It’s only appropriate that I went to the store because I was having a craving. I didn’t need to go grocery shopping for another week, but I was craving borsch. I’m not very picky when it comes to food, but when I do get a hankering for something, I have to satisfy my urge or it won’t go away. And this time, I was craving beets soup. Once I arrived at the store, I decided to go all out and make it an impoverished Eastern European night as I love theme dinners. I had potato dumplings at home, so I added some apple sauce to the cart. My mouth watered as I thought about enjoying my poor Soviet food and how my pasty, bountiful curves would be more accepted if I was named Olga and didn’t live in L.A.
As I passed the aisle of cold beer and wine I thought what could be better than a bottle of cheap white wine to go with my meal. I scoured the shelves for a while before finding a $3 that seemed acceptable.
I dragged my purchases to the front and looked for the shortest line to accommodate me.
I always get carded. Whether I’m going into a seedy bar or buying beer at a 7-11, the clerks look at my chubby baby face and ask for ID. The cheaper the alcohol, the more suspicious they are. Anticipating the reaction to my $3 bottle of wine, I had my ID ready and offered it to the young, pudgy clerk as soon as he began scanning my groceries.
“I don’t need that,” he laughed, but checked it anyway.
“Oh, okay,” I smiled. I must be looking mature tonight. Probably because I wore eyeliner. “Usually when I buy my cheap alcohol, I get carded.” I needlessly explained.
“Trust me, nobody’s confusing you for 21.” He replied amusing only himself. I recoiled and just pulled a tight smile. “Besides,” he continued “You shouldn’t be drinking in your condition.”
“My condition?” I asked hesitantly as I swiped my debit card. How did he know I was depressed? Was I that obvious?
“Yeah, how far along are you anyway?”
Did he mean what stage of grief was I in? I considered telling him ‘Well, I’ve already passed denial and bargaining, so I guess I’m up to depression and bordering on anger,’ but I thought that might be too much information. “Far along in what?” I cocked my head to the side as I watched him carelessly throw my groceries in a bag.
He looked at my stomach area, which was shrouded in one of my favorite shirts: an off-white empire-waisted bell sleeved top that I secretly think looks like something Princess Leia would have paired with jeans.
“The baby,” he shoved a fat index finger toward the loose fabric around my waist. “How many months along are you with the baby?”
“I. Am. Not. Pregnant.” I said icily.
“Really?” His eyes widened in surprise. “Are you sure? You look pregnant.”
“No! I mean, yes, I’m sure!” I became flustered. “I’m not pregnant. And I don’t look pregnant!”
I snatched the bag of heavy foods off the counter. “And furthermore,” I tried to think of something harsh but witty that would put him in his place. “That’s not something you should ask a woman. Ever!” A woman passing the end of the counter turned to look at me. “Because,” My voice swelled with indignant rage as he just nervously laughed, “Because it’s rude! And you obviously can’t tell whether someone is or isn’t.”
He just shrugged in response. “Well, you look pregnant.”
I stormed out to my car and just sat there with the engine off trying to decide what to do next. Wait until he comes out on a cart run and then hit him with my car? That might kill him though, and I only want to inflict some non-fatal injuries. Plus, I don’t think my insurance would cover it. Maybe I could just charge him with a shopping cart. But I knew this was a ridiculous fantasy. Clerks don’t do the cart runs.
I looked in my rearview mirror and pinched my cheeks to see if they’d inflated in the last hour. Normal. I grabbed at my thighs, but I knew they weren’t the real problem. I looked down at the offensive mid-section and began slapping my stomach and started to cry. “Fat, fat, fat, fucky, fat, fat fuck, fat, fucking fat, fat, fat ass, fat, fuck.”
I would have been bothered, but I wouldn’t have taken it this hard if someone hadn’t accused me of being pregnant several months before. True it had been a homeless man, who was wearing a garbage bag as a dress and had walked up to me unprovoked and yelled “Well I’m pregnant too, but I don’t go around telling everyone!” but at the time I had convinced myself it was because I did indeed look pregnant.
My then-boyfriend, after watching me look at myself from every possible angle in the mirror and listening to me ask “Are you sure I don’t look pregnant? Like maybe 3 months along?” about 300 times, had pulled away when I went to kiss him. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You’ve just said you look pregnant so many times that when I look at you, all I can think is, ‘maybe she does look pregnant,’ and it’s freaking me out.”
For the next two months when I looked in the mirror, instead of thinking ‘Does this make me look fat?’ I would think ‘Does this make me look pregnant?’ I vowed never to forgive the boyfriend or the bag-clad homeless man for their comments. Now I had one more to add to the list of eternal damnation in my mind.
I began to apologetically stroke my now sore belly and consider my three options:
Eat all of the potato cakes to make myself look as pregnant as possible.
Do 500 sit-ups.
As I drove home, I decided that I would do all three options, and as I considered which order would be the most efficient, my cell phone rang. Since it was my brother’s name flashing on the screen, I flipped it open and pressed it to my tear streaked cheek.
“Hey,” I mumbled.
“What’s wrong?” He has a way of instantly knowing whenever I’m upset. Maybe it’s because I’m usually still crying. So I told him the story, and when I finished he just sighed deeply. “Shanna, don’t get drunk, don’t overeat and don’t try to do 500 sit-ups.”
“No, which store is it?”
“I have better insurance. I’ll come hit him for you.”