Late Sunday morning is my favorite time to go grocery shopping and for two reasons:
1) there are food samples out if you go early enough, thus eliminating the need for breakfast and/or brunch and
2) you can beat the Protestants by going early.
I like to shop at a particular grocery store not far from a very affluent Houston neighborhood. River Oaks is a premier enclave in every sense of the word. It’s residents include doctors, judges, oil barons, venture capitalists with amazing business acumen–and a lot of luck. There are business execs and of course, very successful lawyers. Then, there’s the requisite smattering of dowagers who married well and live next door to divorcees who wisely followed their neighbors’ legal expertise. River Oaks people live in these huge, palatial estates with exquisitely manicured laws and intense security. It’s clear who they’re trying to keep out, but sometimes you wonder what it is they’re trying to keep in.
You can spot a River Oaks resident from a mile away. They have a countenance about them that screams poise and tact and money…a lot of money and all the effortless ease that can buy.
I parked my proletariat chariot in the closest parking space I could find. I got out and started walking toward the front door. I passed a woman…I’d say in her early to mid 30’s and breathtakingly gorgeous. Let me say here and now that I am as heterosexual as Roddy McDowell was gay, but even I can recognize beauty and amazing sex appeal in my own gender. I was struck by her looks. She was perfection. Blond, shoulder-length hair, casually dressed, but incredibly put together. There was an elegance about her…even in blue jeans.
Her face looked flawless; air brushed by nature.
As she exited her late model Mercedes, I had to chuckle. She’s what we Texans call “well healed and well wheeled”. She removed her Hermes Berkin purse from the passenger seat then opened the back door to retrieve the young two-year- old son, the heir apparent to the throne. Not a word was spoken, no sound was made as she plucked her son from his car seat then carried him toward the door in her well toned arms.
Life obviously came easy to her.
She was a classic trophy wife with River Oaks written all over her. I bet her name was Brin or Erin or Meg…some cute and pithy Ivy League meets Magnolia blossoms nick name. I watched her as she walked. She glided. She also seemed to glow in the sunlight. I tried to find a flaw, but couldn’t. And trust me, I looked. The worst thing about her was probably that which didn’t come standard. On closer visual inspection, it was evident that she had manufactured boobs; thighs and hips that were bought and paid for and an ass that was no doubt, leveraged to the hilt–in more ways than one.
She was the kind of woman that would make other women feel insidiously dirty and ugly. I looked down at my legs. I missed a two inch patch of hair on my left shin when I shaved this morning. It glistened in the sunlight and seem to strobe with every step I took as if to read in flashing neon, SLOB…SLOB…SLOB.
I looked down at my hands; there were I swear to God, two more age spots than there were three days ago and my two week old manicure was flaking off. As I walked, I could feel my spine compress and grow porous due to an age-related calcium deficiency. I felt ugly and fat and tacky. I refused to look at my reflection in windows as I entered the store. I don’t think I could’ve handled that.
Once inside, I mercifully forgot about my flaws as I got into my shopping.
Meat….chicken thighs…cheese…Doritios…risotto , couscous and a case of bottled water. I was debating whether I should by a few cans of cheese ravioli—my carb laden passion at three cans for five dollars– when Mrs. Perfect strolled by. In her cart there was nothing healthy stuff; expensive healthy stuff. I scratched that idea and the itch on my chin and was rewarded by feeling a peri-menopausal whisker growing out of it.
I got everything I needed and checked out. As I wheeled my cart to my car , I saw her; Mrs. Perfect back at her silver colored Benz, glaring impatiently as a Hispanic stock boy was putting her groceries in her trunk. She was barking out orders on where to put things.
“No, not like that!”
She rudely grabbed a bag out of his hand and put it in herself. She then grabbed something out of the plastic bag and just tossed the bag on the ground. She didn’t care who saw her, she just threw it down. The breeze carried it across the parking lot.
“Hurry up. Are you always this slow?”
The stock boy said nothing and continued to dutifully put the bags away.
At the end, she said nothing.. just slammed the trunk down, barely missing his hand and without a thank you, she got back in her car—with her groceries in the trunk; her progeny safely in the backseat, she was heading back to perfection—her beautiful home and her beautiful life.
My heart ached for the stock boy. He was just trying to eek out a living. I parked my cart behind my car and shouted in his direction.
“Excuse me, Sir?”
I reached into my purse and grabbed a couple of dollar bills then gave them to him. He looked confused.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
“Because you deserve it.”
I think he understood. He just smiled, nodded his head and said, “Thank you”.
That’s when the silver Mercedes roared by us and out of parking lot, cutting off a Buick that was headed toward the same exit. The Buick stopped; the Mercedes never did. It’s driver never learned how to give right of way. She probably never had to learn.
She had the 65-thousand dollar car and the eight thousand dollar purse, yet she couldn’t afford to be magnanimous?
“How sad”, I thought to myself as I watched her drive down Westheimer.
I put my groceries in the trunk and got in my car and just sat there for a minute, absorbing all that I’d just witnessed.
I was struck by how ugly some beautiful people can be.
I started my car and drove my hairy legs and chipped nail polish home to happy imperfection….a wonderful life for which I am perfectly suited.