I was sad yesterday, disappointed and insecure-feeling and restless. I have a ritual for this, though I'm not claiming it's a good one: I loop-listen to sad songs on my earbuds to keep anything from distracting me from my mood. And because misery loves masochism, yesterday I took my show to Trader Joe's. ON. A. SATURDAY. I know you feel me.
I was wandering through the dairy section (none of which I can actually consume anymore), when an older woman stopped me abruptly with her hand on my arm. I wondered if I had done something wrong, and fumbled with an earbud quickly so I could hear what looked to be a lecture brewing.
"I swear there is no justice in this world!" She began in a heavy Eastern-European accent. That is the rough family of accents of a quarter of my family, so I braced myself reflexively for a dressing-down. "Look at you!" Oh shit, I thought. My nipples are probably showing through this yoga tank, and we all know how weird society is about nipples in bas-relief. But then she continued: "You are tall, thin, young, and beautiful! And I am short, fat, old, and ugly!" Then her face broke into a wide grin, and I wanted to hug her and ask her to make me some halupki.
I shook my head, baffled. "None of that is true," I stammered. I am 5'6", a solid 20 pounds over my fighting weight, and acutely aware of each new wrinkle, sag, and grey hair. She was lovely--immaculately dressed and coiffed in that way which was expected in her generation, even for a trip to Traders Joe's. On a SATURDAY.
"It is!" she insisted, with a certainty that did not brook contradiction. "Any man would be lucky to have you!"
"Funny you should say that, because I was just stood up." I gestured to my phone, as if John Mayer's cover of Free Fallin' explained everything.
She furrowed her brow dismissively. "Then he is an IDIOT." I half-expected her to spit contemptuously for emphasis. "Do not waste your time with this idiot. There are plenty of fish in the sea."
I wondered, just briefly, if she might be a paid agent of the dating site "Plenty Of Fish" sent to troll me, just the latest evolution in targeted marketing. "She's listening to John Mayer ON LOOP!" I imagined my phone telling The Cloud, which responds by sending via drone an older woman with just the right combination of accent, wit, and surety to disarm me entirely and leave me downloading their app.
I put my hand on her arm and thanked her, sincerely, trying not to let the tears spill over. She grinned and waved me away, repeating "AN IDIOT!" There was little in her cart--a few staples and a bouquet of flowers--and I wished I could figure out a way to sneak up front and pay for her groceries; a bouquet of flowers was the least I could do. I finished my shopping, thinking about how my sensitivity to rejection can be hair-triggered by something as stupid as this, a single inconsiderate instance. I rehearsed--for my own benefit--the litany of reasons why I am a heck of a catch, goshdarnit, even though it has not been a great year (/life) for me, fish-wise.
No sooner had she left than my phone rang. I answered my phone casually, like I hadn't even bothered to look at the caller ID and you know just YAWN said "Hello?"
He proffered an excuseplanation, and it definitely won points for originality. I listened and made non-committal chitchat for a minute or two before (with great largesse, IIDSSM) dryly wishing him "a good day."
Eventually, I made my way to the check out, and when I get to the other side, the woman stood there, smiling at me. I immediately regretted not figuring out how to buy her the damn flowers. She smiled knowingly and shook her finger at me. "Remember!" she ordered me. "No wasting time mooning over this idiot. Look at you! You are the total package! Any man would be lucky to be with you and if he doesn't know this, it is his loss!"
Then she laughed and pushed her cart out the door, leaving me pondering the utter weirdness of the day. I'm never comfortable with saying I'm "blessed" (at least not as long as Syria/Myanmar/Sudan/etc. are on the divine docket). But the uncanny timing of this, the perfect fit of this woman's words against the potholes in my psyche, left me wanting at least to file her under "No Coincidences" rather than "Siri."