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The Flea Market - A Narrative on Growing Up and Accepting Yourself/Mother
It was just a normal Sunday morning. Nowadays in Los Angeles, it seems the only actions I find myself partaking in are eating, shopping and not sleeping. On this particular Sunday, I was shopping, and the eloquence of this superficiality is never lost on me. Nevertheless, there I was at the Fairfax Flea Market, a regular haunt of mine since childhood. And like always, I was with my mother.
Now, I already have a bad time with seeing people I know in places unexpected, but when it comes to the flea market, I have a pure unadulterated hatred of seeing anyone I have ever known, be an acquaintance or dear friend. Most of the time, thanks to my great unluckiness, I see friends from other schools hanging out with other friends from other schools, i.e. a bunch of teenagers together. To say that I feel alienated doesn’t even begin to describe the embarrassment I experience.
I don’t understand why my life works this way, but I never seem to be in groups with teenagers outside of school. It’s not how I’m programmed. Either I’m bad at making plans or I’m bad at making close connections with people my own age, but teenage activities never coincide with a reality anywhere near mine. So, flea market days are mother days, that more often than not are also “Hey, let’s run into a group of friends so they can see that all I do is shop with my mother on the weekends!”
I love my mom, I really do. I consider her an arbiter of good taste and a resplendent influence on my fortunate life. She’s benevolent and (sometimes) benign, but the disparity between shopping with my mother and shopping with hip kids my own age is just too great. On these days all I can do is pray for a mellifluous excursion that doesn’t include discourse with anyone I know. My wishes are often futile, and I almost always end up ducking behind metal racks with rainbow colored vintage wares or hiding behind a couple of ornate antique mirrors or embellished ladies brunching hats. And, I find myself in this quandary all the time.
On this day, my mother is cogent as we arrive at the flea market- ever aware of my omnipresent worry- and says “You have no reason to fear these kids, they’re your friends.” Despite her didactic and coherent rhetoric, I am freaked out of my mind, a handful of jitters on a tight rope about to burst at any moment. My emotions ping-pong across the flea market as I scan for any implication of teenage presence. Thirty minutes in I think I’m all clear when I spot… him. Tom*. A beautiful blond, (and one seamless product of two movie stars who shall remain nameless), Tom knows he’s Tom. Insipid, indolent and listless, the only times I see Tom is when he is either hungover or on his way to being so. Just standing in his proximity sends me whirling.
Quick, I say to myself, you have just enough time to hide behind those pillowcases before- Oh… shoot.
He’s seen me. In a split second I turn my face from absolute fear to undeniable exuberance, a handy trait of the practiced actress.
“Tom!” I smile warmly.
“Minnniieee.” He releases my name, smooth as Michael Jackson’s criminal.
I let slip a quick glance to my mother, who is admiring some men’s army jackets only a few feet away from us. She eyes Tom.
“Hi,” he says. My mom ushers a nice nod and a quiet hello. She clearly knows I wish to crawl under a rock and is being kind enough to act as if she isn’t even there.
Tom and exchange a couple of pleasantries. He asks why I wasn’t at a party a couple of weeks ago and I say something along the lines of “Those things are all the same,” a statement that is both foolish and untrue, but meant to be disguised with an air of nonchalance. You guys, I’m cool. I ask who he came here with (a significant other, perhaps?), and he tells me he arrived alone, preferring to shop solo. I say I understand, and take that as my exit stage right cue. With a goodbye I walk away, leaving him to safely peruse some 80s kitsch sweaters in peace.
Having successfully survived the situation, I issue a sigh of relief when I reach my mothers side.
“Why were you in such a hurry to say goodbye?” Obviously, she saw the entire exchange from afar, which no doubt looked like a strange whatever-the-opposite-of-a-mating-ritual-is on my part.
“He told me he liked to shop by himself, so I’m letting him do just that.”
This is a lie. I wasn’t being respectful of his shopping habits nor was I “letting him do just that.” If anything, on a normal day I would go out of my way to be disrespectful just to be near him and definitely would not be “letting him do just that.” The truth is, I was embarrassed of being with my mother, unjustly so. My mom has never done anything wrong, and it’s only my silly, self-conscious fears that keep me from being my true self, a self that I struggle to fully embrace, one who shops with her mother and can get the movie star’s son. It is the mighty chaos of growing up- and the mastering of this habituated exhibition of embarrassment- that we all must go through. I know I am not alone, only guilty of a common crime. Next time, though, I’ll take my time with Tom, because if he can’t respect my shopping habits, we’ll never have beautiful babies together, and that just won’t do.
*name has been changed