I shop at my friendly neighborhood big box store.
Because it's summer and we drive the countryside nonstop from play dates to parks to the library to our friends' houses, I went in to get some moderately-healthy travel-friendly kid-friendly snacks like peanut butter crackers, pretzel sticks, and cereal. I had a list; I also needed to pick up frozen waffles (My girls have them a lot at a friend's house, and they love them. They are very easy to prepare, so I love them too.), frozen pizzas (for a lunch treat now and then), high fiber granola bars, peach-flavored instant oatmeal, and apples.
I let Grace get two things that weren't on my list: a tiny bag of Cheetos and a box of Trix cereal (because it was the sugary cereal option with the least sugar per serving), both of which I will ration with Fort Knox-like control.
We made our way through the store and into the checkout line without incident, but when we arrived at the cash register, Grace began to whine and beg began.
Can I please, please have this special Hello Kitty toy?
What is it, Mom?
Can I have this if I'm really good?
I told her that I wasn't buying the Hello Kitty toy with its attached bag of candy and that she should return it to the shelf in my best "because I said so!" voice.
I'm just going to look at it, okay?Ã‚ she said.
Of course, looking quickly turned into more whining, and I had get serious. "If you ask me for that one more time, I am going to put back your Cheetos. You have enough junk food already."
Without missing a beat, the elderly cashier said, "It seems to me that everything in your cart is junk food."
I look at her and cooly said, "I can't believe you just said that to me," but my mouth didn't move, so I guess I only said it in my head.
I hadn't thought far enough ahead to say, "I am so writing about you on my blog," so I fumbled for something else to say. "Oh, my husband buys the healthy food, and I pick up the rest." I forced, completely mortified.
Once I was outside and away from the situation, I burned with anger. How dare she?
For one thing, everything in my cart was not junk food. I had apples, Crispix, and oatmeal.
For another thing, I flirt precariously with neurotic helicopter mom status when it comes to my kids' food. I do give them pretzel sticks and goldfish crackers for snacks Ã‚ sometimes, and even allow candy and soda pop once in a while. Most of the time, though, they get apple slices or whole peaches or grapes alongside low-fat cheese.
And then, what business is it of hers if I fed my children nothing but Sweet Tarts and Mountain Dew?!
By the time I buckled my girls into their car seats, I wanted to march back into the store and demand answers from the rude cashier.
Did she judge my food choices because I'm fat? Because I had children? Because she's just mean?
Would she have dared to make such a rude comment if I was a man? If I was thin? If I was alone?
With a few days' clarity, I realize that her rudeness was probably not about me at all. It was about her, about her anger, about her hostility, about her issues. But still, her comment burns in my ears every time I see the pretzel sticks and the goldfish crackers and the peanut butter crackers I bought that day.