Like most traumatic experiences in my life, the following took place at a lower-end grocery store — you know, one that has a distinct smell, offers minimal fresh produce and lacks a cute organic aisle.
I went to pick up ingredients for a nice dinner while my boyfriend cleaned and did the dishes at home. He suggested steak, so I ventured to the meat department with much bewilderment; I’m more of a seafood gal. As I pensively compared tenderloin to T-bone, a nearby stranger said something to me I didn’t quite catch.
“What’s that?” I asked, thinking he might have some meat-cut knowledge I was lacking.
“I said,” he replied, much louder, “you gotta remember you’re eating for two.”
Shaken, I dropped a shrink-wrapped chunk of cow and looked down to my vacant uterus. Sure, I’m far from washboard-abs status, but my stomach isn’t so big that someone would stop to point out that there might be a baby up in there. Right? If women carried babies near their butts, I might be able to understand someone mistaking my badonk for a fetus home. But, as we all know, this is not the case.
My face reddened and I tried to gain composure. I turned to the guy, a pretty normal-looking dude who wasn’t more than 30 years old.
“Actually, no, I’m not,” I replied, with as much confidence as I could muster.
Calm down, I told myself. It must have been the way you were standing. The guy is going to apologize, embarrassed, and go away. Just don’t ever wear this outfit again.
“Oh, shit!” the man screamed, jumping up and down. He covered his laughter with a fist as he bounced like this was an episode of Martin. This, again, was not the reaction I was expecting.
“I fucked up!” he said stating the obvious, still laughing.
Just walk away. Just walk away.
Just walk away. I silently begged. Of course, he didn’t.
He had a friend nearby who, though shaking his head, added to the boisterous laughter. Turning to this friend, he continued.
“I fucked up, man! Did you hear that?”
“Yeah, man. Shit’s fucked up.”
The gratuitous F-bomb usage and playful jumping about continued. Shoppers walked by, some staring, some clearly used to ridiculous behavior during grocery trips.
Holding back tears with all my might, I turned back to the man and said, “Yeah, you did fuck up,” and continued my search for beef. What cut was I supposed to get again?
Naturally, he was about as clueless about meat as I, so we were stuck near each other for an additional couple minutes before I grabbed two of something and scurried away. I was gasping deep, quick breaths like a toddler who was three seconds away from an all-out tantrum.
At this point, eating dinner was the last thing I wanted to do. Admittedly, I’m very sensitive to rudeness from strangers. It’s something I just can’t let go. Some dumb-ass makes an asinine comment or takes up two parking spaces or talks on their cell phone while checking out at a store, and suddenly the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme is playing in my head and I have to hold back my Larry David-esque comments.
And, of course, as a woman and a former chubby middle-schooler, comments about my body — even good ones — have always been a sore subject. Plus, after months of following a diet and workout plan (which made it that much worse), the last thing any woman wants to be asked — or, in my case, told — is that the only justifiable way she could be this size is because she’s knocked up.
I grabbed the rest of my groceries with a minimal amount of tears, sucking my stomach in all the while, and made my way to the checkout. My cashier was a heavyset woman, at least twice my size.
“Girl, I love those shoes,” she told me. “Target, right?”
You are a fucking saint and I love you, I wanted to say, but enough F-words had been thrown around for one shopping trip.
“Yeah, I shop there way too much,” I said, trying to shape a smile on my face.
“They have the cutest stuff there,” she replied. “I wanna get me one of those rompers!”
Rompers are one of the most unforgiving trends right now. You have to have a pretty great body to pull one off without looking either like a little kid or, ahem, pregnant. Trust me, I’ve tried. And, honestly, I doubt Target would carry a romper that would fit her properly. But this chick didn’t care. She had all the confidence that “eating for two” guy sucked away from me.
As the woman scanned my steaks (I still wasn’t sure which cut I’d grabbed), salad and spices, I thought about the people she had to deal with on a regular basis. My little encounter was probably nothing compared to what she’s subjected to every time she clocks in. I could choose to go to a nicer grocery store in a nicer neighborhood, where they have cute organic aisles and bitchy people just say mean things about you in their heads. She has to come here every day she works. And she probably never cries.
Unfortunately, I have had to stop at this store in a pinch since the preggo incident, but I’ve yet to have my uterus’ status in question again. And despite the Larry David within me, I always leave with a more positive interior monologue when my sassy cashier pal rings me out.
But as a word to the wise, to paraphrase Dave Barry’s sayings emblazoned on Jimmy John’s walls across the county, never assume a woman is pregnant unless you can see the head crowning.
CONTACT JAC KERN: firstname.lastname@example.org