It’s safe to say I’ve met my fair share of lunatics. Some in real life, some online. My friend Gloria and I often joke that we could write a book entitled, “The Freaks We’ve Met” and we’d likely make a fortune on it.
I don’t know how I attract lunatics – perhaps it’s a vibe I give off, you know, like a fish in distress? Maybe nutjobs have some form of advanced echolocation and know how to hone in on the people least likely to tolerate their craziness? All I know is they find me. They’ll root through a crowd and find me. They’ll root through hordes of online personalities and find me. It’s not my red hair, in case that’s what you’re thinking. When I was blond, I’d lure them in, too.
This time, though, it was my skin…
It was last year. It was supposed to be a fairly quick shopping expedition. I needed a few things for dinner. I had planned on running in, grabbing items, and getting out in time to make it home for the start of a Yankee game. I had just rounded the end of the aisle and was making my way towards the dairy section when it happened.
“Oh my God! You’re SO white!” This was said by a blond woman holding a forgotten jug of kefir. She was looking at me.
I raised my eyebrows and turned to see if there was someone behind me. There wasn’t. I gave her a look which could best be described as, “Oh, joy, another nutjob.” Then I swung my cart wide and around her. I wasn’t in the market for kefir.
She would have none of my evasive maneuvers, however, and followed along with her jug of raspberry dairy product. “I mean, you’re really, REALLY white!” She exclaimed this with a sense of wonder, like Jesus had just shown her the way towards my pale self.
I had reached the relative safety of the eggs and grabbed my free-range, organic browns. As I contemplated her craziness, I peeked under the shelf, expecting Ashton Kutcher to come barreling out. No. No Ashton. I wasn’t being Punk’d. I glanced back at her and said, “I’m sorry?” in a tone that brooked no easy entry to a conversation. It was meant as a “Back the hell off you complete nutjob” and was said in a particularly fierce manner. I may have even furrowed my brow. This act scares the crap out of most people so I figured I was safe to move into the bakery section unaccompanied. I toodled away.
As a dessertatarian, I have great difficulty passing the baked goods section without loading up on items that will soon be dimpling my thighs and buttocks. That day, as I compared the various dimpling qualities of pies versus cakes, I heard, “Your skin is what I mean. It’s nearly translucent against your red hair! It’s SO white!”
I put the Boston Cream Pie down and turned to gape at her. Had she escaped from a local asylum and was now seeking shelter in the baked goods section of my supermarket? Was she dangerous? Was I soon going to have to put my foot up her ass? I tried a different approach.
“Yes, you’ve said that.” I may have put my hand on my hip and thrown her a scowl.
“I just want to touch it. It looks so creamy!” As she approached, now holding a Hostess Fruit Pie (Cherry), I weighed my options. I could either (a) chuck the Boston Cream Pie at her (b) ask her what the hell is wrong with her, (c) tell her she was being incredibly rude, (d) stick my foot up her ass…or,
“Yeah, I generally don’t allow complete strangers to touch me, soooo, off you pop.” Now I put my back to her and (making a rash decision on a box of 12 croissants) I quickly left the bakery section.
It was sometime later, while I was comparing the fat content of the light ricotta cheese versus full fat that I heard, “I just have to ask – do you go out in the sun?”
I dropped the ricotta (full fat) in the cart and looked at her. “WHAT?”
“It’s just that we’re here in sunny San Diego, do you ever go IN the sun? Are you one of those people who carries an umbrella with them when they walk?” She looked truly interested in my outdoor activities. Scary.
“You know, I have to say, this is one of the most bizarre conversations I’ve ever had – and that says a lot, I’ve got in-laws.” I moved down towards the aluminum foil.
“I’m not trying to be rude.” She called, pushing her cart after me. It had kefir, donuts (which surely counter out the healthy benefits of the kefir?), and the Hostess fruit pie (cherry).
“And yet you are…” I said, tossing in paper plates.
“What about hats? Do you wear hats when you leave the house?” She was standing in front of the Oscar Mayer meats. I couldn’t help thinking her skin matched the bologna.
I shook my head and walked away, again. You know, I’ve never considered myself to be anything other than pale but I’m no circus freak. In fact, I’m many shades darker than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man:
I had had enough. My skin and hair combo doesn’t stop traffic. Clearly this woman was another whackjob to be added to my collection. As I motored off to the paper towel aisle, I began to seethe. I started to hope she would come back so I could rip her head off and kick it into the sushi display.
“I have several hats that I’ve bought, but you know, they just don’t look good on me. I bet you’re a hat person!” She gleefully proclaimed as she rounded the corner and grabbed toilet paper (Cottonelle) off the shelf.
“To be honest,” I said. “I don’t go in the sun because I have had 2 different types of skin cancer removed off half a dozen spots on my body. Painfully removed. Dug out, in fact. Now, you and your quasi-stalking and spurts of insults have irritated me enough.”
As I began to head to the check-out she said, “I’m sorry. It’s just really pretty.”
“THANK YOU!” I shouted as I pulled into the express lane (15 items or less!). I have no idea still to this day what the woman was banging on about. I’m freckled, and “creamy” wouldn’t describe anything about my skin. Some minutes later, as I was hoisting my bags in the trunk, she popped up behind me like a mad Jack-in-the-box and said, “I bet you wear a lot of sunblock.”
I sighed. The nutjob was parked two cars away. She drove a minivan. She was a mom. I returned my cart and spun. She was standing behind me, gripping her Coach handbag. “I bet you can’t guess how old I am,” she said with a sort of crazed smile.
“I bet I can’t.” Then I hopped in my car, shut (and locked!) the door, and peeled away lest she follow me home. I’ve seen her minivan several times after that. I’ve yet to have another run-in. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone I know put her up to it. It’s only a matter of time before I learn the truth. And, yes, damn it, I wear sunblock, OK?