A silly tale of childhood woes…
When I was a kid, we ate hotdogs and beans for supper every single Thursday night. It was a ritual. Mom would come home from work, we’d eat our quick meal, and then she, my two brothers and I, would go grocery shopping at the A&P on 149th Street near St. Ann’s Avenue.
We lived on the fourth floor of a South Bronx apartment building, and the A&P was two and a half blocks away. We’d drag our empty “wheeler” to the store and drag it back, full to the brim. Six brown paper bagfuls of groceries sat snuggly in the basket with the top two sticking over the brim. Often, one or two of us would have to carry additional bags.
One of the problems with our Thursday pilgrimage to A&P was that we had to pass a couple of buildings where several boys from my school lived. I dreaded it. To top it off, I had a major crush on one of them.
My junior-high self was extremely self-conscious. It stressed me out. Oh, the things that went through my mind. Was I walking funny? Should I say hi or pretend I didn’t see them? Had I put on enough Clearasil to hide my blemishes? Were they talking about me behind my back after I passed, or were they simply carrying on with their conversations?
Then, one Thursday, it happed. Yes, IT. The thing I feared most… To be laughed at and humiliated. By my crush and his cohorts. The source of my humiliation and torment? Toilet paper. A huge package. Smack-dab on the top of the wheeler, sticking out of a paper bag for all the world to see.
Point and laugh. The boys went full-bore junior-high on me, and it didn’t stop on the street that day. For them, there was something insanely funny about toilet paper. I was mortified. They knew. I was outed. The cat was out of the proverbial bag. My family and I… gulp… used toilet paper.
It made perfect sense – back then, when personal things were, well…personal. Back then, things like “lady” products were wrapped with brown paper, anything that had to do with “the bedroom” was kept behind the pharmacy counter or at least hidden on a remote aisle, and TV commercials didn’t flaunt remedies for people’s personal problems.
Can I be perfectly honest? For many years – yes, into my adulthood – I wouldn’t throw a package of toilet paper into my shopping cart unless I already had enough items to bury it under. And, I wouldn’t grab a package off the shelf if anyone else was in the same aisle.
There is no moral to this story.
I still buy toilet paper, and it doesn’t embarrass me any more.
As for eating hotdogs and beans? Yeah. Okay. Once in a while.
But never on a Thursday.