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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Daddies shouldn't shop: A moral tale

Shopping from a list is best done by someone that can take
orders without question. I am not one of those people.
Daddies shouldn't shop. Let me rephrase that: Daddies shouldn't use Mommy's shopping list to go shopping.

During my singlehood, I almost enjoyed going to the grocery store. I walked in like I owned the place, looked for cheap, junky food, and bought it. Rarely did I spend more than $18 in a single trip to the grocery store. And those 18 greenbacks would generally carry me through most of a week with Party Pizzas, canned soup and a 5-pound sack of cheese with a side of tortillas. The food was tasty, cheap and easy to cook. I mean heck, a quesadilla takes all of 60 seconds to make in a microwave, give or take 7 seconds depending on model.

Back then, it was a manly display of power to walk up to a checkout stand with nothing green in my basket, only to watch the chubby cashier stare in horror at the nutrition facts on my selections as they convey past her check stand. I caught many surreptitious looks at my waistline. I'm sure they thought my belly, sucked in to the point of pain, would slump out over my belt at any moment like gooey bread dough. But alas, nothing like this ever happened, so I just got hateful stares from these poor women whose metabolism didn't support the same kind of lifestyle.

Manhood, in the end, is really about the power to make choices or veto them. So choosing to fill my shopping cart with enough fat to make Santa Clause cringe felt good. Felt right. Felt...*grunt*...manly.

Nowadays, I go to the store with a list my wife has e-mailed me at some point during the day - usually right before I leave work so I don't have any time to argue about what's on the list before I go and buy it - no questions asked. The list is filled with little notes, which are little more than veiled threats.

I look down the list, which 90 percent of is found in the produce portion of the store, a place I could never "afford" as a college student.

"Bananas (2 bunches)
"Apples (lots)
"Grapefruit (if they're not a bad price)

"Watermelon?" I ask myself out loud incredulously, knowing how expensive they've been lately.

"(yes, a watermelon," the list answers me, exasperated. "We're going to be sharing it with the family we're taking dinner to...and I'm pregnant! Won't be able to use that much longer)"

This is how my wife squelches my arguments before I call. She knows me well enough to know the things I'll argue about spending money on, so she insists and plays the prego card. Immasculated, I thump watermelons, trying to judge how many .49 cent pounds they weigh since the scales will just spin around so fast the needle bursts the glass and embeds itself in some nearby broccoli.

Worse yet, I had talked to her on the phone just before going to the store, and she told me not to buy a bunch of stuff that isn't on the list. She wants me home ASAP. Even so, I try to make myself feel manlier by calling her to question specific requests that would more than double the price.

"CANOLA oil mayo," the list tells me with emphasis.

I pick up my cell phone for the sixth time in the store: "Does it have to be 'CANOLA oil mayo' or can it be 'Olive oil mayo'?" I ask, pointing out the Canola oil mayo costs roughly what I would expect a jar of gold dust the same size to go for, despite the sticker that proclaims "Low Price!" in huge bold letters. This is what our store puts on their food right after significantly upping the prices on something, trying to fool you into thinking it's a sale item when in fact they are wrapping a string around your front tooth to gank it out. I'm not stupid.

"Well, the canola mayo should taste less olive-y, but what's the price difference?" she asks. I tell her. I hear her body slump to the floor as she faints. My 3-year-old son picks up the phone she dropped and I walk him through the resuscitation process, which involves wet fingers and ear canals. When she comes to, she decides the olive oil mayo is OK by her.

All right, score one for manhood and common sense!

I make probably seven of these questioning calls during my time at the store. Especially frustrating is this line: "Sub buns-the small yummy crispy kind :)" Despite the sideways smiley face, I'm a little confused by what she means. I scour the bakery aisle and find nothing that comes remotely close. Knowing the smiley will turn to a frowny if I don't get exactly what it's hoping for, I finally make an exasperated call after prodding various small sub-looking buns to check consistency: "Do you want to explain a little better what you mean by 'sub buns-the small yummy crispy kind'?"

She explains they were the ones we had with dinner when we had invited my parents for dinner a year or so ago. My Polaroid memory tries it's best to spit out a memory which I can then shake until a vague recollection shows up in ghost form in the background before materializing completely. But unfortunately, the image remains ghostly gray.

"We had my parents over for dinner?" I ask dumbly.

And this banter happens for the hour or so I wander the aisles feeling less and less masculine the whole way. By the time I've reached milk, I decide it's time to show my executive power as father and patriarch. I pick up the milk (2 gal 1%), and march triumphantly to the ice cream section, where I authoritatively throw two buckets of ice cream loaded with high-fat goodies into the cart, where they find a soft bed of greens to lay on. Then I run to the candy aisle and snag an 8-pack of fun-size Snickers (not as fun as full-size Snickers.)

As I check out, the cashier asks me how I am. I slowly nod and say, "I just went shopping."

"Enough said," she says.

"You'd be surprised how immasculating it can be to fill out a woman's shopping list," I tell her.

"Did you have to buy her tampons?"

"Fortunately, no," I reply, thinking back to other times when hordes of women swarmed around me in the sea of pink that is the tampon aisle while I desperately try to find the only plastic-wrapped case that is regular size, has wings and is not brand A, B,C or D. "She's pregnant otherwise I'm sure it would have been on the list."

We all have a good laugh about my list and I head for home eating fun-size Snickers. Once home, I forcefully show that I'm still not the one in charge by unpacking the groceries when my beautiful wife asks me to.

(Author's self-preservation note: I love my wife dearly. Don't take this column the wrong way.)

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