A little less than a year ago, I bought a pair of shoes which I still love quite a bit. I love them even though I can only wear them when I go out to dinner with someone who loves to talk and linger for hours, until there is time to do nothing except walk back to the car and go home, because my God, these pretty, pretty shoes give pain a whole new meaning.
At any rate, when I bought the shoes, which were an odd mix of plum and mauve and eggshell, I realized I had to find a purse to match. The gods, sometimes, they smile down on us, and in short order, I was able find a lilac clutch for evening use, and a large handbag for daytime tooling around, in the perfect shade of accessorizing aubergine.
Your Mare is nothing if she's not practical, you know; the day bag comes to great use, and goes with more than The Shoes in question, which is why I use it several times a week. Added to that was the particular bonus of my cousins came back from their trip to Italy a month ago, and showering me with gifts from everyone Over There. My cousin, in Italy, who is another Mare herself, sent me a fantastic eggplant-hued scarf which I knew would go well with the other accessories I already owned.
So, I'm at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, picking up supplies for the office - yogurt, rice crackers, a couple of apples, a bottle of Bombay - that sort of thing. It was a Sunday, and I was off to have lunch with my cousin that afternoon, so I was moderately put together, and sporting The Purse and the New Italian Scarf. My hair wasn't frizzy, I had lipstick on, and my level of self-loathing was pretty low for a Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of me in the check-out line was a girl with whom I went to high school. I didn't know her very well, and I doubt she remembered me at all, because back in 1991, she was the girl who wore jeans with cuffs that could encircle her waist, and listened to Vanilla Ice while slicking her blond hair into a ponytail so tight that her eyes would squint. I was the girl that was decidedly not that girl. Besides, in 1991, I was a silly 17-year old, and had developed an irrational and severe mistrust of her face, because she seemed to have both a double chin and no chin at all. It was creepy, just like her giant, swinging, fake gold earrings were creepy. She'd outgrown her wardrobe malfunction, though I still didn't approve of her outfit. Her hair was kind of half up and half falling out, and her track suit (track suit!) was kind of schlumpy and she still had a weird chin-no-chin thing going on.
Her cart was laden down with cereal and giant poultry and milk. There was a week's worth of shopping in there, with selections that appealed to children's palates and a working mother's need to get dinner on the table five minutes ago. She was obviously shopping for husband and children, and her wedding band and diamond glinted as she took items from her cart and put them on the belt. The ring was nice; you can't even see where the Titanic bumped into it.
As I was standing in line, looking down at my yogurt, I started imagining her married to a nice Dr. Shapiro-type, with a couple of children, and a stack of laundry, and a burgeoning career that was just getting on track again now that the kids were in school all day. I saw her put a litre of milk on the belt, and I imagined her wedding day, and the days her children were born and the menus she lovingly planned for her family every week even though she was rushed and hurried and had no time to devote to sartorial deliberation on a Sunday afternoon.
I stood there, feeling sorry for myself, because the proof was most obviously in the pudding she was paying for: she had the life I wanted, and I didn’t.
But then, I glanced up again, and I saw her ridiculous track suit, and the creases around her eyes. I noticed her clenched jaw and brassy hair. I looked past the flashing symbol of commitment on her left hand, and saw the leather purse that obviously had nothing to do with the trainers and the fleece pants she'd opted to wear in public, and I heaved a small sigh of relief.
“Goddamn it,” I thought to myself. “I may have no husband, or children, or any permanent sense of happiness. I’m kind of miserable, and my portfolio’s looking a little thready. I’m nowhere near settled, and it’s getting kind of late in the day, but dammit, I still have my pride, its Sunday afternoon, and my purse matches my scarf!”
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