I have become that girl.
That girl that I might have secretly wanted to be when I started watching Sex in the City and reading Cosmopolitan.
I was grocery shopping yesterday, one of my favorite living-on-my-own things to do. Traffic jams of carts and families clogged the aisles. My fellow shoppers were clad in sweatpants and comfortable shoes, plowing their way through the crowded store, but I slowly walked through the aisles, my stilettos clicking along the tile floors and I selected four oranges, four apples and a bunch of bananas from the produce section. The spring-like day allowed me to wear a light shirt, revealing the curve of my waist that has been hidden by bulky sweaters all winter. The weather also permitted me to wear a light tailored jacket instead of a heavy one. I felt beautiful and independent and self-assured. I had taken myself out to lunch before I went in to brave the aisles of food, and eating alone always gives me a little boost of confidence. I always wanted to be someone who could be satisfied in my own company. And I am.
I walked through the store, picking out the food I would consume in the next month or so, checking prices and content, weighing the real brand against the Shop Rite brand. Halfway through the store, I smiled to myself: No matter how many times I do it, grocery shopping always makes me feel like an adult.
In my travels up and down the lanes of the store, I kept passing a young girl. She was perhaps fourteen years old, gangly and unsure in her own skin. She stood awkwardly, fidgeted with her hair, and looked exasperated every time her mother asked her to do something. I heard the girl ask her mother if she could run ahead with the cart and pick up a few things. Once granted permission, she strolled off, half-full cart blazing the path before her.
Watching her round the corner, I thought back to my days at fourteen years old. It was always my wish to take my mom's cart and go one or two aisles ahead. It's not that I didn't want to be seen with my mother, I just preferred to be seen alone, hoping that a passerby would mistake me for a young woman instead of a teenager. I'd walk up and down the aisles, pretending to shop for my husband and family. Sometimes I even wore a fake wedding band to further the illusion.
When I was seventeen, during my fiercely independent years, I pretended to be shopping for only myself: The hip young single woman about town. The "Cosmo Girl" Cosmopolitan told me I would want to be.
But now here I am, 24 and every bit the woman Helen Gurley Brown would be proud of: I'm tall, I'm attractive, I always wear heels, I pay my own bills, I carry nice purses, I act aloof when necessary, I know how to play the game, I have high standards, I can eat alone and not be terrified by it...
When I was role-playing in the grocery store throughout my adolescence, I never thought this would be the role that fit.
Slowly but surely, I filled my cart with all the things I wanted to eat, that I would pay for with my money, that I earned. And, despite the fact that I'm shopping for One, not a hubby and a baby, it feels good. Even though I desperately want to be miserable being single, I can't get past the sense of accomplishment I feel. Selecting items and placing them in my cart always makes me feel like an adult, and paying for the groceries via a Debit Card with my name on it feels fulfilling, regardless of the fact that I'm shopping for just myself.
I wondered if the girl I'd passed in the store was role-playing, too; if she was shopping for an imaginary family, or shopping for the twenty-something single chick she planned to be.
Even as I pulled into my garage, lifted the hatch of the 4Runner that I own, and carried bag after bag into my house, I felt good. Al Green's voice echoed through the house as I danced my way through the unloading of groceries, and I realized that it may not be what I planned, but it wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be.
I'm actually, as much as I hate to admit it, happy.
And I don't mind being that girl.