Today I left the house to do two errands. It was eventful in contrast with the past weeks of what feel like dress rehearsals for an uncertain future. I will remember nothing of such days days in a year or two.
Errands in the car are exciting. I look forward to light brushes with strangers, delighting in eye contact and banal conversation. It’s not an overstatement to say these breaks from the bubble wrap of confinement are life sustaining.
The meaningless rituals of life’s movement to center stage gives the people populating such daily encounters great power. Connection through plexiglass strikes me as a lovely affirmation of humanity’s virtues, a feeling I savor for hours.
Today, 2 hostile interactions pushed me to the brink of tears.
Absurd. I know.
The first was a Sephora employee’s stern scolding that by touching a Jo Malone bottle, I’d ruined it. She couldn’t sell it she said. “Are you buying this” was asked rhetorically like I’d broken a piece of art. I was stunned by the animosity in her voice and eyes and outraged by the suggestion of purchasing a fragrance in response to shame.
Licking my wounds back in the car, I drove to my 2nd errand—a small, specialty market. Leaving the car across the street with the blinkers on, I ran in to buy a steak and some bacon. It’s an upscale grocer so you order from a butcher who lovingly selects and cuts your meat. It was far too loving and I fought back a request to hurry. Before I turned around to pay, I realized my mask wasn’t even on. Pulling it up, I turned to place my tenderly packaged meat on the counter while digging around for my credit card. The young man about to ring me up said “Hi”.
Too distracted by the prospect of a ticket for pleasantries, I remained silent. Then came the infliction of grievous emotional harm.
“You’re not going to say hi OR wear your mask properly?”. A hot stare followed.
It was surreal to find myself standing in deeply wounded silence for the 2nd time in under 2 hours.
I mumbled something about being distracted because of my parking choice. He looked contrite and issued a genuine sounding apology.
It’s been two hours since this happened and I STILL feel wounded. I’m sitting at home in a posture of self pity.
Honest to God, I don’t think I’ve been so fragile since childhood, when a classmate could shatter my world with a mildly offensive reference to a shortcoming. Or an unfavorable comparison of my dog’s behavior with theirs.
COVID has done this to me. I’m like a babe with no emotional armour and I must put an end to it.
I’m a grown woman. With some good qualities. For one thing, I’m pretty nice.
One of mid-adulthood’s best features is the falling away of those delicate sensibilities that bring so much misery to youth. Remember the violent ups and downs? Misunderstandings that turn into complete, existential crises?
If you’ve seen Gigi, Maurice Chevalier’s “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” expresses the sentiment quite well:
“The Fountain of Youth is dull as paint
Methuselah is my patron saint
I’ve never been so comfortable before
Oh, I’m so glad that I’m not young anymore”
Tomorrow I’ll dust myself off and return to being a 40 year old who doesn’t stare at the ground when spoken to sharply.
Adulthood has its merits.