidated pair.

How do I, shoe whore extraordinaire, compete with the type of rational thinking that drives this behavior? Well, that’s easy. I don’t. I don’t even try. It’s been a bone of contention for twenty-eight years. That’s right, you heard me. Twenty-eight years of sad and unsuccessful attempts aimed at convincing me that his methodology makes far more sense from an organizational, storage, and financial standpoint than my methodology, which is, on a very basic level something akin to a pathological addiction to footwear. I have explained to him on many, many occasions that common sense has no place in any discussion that concerns women and shoes. It’s a constant struggle (mostly for him).

He wouldn’t be so difficult to live with if his basic “less is more” approach applied only to shoes. But it doesn’t. (Puritan!) This philosophy extends to the rest of his wardrobe. (New black shirt? Throw out the old one!) He always has twenty-four white t-shirts. No more. No less. I know, I know, undershirts come in packs of three, which, I guess, makes the whole twenty-four thing seem, well, sensible. But, sometimes you come across a package with two “bonus” shirts. Instead of hanging onto a couple more decent undershirts, he throws away five of the old ones. (The rule of twenty-four t-shirts cannot be broken!) T-shirt stasis must always be maintained!

I do not have any such rules. I have no idea how many pairs of shoes I own. No doubt far too many. And I haven’t done a thorough t-shirt inventory in years.

Recently I purchased a new pair of black cowboy boots (he doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going back next week to get them in red). When I came home from shopping we did our usual “you bought another pair of shoes” dance (luckily I am a big fan of dancing in cowboy boots). Whatever. I just put them away and carried on as if he had said nothing. For whatever reason, my daughter was disturbed by his comments. Disturbed enough to ask me why I always let him “rag on me” whenever I bought a new pair of shoes.

It was funny. I got the sense that she was intimating that this argument was, somehow, symptomatic of something greater; that it was more about the overall status of our relationship than it was about how many pairs of shoes I could possibly cram into my closet. (Or under the bed.) Silly Wabbit!

Teenagers are such absolutists, aren’t they? They also think they know stuff, ya know, about their parents’ relationship. BAHAHAHAHA! Certainly there is subtext to any twenty-eight-year-old argument, but the sad reality is that we are too stupid, lazy, or busy to give this sort of thing much thought. Or, maybe we’re just deluded enough to think that shit like this is just part of the rhythm of our life together. And that it doesn’t matter.

I long ago stopped dwelling on our differences. I prefer, instead, to concentrate on the things that we have in common. And, over the years we have both made some concessions. It took some convincing, but he has finally come to understand that space movies are just westerns in which the cowboys have been given better weaponry and more advanced modes of transportation. Finally!

He embraced Matt Smith as Doctor Who. I, on the other hand, lamented the departure of David Tennant for longer than was healthy. (And, even I have to admit to loving The Ponds, though, alas, it appears that they may be gone now, too— no matter how often I tell myself not to become too attached to the companions, I never listen. Never. And I am always disappointed!)

He also managed to turn me into a New York Mets fan by convincing me that Yankees fans lack character. (They do. And who needs that hanging over their head?)

We will probably never agree on the best Springsteen song. He’s a “Jungleland” guy, I’m a “Thunder Road” gal. On this we have agreed to disagree. (Though it’s crazy to me how any song with the lyric “she ain’t a beauty, but hey, she’s alright” could ever be the second choice of any so-called normal person.) [sigh]

Anyway, I asked her to name one important thing that her father and I disagree about on any kind of regular basis. She couldn’t. She couldn’t because there are none. We agree on all the big stuff. And there’s not really much of that, is there? We are both Democrats. (He’s less liberal, but nobody’s perfect!) We are both agnostics. (No pesky religious disagreements for us!) We are firm believers that crunchy peanut butter eaters are heretics; they would have, back when humans did this sort of thing, been burned at the stake. And they would have deserved it. We are both devoted to our child. (Just how much tends to vary and is more dependent on her behavior, rather than on ours.)

So, I asked her, “What else is there?”

photo credit: squidoo.com

Adventures in Yogurting

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am not going to be singled out for the “Mother of the Year” award. That’s fine. My parenting style isn’t for everyone. That’s okay. I’m aware that we all parent differently. I try not to judge.

Take the whole sugar debate, for example. I never limited my kid’s sugar intake. Sugar never really affected her adversely, so I never saw the need to go the “no sugar” route. Once in a while I even let her have ice cream for breakfast. She was never a sugar fiend, so I gave in to her oddly-timed ice cream requests on occasion. My logic was that it was probably no worse for her than sugary cereal, which she never ate either (she never liked any of them).

To address what were, according to Fangette, some gaping holes in her sweater wardrobe, we hightailed it over to the mall. To address what was, to her mother, the low blood sugar that always follows such activity, we stopped for some frozen yogurt. There was a man in front of us with his two young boys. I would put their ages at about 5 and 7. It was one of those places where you fill the cup with whatever flavor(s) of fro-yo you like and add the toppings of your choice. They weigh it and charge you by the ounce. I think gold may be cheaper.

It’s very easy to make yourself a $9 cup of deliciousness. I know this because my daughter and her friend did it once. It didn’t look like much, just some yogurt with strawberries and bananas. But it cost me about $18 for their post-shopping snackage. Whatever. You live and you learn. The friend felt so badly that she was trying to force me to take her money, which I would never dream of doing. I was like, “Relax. It’s just a couple more bucks than Dairy Queen. Nobody died.” Oh, my God, I thought the kid was going to have a coronary over it. It was kind of funny.

I’m always grateful in these moments that I’m not a cheapskate. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have buckets of money lying around, but I just can’t get all worked up over a couple of bucks. The guy in front of me at the yogurt place clearly did not share my attitude regarding money. Nor were we on the same page concerning sugar and its relationship to the average American child.

Holy Crapbags! Initially, he was flipping out about the fact that they only had “giant containers”. Yup. They do. I guess because they are running an establishment of the retail variety. To combat the sinister motives of the frozen yogurt marketing department, he made a failed attempt to get his kids to share one cup. If he had convinced his children to share one cup of frozen yogurt, I would have been pretty darn impressed. He didn’t. I wasn’t.

Once that plan was foiled by his two very cute, but slightly stubborn, little boys, he proceeded to read off the yogurt flavors. He left a few out. The older one who, presumably, could read (I suspect the younger one could, too), helpfully (and proudly) pointed out that his father had forgotten the chocolate. The father mumbled something that sounded like “I didn’t forget. It’s just too late for chocolate. Too much sugar.”

I would have to agree on the “too late” comment. It was about 7:45 PM on a school night. I was always a bit of a stickler about bedtime. To me, these kids should have been bathed and in their jammies at this point in the evening, but we all have our moments. What did I know? Maybe they were out shopping for Mommy’s birthday gift (Mom did not seem to be a participant in this outing). Again, not judging.

The chocolate vs. vanilla debate finally settled, the father then started to flip out regarding the amount of product they were putting in their containers. Now I was maybe, just maybe, judging a little. Because he had neither helped them nor directed them in how to use the dispensers. Dispensers that I have trouble controlling, by the way.

Finally, he realized that he needed to assist them, but not before carrying on about what “these stupid yogurts are going to cost him.” This is when I had to bite my tongue. Because I hate when adults kvetch about money to children. There is nothing wrong with, “No. You cannot have that” or, “We can’t go to the movies/dinner/the circus/wherever today.” If they are old enough it probably wouldn’t hurt to add something along the lines of, “That’s just not in the budget this week.” But, really, to carry on over the cost of a cup of yogurt? It’s just stupid. Especially when a few yards away there is a supermarket where you can buy a half-gallon of ice cream for $2.49.

Cups filled and toppings chosen, they raced over and chose seats at the tables; tables that are equipped with iPads. iPads loaded with games. What little boys coul be expected to avoid the lure of that? The second they each took a seat in front of an iPad the father starts barking at them that they’re “too little to play those games” and how he “doesn’t have time for this nonsense.”

I watch them follow him out. I figured that he put them in the car. I secretly hoped that they dripped their fro-yo all over the seats. It would serve him right. Because he was really just annoying me at this point.

My daughter and I paid for our treats and were just about to engage in a lively round of “Angry Birds” when my kid nodded toward the mall and said, “Awwwww, Mom. I wouldn’t feel right playing in front of them. Let’s go.” I looked out the window and there they sat, the two little cutie pies, on a bench outside the store, watching us gearing up to play on the iPads.

Once I saw them, I knew I couldn’t stay. Poor little things. And really, what was the father’s point? He was just being a prick. Throwing his weight around. Because he could. I hope he was just having a bad day. I really do. If not, he’s in for a rude awakening. Because you don’t have to be “Mother of the Year” to know that your children will eventually treat you (and others) the way they have been treated. For better or for worse.

I get that I’m lucky. That I only have the one child. And that she’s a pretty good kid. And while I try not to judge, it was difficult to watch the whole experience turn sour for these two little boys and not judge this guy at least a little.

photo credit: luuux.com

The Pants Fairy

Aside from the cashier that seemed somewhat reluctant to engage in conversation with the woman who had just handed her $122 in moist bills, I didn’t have any problems during my shopping trip at Kohl’s. It was rainy and humid here in lovely Northern New Jersey today and my wallet is not big enough to hold all the small bills that I tend to accumulate in my stripping job. Pleather, as it turns out is not water-resistant. Who knew?

Also on a positive note, my search for a pair of black pants has, at long last, come to a fruitful end. I expended less energy buying my wedding dress. This adventure in pants buying began six weeks ago. Indiana Jones found the Ark of the Covenant in less time and may, in fact, have been less sweaty and exhausted at the end of his quest than I was at the end of mine.

To say that I don’t like to shop is an understatement. I’d rather spend my time coaxing penguins to fly. And I would have to go to Antarctica to do that. And don’t think I didn’t toy with that idea. Let’s face it, fashion is probably of little concern there— to the other tundra-dweller that might happen along and certainly to the penguins. This activity, unlike pant purchasing, would also, obviously, involve birds, which I have no fondness for. But at least it would be cooler.

For the life of me I cannot fathom why retail clothing establishments have decided that setting the thermostat to a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit equates to brisk sales. It’s as if someone is conducting an experiment to determine whether their products will hold up in their future location— on Mars.

The hottest part of the already surface-of-the-sun hot stores are, without a doubt, the dressing closets (I refuse to call them “rooms”). There is no air circulation in these areas either. Don’t even get me started on how I always manage to choose the closet with the broken door and/or the one with the straight pins all over the floor. It is here, though, in the hottest, most oxygen-deprived area that I have to wrestle my clothes off, their clothes on, and vice-versa. By the time I have tried on one thing I am a sticky, perspiring mess with at least one or two pinholes in my feet. I don’t even want to think about where those pins are manufactured or the lax immunization standards adhered to in that third-world pin-making hotbed of disease.

As if entering the wall of heat isn’t enough, the policy of allowing five or six garments at a time contributes to my crankiness. A policy that I neither understand, condone, nor adhere to. Because it’s stupid. If I’m going to steal something it doesn’t matter how many things I went in with. I do not argue with the closet attendant (because other than the bathroom matron, who has a worse job than her in this establishment?), I just refuse to comply. Usually after I have spent an hour selecting fifteen pairs of pants (five styles in three different sizes), I look like a person who should not be tangled with. I don’t fall for the whole, “take six in and leave the other nine out here and I will switch them out for you” bullshit either. Because the minute I need them, the closet monitor is nowhere to be found. So, there I am. Pinfooted and in my underwear with my head stuck out the door, hollering, “Hello. Hello. Fallujah. Fallujah? Are you there, Fallujah?”, while dangling six pair of pants out the crack of the door in what is the fitting area equivalent to raising the white flag, which feels like defeat. And Fallujah? She’s surrendered, too, to the need for coffee, a bathroom break, or a chit-chat with her coworkers. Who can blame her? I don’t want to be here either.

I have been experiencing this scenario for the past month-and-a-half when, as you may remember, I was chosen for a supervisory position at work. Currently I am still training and have continued to rely on the one outfit that I have in my closet that is suitable for work (i.e., it doesn’t include leggings, sweatpants, jeans, or a party dress). It’s my “go to” ensemble. It goes to Back-to-School night and viewings of the dead, for the most part. By next week I’ll have to change it up though. Thus, the need for the black trousers. (And a couple of shirts and jackets/sweaters.) I have worked in either restaurants and/or doctor’s offices over the last thirty years. So, I have worn either a uniform or scrubs. I haven’t really had to shop for business attire, well, ever. I actually thought it would be fun, for a change, to buy and wear things of my own choosing.

Let me tell you how fun it is not. We’ll stay focused on the pants nightmare for the moment. The styles or “fits” as it turns out run from Modern to Classic. Some manufacturers throw in Curvy and Slim somewhere solely, I am convinced, to further confuse the issue. Some even combine them, as in Modern Curvy or Classic Slim. Oh, my God. I had no idea what any of this meant, nor do they tell you what these things mean. Not on the label. Not on the signage. You just have to guess. I am no more curvaceous than I am slim. I like to think I am a Classic. Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Dire Straits, and Guns n’ Roses come to mind. But, I listen to The Killers, Radiohead, and Mumford and Sons. Doesn’t that make me Modern?

None of this nomenclature makes much sense to me. What I have discovered is that Classic means that the waistband falls somewhere between the bottom of your breasts and above your belly button; Modern waistbands are designed to sit below your bellybutton, but sometimes that means right above the crack of your ass. Petites require going up a size, in any cut. Just when I was feeling good about myself. Ah, well. I’m fairly shortwaisted, so the Modern cut seemed more suited to my body structure.

Then, of course, I was faced with the whole leg cut dilemma. There’s wide-leg, tapered, boot cut, and skinny. Again, every manufacturer defines these things differently. It’s a nightmare. Ultimately I settled on a size 14P, Modern Slim with a tapered leg. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! And then I realized that these pants had NO pockets. Just when I was about to pull my hair out, I spotted a pair that seemed to be nearly identical to the pants without the pockets. It was almost too much to hope for. I felt like I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of pants. They were, indeed, the same size, cut, and leg opening and they had pockets and belt loops. Woo fucking hoo! I think I actually said a little prayer. To the pants fairy. I grabbed them, tried them on and bought them immediately. They weren’t even on sale. And I didn’t even care. If twenty years ago anyone had told me that I would have a mildly religious experience in a Kohl’s department store over a pair of pants, I would have asked them what kind of shit they were smoking.

When I got home, very pleased with myself, my husband asked me why I hadn’t bought two pairs. I started to explain and then I realized that men just do not understand this sort of thing. I couldn’t possibly expect two miracles in one day. That would be too much to hope for. And it might anger the sweater fairy, who I may need tomorrow.

Purchasing the Proper Party Dress

Fangette has been invited to about her forty-fifth Sweet 16 party. I’m not kidding. I wish she were a little less popular. If she were a boy, Fang, Jr., for example, I probably wouldn’t care. I would have bought him a suit, a few ties, a couple of shirts, a new pair of black dress shoes and sent him on his way. Boys are much easier to outfit. When you are dealing with daughters and parties the dress requirements are much more rigorous. Yesterday we bought the forty-fifth dress in two years. Another black dress. Different from the nine other black dresses in some, to me, undiscerbible way.

This required trips to about seventeen different stores. The same seventeen stores that we have shopped for the last forty-four dresses in. I have discovered that purchasing the proper party dress is a three-day mission.

Day One: Reconnaissance
This requires visiting all seventeen stores to eyeball what they have to offer. Several dresses are tried on. One or two may make the “maybe” list. Some are discarded because they will require a certain kind of undergarment or no undergarment at all (The Horror!); others get a “no” for fit. No final decisions are ever made on Day One. Ever. Sometimes Day One results in the discovery of a few cute shirts, so it’s not a total waste of time.

Day Two: Whittling Down
This is the day that we return to the stores where the “maybe” dresses are located. Other “maybes” are often added. Finally we whittle the choices down to two or three. This is where color and the possible need for new shoes or undergarments become part of the decision-making process. And the accessories. Can you wear silver with beige? No. The blue dress is cute, but the black $100 Steve Maddens won’t look right with it. Will a few gold accessories make the dress wearable with the gold $120 Steve Maddens? Perhaps. The pink and black one is cute. The black shoes and silver jewelry will complete the look. It needs a halter bra, though. Didn’t we buy a $65 convertible bra last year? Yes. But it’s black. And one of the straps cannot be located. Great.

Day Three: Final Purchase
After mulling over the “maybes” and taking into consideration all of the necessary ancillary purchases, a final decision is made. Usually we discover that one of the “maybes” is the same color being worn by The Birthday Girl. Seriously. The party invitations ask that no one wear purple or red or chartreuse. Not being that detail-oriented, we normally forget to check this. Likely the favorite “maybe” turns out to be the verboten color. Luckily we have at least two other choices.

What I should have invested in when The Sweet 16 party invitations began arriving, was a rolling suitcase for the proper undergarments, shoes, and accessories that must be brought to the mall for Day Three. I should also have printed out flyers, to hand to the salespeople, telling them that these items are ours and have been brought from home. Sometimes there is confusion here. I guess they are trained to be on the lookout for suspected shoplifters, possibly we fit the description.

Day Three also involves a certain amount of hoping and praying. By me. I hope that the store still has the dress and pray that the final “try on” meets with her approval.

Otherwise, it’s back to Day One.