It occurred to me the other day that there are very few people that I wouldn’t hide from if I happened to spot them in the grocery store. My favorite hiding spot is behind a stack of cling peaches that has been in my grocery store for at least two decades and doesn’t appear to be going anyplace else in the near future. It’s nice and tall and offers complete privacy. The reason why I hide is simple: I don’t want to see anyone and I don’t want anyone to see me. It’s not that I’m a complete hermit or your basic run of the mill people hater. It is just that in spite of my many, many years on this planet I don’t seem to have mastered the lesson to NEVER go out in public without looking like you want to, well, be seen in public.
I can trace all of this back to my parents and naturally can lay the blame squarely at their feet, as I can with any other quirks, faults and character flaws that I possess. When I was a very small girl my mother flew to Ohio to visit her parents. The day she returned was fraught with excitement at our house. Finally, Mommy was coming back and we’d no longer have to endure any more of my father’s terrible cooking or his complete control of the sole (black and white) television set. No more burned bacon and eggs for dinner! No more hours upon hours of “Combat” and “Star Trek”! Our mother was returning and we could all go back to living like normal human beings once again!
Before leaving for the airport, my father told my sisters to help me get dressed but I assured EVERYONE that I didn’t need any help since I already had an exquisite outfit picked out. And I did. Proudly, I left for the airport in a red denim wraparound skirt that belonged to one of my older sisters that went around my waist twice and came down to my ankles, a stunning blue and green plaid top that the dog napped on and my mothers old straw high heels. To my five year old mind I was something awfully close to a fashion model and wouldn’t have been surprised in the least if a photographer decided to snap some shots of me and put them on the cover of the Sunday magazine in the Chicago Tribune. Thus pumped up on my fashion sense it’s hardly a surprise that my mother’s reaction when she stepped into the terminal still burns in my ears. “Who dressed this child?” she demanded. “She looks like a ragamuffin!”
Although I didn’t know what a ragamuffin was, I sensed that it wasn’t a good thing to emulate. I also sensed that ragamuffins seldom got on the cover of any magazines, much less the Sunday magazine in the Chicago Tribune. Holding my mother’s hand tightly as we made our way through the airport, I vowed never to go out in public again without looking comme il faut. Loosely translated that means not looking like a total slob when you run out for a gallon of milk.
Unfortunately, the lesson didn’t stick longer than five minutes and even though that unfortunate airport incident was several decades ago, I still tend to tell myself that “just this once” I’ll dash to the grocery store wearing the sweatshirt with the stain the size of Brazil on my chest and the jeans that were cruelly known as “flood pants” when I was in junior high. I delude myself by thinking that the odds of running into anyone I know are slim to none and that I’ll be perfectly safe going out with my stringy hair and ugly mustard colored moccasins. Of course, I get over that delusion the moment I’m reaching for the milk and I look up and lock eyes with that co-worker who has the Perfect Hair and the 20-20 vision. That’s the moment I either pretend that I don’t know my co-worker or make a dive behind the canned peaches.
You would think that I would have at least ditched the flood pants and ugly shoes by now but I haven’t and apparently I’m never going to. Honestly, the view from behind the canned peaches isn’t all that bad. A little claustrophobic and on the dusty side but blessedly alone with the exception of a fly or two. But I’m okay with that. Flies don’t care what I’m wearing and have never said a single word about my flood pants.