Today, I went to ShopRite, which is big deal all by itself. I get anxious and lost and feel like people notice me turning left when I should be going right, steering my cart in random circles around the store while trying to locate the parmesan cheese. Ugh. I didn't help that the produce guy barked at me for putting the cucumber in the wrong colored bag today. Stressful.
As I turned another lost corner, looking for wraps, a very short old man wearing a black windbreaker stopped me to comment on my Long Beach Island grey sweatshirt. He talked for a moment about how he has family who lives there and that it's a nice place to go. Cool. I thought that was sufficient for a grocery store conversation with a stranger. Nope.
Next, it was the Mets hat I was wearing, which was apparently a major issue. He was a Yankee fan.
"Why are you a Mets fan?
"I'm not sure, because my dad is..."
"Well, why is your dad a Mets fan?"
The conversation lasted another fifteen minutes.
He talked about how I should have been a pharmacist because they make good money.
Or an accountant.
He asked why I don't have a plan for marriage and kids yet.
He very passionately talked about how the Kardashians and social media is ruining America.
He spoke negatively about programs for helping underprivileged children because he thinks it robs people by paying them next to nothing.
He did all of this not in a way where he was trying to come across as rude or disrespectful. Instead, it was much more of a bold outspoken grandpa giving his granddaughter advice.
He did tell me I had a nice smile. Thanks.
The whole time I worried about my frozen yogurt melting and how this conversation was going to come to an end.
Eventually, it did end. I paid and packed my car with the groceries. It wasn't until 15 minutes later in the car that I realized I didn't have the music on and I had been scrunching my eyebrows, deep in thought.
It wasn't that this guy made me angry. Instead, it was that I noticed I felt like I had to defend myself against everything he was saying. Why? Why did I care what a perfect stranger thought of me? I felt like I had to keep bringing things up that would impress him as if I needed his acceptance. He was impressed I was a math teacher, but seemed to think I could be doing something more than "just" teaching because there's not enough money in it. He said he's been to 48 states and 40 countries as I smiled and nodded.
I'm very proud of my life. I'm proud of the person I am and the life I have. I'm proud to be a teacher and to be living in my own apartment. Maybe I bumped into him for a reason. I'm not sure if I believe in that whole "everything happens for a reason" thing and that "people are brought into your life for a reason", but he's definitely made me think. He reminded me to be proud of who I am, regardless of what other people think. And hey, if anything else, he liked my smile, so there's that. The end.