I HAVE RETAIL SHYNESS, Or DON'T LOOK AT ME WHILE I'M BUYING HEMORRHOID CREAM!
Most people don't believe me when I tell them I'm shy.
I mean, come on, on this site alone I've written about my adventures in body hair (the leg and nipple variety), my ongoing battle with dandruff, my Whole Foods hippie fights, and my need to pick my fingers to bloody flesh-nuggets. Add to the list that I've chosen a profession in the entertainment world that occasionally requires me to talk out loud in front of an audience, and most people give me the side eye when I tell them how shy I am.
But I am. I do worry about what people think of me. Well, to be specific, what people who work behind cash registers think about me.
Basically, I have retail shyness.
If I run into a good friend at the drug store, and I have a fist full of hemorrhoid cream, we'll have a good laugh about my butt and proceed to chat up to the register.
But when we get to the register, I get all crazy-like. I start worrying about how the cashier is pretending to calmly ring up my butt cream when in fact she's wondering what I've been doing to warrant the extra large tube of extra strength hemorrhoid cream (for the record we are a hemorrhoid cream sharing household, is that gross?).
I'll often try to bury my "uncomfortable" purchase amidst "normal" things like razors or soup. You'll never find me standing in line at Walgreens holding JUST a box of suppositories.
When I go to a CD or record store (I don't own an iPod okay?), my local lube 'n' vibrator emporium, or an independent bookstore staffed by people who read "The Satanic Verses" for funzies, I find myself clamming up. When I go to pay, I behave in a way that begs the person behind the register to not look at me and let me pay for my used 4 Non Blondes CD/vegan coconut lube/trashy true crime romance novel with the least possible notice. "Don't judge me!" my inner paranoid adolescent cries.
I know it's insane. I have a part-time job in retail for crap's sake! I know that unless you're a total ass-mushroom to me, I won't judge you and probably won't even remember your purchase at the end of the day.
And, yes, I know, I'm not the first person to ever buy hemorrhoid cream or sex stuff or trashy novels. EVERYBODY buys that stuff. What's my deal? I think it has something to do with fearing that people will think I have bad taste, or that they will consider what I'm actually DOING with the products.
I don't feel guilty, and I'm not embarrassed so much as private, or dare I say, even MODEST?
Maybe my neuroses all stem from the first time I bought tampons.
When I was 13, I decided it was time I started using tampons. I was pretty sure everyone could see the giant pads I was wearing every month (I used to wear two "Super" absorbency pads at a time, one crossed over the other in the shape of a "T," because there was no way in HELL I was going to repeat the bloody skirt incident of 1993). Plus, all the cool girls were using them.
My dad (why my DAD???) drove me to the drugstore and waited in the car. I was determined to run in, grab a box of tampons, a bag of chips and a bottle of Suave (diversions from the tampons) and get back out to the car within minutes.
Immediately I noticed there was a long line at the counter, so I knew my tampon selection would have to be quick in order to stay on schedule.
I grabbed my chips and my shampoo then went to the "feminine needs" aisle.
SHIT. There were so many choices. My friend Jessica used regular old-school cardboard applicator Tampax, but she was made from hardy, Texas stock. I just wasn't that hardcore, so I moved on.
My friend Marie used the really tiny, skinny ones that were as slim as my pinky finger. But my periods, even at that young age, consisted of "gushage" and that dainty little thing just didn't look adequate.
This was taking too long. I started sweating. "JUST CHOOSE ONE!" my brain screamed, and I grabbed for something that said rounded, plastic applicator, "heavy flow" and "freedom" on it.
As I stood in line with my purchases, I checked my watch and realized I'd been in the store for almost 20 minutes. SHIT. My plan was failing, this would certainly arouse suspicion.
When I finally got to the front of the line, I saw my Dad enter the front doors of the drugstore. SHIT SHIT SHIT. I looked away, hoping he wouldn't see me at the front of the line.
I thought I was home free as I put my stuff on the counter and the lady in front of me gathered her bags and moved on. As the cashier rang up my tampons I heard over my shoulder, "Hey, what's that?" It was my Dad.
WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THIS DAD?!? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!
"Nothing," I replied and just kept sweating.
Then it got worse.
"Oh honey," chirped the older southern woman behind the counter (this was Dallas), "they're just TAMPONS, nuthin' to be embarrassed about." Then to my Dad, "Daddy, somebody's ALL GROWN UP now!"
The person standing in line behind me smiled and shared a look with the cashier, the cashier giggled and finished checking me out. My Dad just looked at me and said, "What?"
My face stayed red for 48 hours.
I know, I know, that was so long ago, and it was just a weird coming of age thing that we all have variations on, but that incident forever made me wary of The People Behind the Register.
I will say I've gotten a lot better. Most things, if I buy it once, the fear is gone.
I know there are websites in which you can buy things of the sexy (The Experience Channel), and both sexy and non-sexy variety (shopinprivate.com), but I still much prefer to do my shopping in person. I think it has something to do with my own brand of stubbornness, "I CAN OVERCOME THIS AND NOT BE SELF CONSCIOUS! I AM A FUNCTIONING ADULT!" Everything's a challenge. (This is not to say that if you choose to buy sex toys or personal hygiene products online that you are not a functioning adult. You are probably far more "functional" than I am.)
I can only speak for myself, but the way I see it, if I'm not a grown up enough to look at another human being and buy a lipstick vibrator or laxatives, then I don't get to have them. And those are things you just NEED sometimes.
You've probably learned a lot more about my "down below" goings on in this post than you'd care to know, but what the hell, I'm not Internet shy after all!
Does anybody else do this? What are you embarrassed to buy? Do you have a traumatic tampon buying experience? I feel like everyone has one of those from adolescence.