There was a woman in the grocery line today buying a stash of junk food items: Fritos corn chips, Diet Coke, Oreos, a family sized bag of potato chips, bologna and bacon, and most horrifying to my sophisticated palate: a loaf of white bread. As I scrutinized the contents of her cart, I thought to myself, does anyone really eat white bread anymore? Didn’t she get the memo about the health benefits of eating unprocessed foods that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, or the health report that cautions against the nitrites in mystery meats like bolgna? My “latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing” self felt sorry and actually somewhat embarrassed for her. And then my stereotyping-judgmental-shadow self waited to see if she’d be paying for her poor nutritional choices with food stamps. I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s true. Yes, I am guilty of stereotyping and judging others by the contents of their shopping carts, if not the color of their skin.
Full self-disclosure: I’ve taken a bit of artistic license in describing this morning’s grocery line encounter. The woman with the cart full of junk food…was me. The embarrassment I felt was for myself potentially being seen, by anyone who knows me, paying for the utterly un-hip food items in my cart. Never mind that my shopping list was tailored to the limited menu of my special-needs brother-in-law who’s been living with us since the day after Christmas. I was ready and waiting to offer an explanation to any acquaintance I might run into that TR’s dietary choices are somewhat compulsive, and few: white bread toast for breakfast, bologna sandwich with Fritos and two Oreos for lunch, and either a hamburger, bacon sandwich, or Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza, with a side of potato chips, for dinner. To say that a palate which avoids any and all fruits, vegetables, or natural ingredients offends my CSA-card-carrying-member self, is a gross understatement. But in truth, what surprised and disconcerted me more was my palpable feeling of shame surrounding the affront to my self-image that purchasing said items at the Weis Supermarket elicited.
And so I’ve been reflecting on how deeply and inextricably I’m invested in my public persona. If you asked me, I’d tell you that I’m secure in myself, have no trouble speaking my truth, am open minded and diversity-loving, and did I say inclusive and non-judgmental? Ha! My early morning run to the grocery store has revealed another shadow part of myself that is difficult to reconcile…. I’ve become painfully aware that the package of Oscar Myer’s in my cart is not the only “bunch of bologna” I’m transacting with…
Is there a subtle self-image that you are attached to? How have you encountered your attachment? Has it caught you by surprise? I’d love to hear about it!