As a chick, living in the Northwest, winter is a constant battle between function and fashion. I am somewhat challenged in the style department even in the best of times, when the weather is mild; throw in multiple months of cold rain, wind, snow, and the suicide-educing grey sky, I am as good as fugly. I’d say my ugliest, most gender-neutral fashion crimes are committed between November and March, usually when I am attempting to give my beloved 4-legged child the life he deserves.
I was again forced to acknowledge this ugly truth this past week when I took Riley for a walk. I had just worked a full day, sat in traffic for an hour, and was staring down another mile long “to-do” list. While it would have been easy to succumb to the pressure of life and/or the desire to put my sweat pants on and resign to the couch. I decided that my dog would get the attention, affection and love due him (as Prince of the Universe). Since the sun was shining on this particular day, a rarity in February, the choice seemed to be made for me.
I quickly tossed my heals, stripped off my work clothes, and redressed in my dog-walking apparel. By this I mean: dirty jeans from the hamper (complete with wine & cheese remnants from the night before), a thermal shirt with a t-shirt over the top (classic NW hipster look), Ugg boots, puffy knee-length down jacket (hood up), and of course my Washington Husky gloves. Any ounce of femininity was completely lost in the marshmallow jacket, and hood.
Riley had a menacing look in his eye, so I made sure to snatch a couple extra poop bags on my way out the door, just to be safe (Riley never tires of mocking me by insisting on pooping one time more than the amount of bags I happen to be carrying). Off we went, we roamed the neighborhood parks, and managed to hit all of our favorite sniff & pee spots (yes! sometimes I lift my leg on the play structure too). I decided since it wasn’t raining that we’d walk down to Whole Foods and grab a couple items for dinner. Normally I wouldn’t venture anywhere other than the dog park in my she-man, granola crunching outfit, but the idea of food trumped my vanity.
I arrived at Whole Foods, tied Riley to the bike rack, gave him a pep talk about talking to strangers, and headed into the store. Normally, I would say the hipster look is safe in Whole Foods. I mean really, even A-list celebrities look as if they just rolled out of a dumpster when they are photographed coming out of Whole Foods. And hello, this is the Pacific Northwest! We love to dress ugly and look like we don’t bathe- which seems to be especially true for the rich and uber successful. In fact, this may be my day to be mistaken for an up-and-comer or a huge executive. “Here I am, a VIP from fill-in-the-blank major company located somewhere between the Silicon Valley and Seattle.” Ohhh, I could actually see the cartoon thought bubble forming over my head as I pondered perfect strangers contemplating whether or not my existence was worthy of their envy.
However, my cartoon thought bubble quickly burst as I was faced with two glaring weaknesses to my “it’s ok to look like you are gender confused and homeless while shopping at Whole Foods” defense. The two exceptions to my way of thinking are Hot Guy/Girl Gym Worshiper and Suburban Botox Beast.
I don’t know if this is true for you, but in my neighborhood at least, hot gym worshipers seem to stop by for a post-workout snack from the deli. These Ken and Barbie types always look flawless, smell like perfume/cologne and have perfectly tossed hair. This strikes me as peculiar as after I work out, I look/smell more like a wet dog who just barely survived a tsunami. The Kens and Barbies usually travel in packs, so as to constantly have someone to admire their flawlessly toned bodies, designer workout gear, perfect pony tails, and the outline of their penises through their gym shorts (girls and guys respectively). I am not a fan of the Whole Foods’ post-workout gym rat infestation.
The other exception to my “it’s ok if you can’t tell if I’m male or female, rich or poor while I’m shopping at Whole Foods” defense, is the rich desperate housewives from the surrounding suburban nightmare. These botoxed beasts descend from their hilltop thrones to buy overpriced groceries, anti-aging ointments, and pills. They are rarely friendly. And why should they be? They are starving, not to mention completely exhausted from waging a losing war against age. Battling age is hard for the healthiest of athletes… how would a malnourished Real Housewife ever really stand a chance?
Well, other than these two exceptions, my thinking holds true- the Whole Foods scene resembles an episode of Portlandia more than anything else.
I started in the produce section, then made my way to the wine & cheese section (my pants were already hosting Manchego and Pinot Noir remnants – so why not?), before rounding the corner to the deli. And there they were… the gorgeous gym rats, looking fabulous and ordering their tofu and veggies, while I looked like the Michelin man (emphasis on the man) with a basket full of calories. Don’t get me wrong, I am comfortable being in the presence of those who are skinnier, prettier, richer, and more put together (it happens often). But as they looked at my haggard appearance with disgust, I didn’t feel they had an accurate picture of the person they were judging. So I did the natural thing and contemplated ways to show them I was not as hideously manly as I appeared. I took my gloves off, this way they could see my fresh shellac manicure. (If it wouldn’t have made me look insane I would have found an excuse to take my Uggs off so they could see my pedicure as well.) I then pulled my hair back so they could admire my recent brow job (my shape was extra perfect this visit). Sure, I may have been covered in dog hair, and had snot frozen to my upper lip from walking for a mile in the 28 degree weather, but I was well groomed dammit! I was not a second class citizen.
Since they hadn’t recognized my greatness by now, surely they would now that they were standing behind me in line and could see the labels on my clothes. I knew their air of arrogance would quickly turn to a fog of desperate longing for my could-be millionaire approval. As the cashier tallied my items, I knew I was about to win over their affection, and finally have their approval- how could I not?
Just as I was finally receiving vindication for being so grievously misjudged, the cashier said, “Your total is $26.71”… All of a sudden I felt blood rushing to my face, as I realized I didn’t have my wallet, or any money. What the heck was I thinking?? I had only intended to take Riley to the park, Whole Foods was an afterthought. This was so unlike me… it must have been the fugliness seeping into my brilliant brain. Alas, all my efforts in the past 3 minutes to prove my awesomeness to complete strangers had been in vain!!!
I sheepishly explained the oversight to the cashier, asked him to hold my items for 20 minutes and assured him I would return. Riley and I walked home (hungry), and returned 23 minutes later. The extra three minutes were well spent- before returning with my debit card to collect my over-priced groceries, I made certain to put on my best workout clothes, make the perfect ponytail, and spray some expensive perfume. I may not have received an endorsement from the Kens and Barbies, but Riley’s tail wagged with approval. Hah!