Arrogant and self-absorbed. That's what she called me.
I was finishing up my weekly grocery shopping trip, which included picking up some items for my Mother In Law. As the cashier was ringing up the items and my husband was bagging them, I noticed I had grabbed the wrong type of bread for MIL's special diet. I signaled to the checker I was going to run and exchange it.
"I'm sorry, can I sneak past you?" I said to the woman behind me in line. She huffed and rolled her cart, and her eyes, so I could get past. I sprinted back to the bread aisle, grabbed the correct loaf, and ran back, worried I would be holding up the line.
"Sorry again, can I get back in," I said to the woman who had now placed her items on the conveyer belt and inched up closer to the cashier. Then, sensing her irritation, I smiled and said, "I apologize for this. I know I am annoying."
"I wouldn't call you annoying," she shot back at me," I would call you arrogant and self-absorbed."
With her words, a familiar feeling instantly encompassed my body, leaving me embarrassed and off-balance. Not sure how to react, I looked up at the checker, who kept her head down and kept scanning, then to my husband, who kept on bagging.
"Wow, "I said, looking her briefly in the eye, her scowl confirmed she meant her words. I hurried to pay, and got the hell out of there.
"WTF was that?" I vented loudly to my husband when we hit the parking lot.
"She's a crank," Marc said, brushing it off as no big deal, "don't let her get to you."
I didn't want to let it get to me, but it did.
I am no stranger to being on the receiving end of angry words. At the height of my anorexia, my emaciated frame sparked an array of reactions from sideways glances to blatant staring to name-calling;
Over the years, the responses of strangers and some friends weighed on me until the shame of living with my “secret" became so heavy that it was hard for me to find the courage to get out of bed to face my day, let alone the people in it. I couldn't imagine anything worse than the possibility of withstanding another day of shocked glances and harsh words about my appearance. And even though the stares and comments were hurtful, a small part of me understood. Their words aimed at me were nothing I wasn't already saying to myself.
I can now manage the off-the-cuff comments that still trickle in from time to time. They feel more like a poke than a deep stab, and I can brush them aside and get on with my day. Like a boot camp, I believe the years of absorbing the grueling narrative about my body tried to break me down, but in some ways it made me stronger.
But the mean words from the cranky grocery woman got to me. It felt so personal. I let it ruin my day and question my actions. It stumped me because unlike being thin, I have no doubt that I am neither arrogant nor self-absorbed.
I've thought about it a lot since the Albertson's interaction a month ago. Weirdly I’ve come to realize, my distress over it is a good thing. I'm taking it as a sign that I have evolved. First, I am shifting my focus from how I look on the outside and now focusing on the person I strive to be on the inside.
Now what is more challenging than having a stranger rudely judge my appearance, is having someone blindly question my character.
I may not be arrogant and self absorbed but my kids do like to point out that sometimes I live in my own world. (2021)