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It happens each and every Sunday. I head to the grocery store in the afternoon to stock up on fruits and veggies and sprouted grain bread that tastes like cardboard, and I see it. Wandering the packed aisles, looking angry and fearful and miserable, is The Couple.
Tons of them litter the stores. This isn’t a strictly grocery store phenomenon, but it’s where I notice it most (especially since, thanks to Amazon, I rarely ever go to “real” stores anymore). Standing in the aisles and arguing about which type of nut butter to get, are two people who not only kinda sorta want the other dead but want to be anywhere other than under the fluorescent lights, arguing over condiments.
Now, I need to make something clear here: I used to be one of these people. I feel like it’s the foundation or turning point in any relationship. That first time grocery shopping together truly changes the dynamic of the couple. It’s something you immediately brag about to your friends. “We have soooo much fun just like, existing together. We even went grocery shopping. Seriously. Becky shut the fuck up. Did you hear me? WE WENT GROCERY SHOPPING TOGETHER.”
It’s like, a biiiiiiiiig deal. It shows you’re not just in it for sex, and it’s a landmine of figuring out if the person you’re bumping uglies with is actually a psycho. I mean, what if they make a beeline for crunchy non-Jiff? That’s some dealbreaker shit. So, you take it slow. You get naked and rub genitals together before you embark on the great adventure that is pushing a cart around under harsh lighting and arguing over what to make for dinner.
Still, the first few times, it’s fun. Really fun, actually. You eat all of the samples. You head down the ethnic food aisles and try to pronounce words you have no business trying to pronounce. You giggle and make out in the family planning section, just to be an asshole. You walk slowly, spend big, and have no problem at all wasting an afternoon perusing produce.
And I get it. Hell, as I said, I was one of you. Those few months of grocery bliss were truly enjoyable. I think everyone should have that time in their lives, like the honeymoon stage or pretending you’re willing to try anal. It’s just something that has to happen in order to get to the hard, crunchy, real relationship stuff. Which is, of course, when you have your first fight about who should do all of the shopping for the rest of time.
Because that’s where grocery shopping as a couple should end. It should come to a big, heated argument in the breakfast food aisle about how you both have to waste hours at the store fighting over which cereal to get when one of you is just going to win in the first place. When I see it all go down on some secluded aisle in the store, I smile to myself and feel a sense of understanding. They’re just taking part in the age-old mating tradition. I know those fights, I recognize that look of defeat, and I walk away with a sense of comfort knowing that everyone else out there is just as petty as I am.
That, I understand. Those couples, I embrace (not literally, because I’m not big on human contact, but like, figuratively).
But it’s the other folks, the couples who have been together for years and still do the shopping together, that completely put me on edge. It’s the duo sporting matching wedding rings, or the husband and wife, complete with a cartful of kids, that makes me question everything. It’s like the couple you suspect is unhappy but posts a zillion vacation selfies together to prove their love for each other? You wonder what’s happening in their lives that made them so dependent on each other. I mean, she can’t trust him to be home alone for an hour, and he can’t trust that she’ll pick up the correct brand of shaving cream? What are they playing at?
I’m not sure what it is that brought them there, but it’s the same every time: She’s pushing the cart filled with healthy food items he obviously didn’t choose, and he’s following behind her, balls in hand, counting down the days until heart failure takes him.
I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions. The occasional trip to the supermarket together is just a way of life. On the way to a BBQ? Pop in to get some chips and beer. Remember that you need some eggs while you’re coming home from the movies (weird, but I’m not going to judge what jogs your memory)? Pop in and grab a dozen. It’s the couple that shops together week after week, year after year that isn’t to be trusted.
Maybe they’re just more in love with each other than my future-spouse is with me, but if you catch the old ball and chain following me around the market on a Sunday afternoon when we’re in our forties, send for help. One of us is bound to kill each other eventually. I mean, come on. If it was up to him, we’d be getting Peter Pan peanut butter. That’s just asking for a Law and Order episode..