Thursday, December 28, 2006

The grocery store phenomenon

Consult any sort of dating guide, and it will tell you that the supermarket is the number one place to meet people. Aside from a few encounters in the beer aisle -where my preference for cheap beer has proven to be quite the aphrodisiac - I'd not found this to be true. And a quick glance around my local Safeway told me that I really didn't want to meet any of these men anyway, my desire for middle-aged, pot-bellied men in sweats not being what it once was. For a brief time I was enticed by the meat market reports I'd heard about the Queen Anne Trader Joe's. There was even a group of Craig's Listers attempting to set up a weekly shop-n-mingle at the store, wherein interested singles would place a predetermined item in their carts to indicate their availability. But I figured that unless the item in the cart was "runny-nosed toddler," I didn't stand much of a chance. So eventually I gave up on the whole concept of shopping for dates while shopping for food.

And then began my Metropolitan Market days.

Metro Market is a pricey place carrying lots of organic food, lots of locally grown goods, lots of specialty items, lots of tasty freshly premade meals, and lots of space to mingle at the eating counter and adjoining coffee shop. It's precisely expensive enough and organic enough to attract exactly the right kind of guy: the yuppified hippie, or "yippy" if you like. I'll be damned if I'm not a sucker for a designer jean wearing, local farm supporting young man. And it would seem they feel the same way about me.

Yes, I get hit on almost incessantly at the ol' Metro Market. I've found the hot spots to be the produce section, the beer/chip/fresh salsa aisle, the Washington wine enclave, and the premade (single-serving size) meal refrigerator. AND - joy of joys - it happens almost as often with The Kid as without.

But there are two things I can't figure out. The first is that I'm not one to get dressed up to go to the store. I'm usually in the same jeans I wore yesterday (and the day before), a ponytail and absolutely no makeup... and this is when I get hit on the most. On those occasions when I stop in on my way home from work wearing something presentable and maybe even a touch of makeup... usually nothin'. While I'm not complaining about the apparent preference for me in my natural state, it does leave me a little perplexed.

The second - and more troubling - phenomenon is that while men pretty easily strike up a conversation, I've yet to have a single one close the deal. I can not tell you the number of green lights I've given while discussing the finer points of broccoli, only to get to the point where the guy clearly should be asking for my number and instead dissolves into laughter reminiscent of Beevis and Butthead.

Upon complaining about this common ineptitude to male friends of mine, I'm told that it's not easy for men to make the leap from casual conversation to asking for a phone number. To that I have this to say: Don't be stupid. If I'm finding a way to have a conversation with you about BROCCOLI, I want you to ask for my number. I'm also reminded by these same male friends that there's nothing wrong with the chick asking the guy for his number, to which I have this to say: Thank GOD, because otherwise I'd never have a date.

Tonight I experienced a classic encounter. It started with the standard walk-by check out: he looks at me long enough for me to notice; I hold slightly prolonged eye contact and smile to let him know I see him looking; I walk past and see him turn to check out my ass. Then we move on to the stalking portion of the evening: I stop to study the pasta selection, he shows up to study the sauce selection; I move on to browse the oranges, he follows and checks out the adjacent breads; I wander over to grab a bag for said oranges, he's thrown and begins to follow before quickly returning to the breads while I bag my oranges; I head to checkout, he positions himself near the exit. And now we head into the awkward conversation segment, which begins with this rather bold statement: "You're a very pretty lady."

I feel we must pause here so that I can remind you of my first point of confusion: I do not get dressed up to go to the store, and yet this is when I'm most likely to get hit on. This could be no more true than tonight which, due to a severe cold, is the first time I've drug myself out of bed in three days - and I look it. I am NOT a pretty lady on this particular evening but, despite my confusion, I accept his compliment with a surprised "thank you."

We then exchange names, discuss the crazy weather of late, talk about the parts of town we live in, he comments on my purchases which include cough drops, I tell him about my cold and refrain from asking about the bottle of peptobismol he's holding, he throws in a few more compliments, I continue batting my eyelashes... and several long expectant pauses later he starts laughing like Butthead, and I tell him to have a nice evening and walk away.

A tip to the grocery store dating masses: The phrase you're looking for is "Would you like to grab a drink/coffee/dinner/lunch sometime?" This is easily confused with, but is NOT the same as "Huh. Huh huh. Huh." Better luck next time.

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