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Bad Disguises

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Frederick was half an hour from our house. We had always only made the trip for groceries. Its name was synonymous with Costco and Super Wal-Mart in my head. But hidden behind the over-sized intersections and run down strip malls were a few streets lined with small boutiques and family owned shops. One summer day my mother, sister and I changed our planned expedition from going to Wal-Mart to going window shopping along the old fashioned town center. After a few hours of sifting through second hand clothes and admiring overpriced figurines, we walked into one little store that specialized in miscellaneous gifts and items. I hadn’t expected myself to buy anything, but for some reason I was particularly drawn towards a toy disguise. It wasn't an actual disguise, just a cheap plastic nose, attached to a fake glasses frame which came complete with furry eyebrows and a matching mustache. At three dollars it was a waste of money, yet its ridiculousness was appealing. I showed it off to my sister and tried to make her buy it for me. She and I both knew that I was lying, but she surprisingly bought it anyways.

Despite my self-consciousness, I wore the disguise as we continued down the street and into the occasional open store, genuinely impressed with my self-confidence. The friendly laughs of the passing people were reassuring. With regard to those who did not share my humor, I hoped that they thought I was strange. At least then I could be certain that their stereotyped assumptions about me weren’t completely true.

My mother still wanted to stop by Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries. When we reached the large department store, I walked in behind my mother still wearing my fake identity. The thoughts of others will not invade my creative childishness, I told myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t care what people thought. Still, I hoped no one I knew spotted me. I went to get cottage cheese because I used to eat it with apple sauce for breakfast. It seems strange, but the combination of flavors balanced each other out. Once I let a friend try it and she told me it was disgusting. I laughed and told her, “Well, that’s your opinion.”

As I stood debating between the generic or name brand, I noticed a man to my left staring at me. Remembering my appearance, I smirked and quickly glanced at him. He was overweight and sloppily dressed. He stood with his daughter who was only a few years younger than me. They were looking at the individual yogurts that have Oreo crumbs and M&M’s on the top. Typical, I thought hypocritically.

He was still looking at me, so I turned and gave him a smile which he didn’t return.

“Why?” his condescending tone barely hiding the judgment.

“This is my real face,” I joked.

“I just want to know why.”

“Just for fun.”

Except it wasn’t fun anymore. He looked me up and down as if my terrible up-bringing was evident by the baseball tee and skinny jeans that I wore.

“Okay, whatever,” he said, retiring to his limited field of view, probably content with himself. He turned and whispered to the girl. Looking back and down at the seemingly identical dairy products, I tried to collect myself. Almost forgetting my initial objective, I quickly grabbed the small generic cottage cheese and rushed off. Perhaps I had misread him and he actually had only been curious. Maybe his natural tone was mean and condescending. Or maybe he was the jerk who thought it was his God-given right to outwardly judge people and straighten out public idiots.

I told myself that I didn’t care, but his simple question echoed in my head. Why are you even doing this? I asked myself. This is dumb. I paused in the hats and jewelry section to look in the mirror. I saw a shy, normal teenage girl who cried too easily. She looked like an idiot.

I took off the pointless disguise and found my mother. She asked me what was wrong. I didn’t reply. I shoved the toy into my sister’s purse.

“What? I don’t want this,” she said.

“Well neither do I.”

I was quiet on the ride home.



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