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Shopping for (N)one

by: Anne Stephanie Cruz

"Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two."---Wilma Hankins Hlawiczka

Three cartons of non-fat milk, two liters of grapefruit juice, a loaf of wheat bread, a pack of spinach pasta, oatmeal and several cans of spicy tuna. That pretty much comprises my bi-weekly grocery list. If its a weeknight and the produce is good, I throw in a head of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and some carrots---you'll never know when you'll crave for fresh salad.

Once I get home, I'll take everything out of the plastic bags and arrange them in the shelves or put them away in the fridge---praying that I remember to eat the vegetables before they mutate (one time, a large potato looked as though it actually grew green eyes after sitting inside the vegetable bin for almost a month!) or turn into mush---whichever comes first.

There are days too when I am hardly able to find anything in the freezer because ice has practically engulfed everything. And its only after a thorough defrosting that I stupidly realize that what looked like a pack of beef tapa was actually slices of chicken breast, heavily discolored by freezer burns after being forgotten for more than two months.

Yes, it's that bad. But what can I do? I'm a single yuppie living alone.

It's been a year and a half since I started living independently again. After the house in the bukid was completed in February last year, my Dad and kid brother moved out of the two-bedroom apartment we temporarily rented in Muntinlupa. I, on the other hand, moved to a smaller, single-bedroom pad 15 minutes away from work.

Sure, I could have gotten a housemate. But I've been there, and I've done that far too many times. I no longer have the energy to grin and bear seeing another person's underwear hanging by the shower stall, or finding that we're fresh out of soda crackers or pancit canton after having shopped only two days ago.

I used to enjoy shopping, I mean I still do. It's just that shopping for no one other than myself makes me feel like the loneliest person on earth. I used to drag in two grocery carts at the counter, adding or taking away items at the last minute, and then clucking my tongue when I see the numbers flitting at the cash register. I almost always shop out of budget.

That was before---when I had a brother to spoil and a Dad who was on a restricted diet. Nowadays, I can pretty much buy anything, depending on whether I'm in pig out or diet mode.
But truth be told, I haven't set foot in a grocery store in almost two months.

Watching Diane Lane's character Sarah (Must Love Dogs) eat her chicken-breast dinner near the kitchen counter actually hurt. I know how pathetic it feels to consume what would otherwise have been a tasty dinner by your lonesome. For some reason, even the best cuts of chicken end up tasting like cardboard and you'd rather cry yourself to sleep on a hungry stomach than go through that routine every night.

Now you know why I skip dinner altogether.

The scenes where she would argue with the man-who-keeps-offering-chicken-by the bulk-specials at the grocery were meant to be funny, but it was also a stab at society's callousness to the plight of singletons----whether they chose to be single or were just victims of circumstance.
Really, why would someone like me want to buy a whole roasted chicken when I could barely finish the drumsticks? Even if it were on sale, that would leave me eating chicken for one whole week---by that time, I would probably be cringing from the mere smell of it.

Come on, there was a reason why individual and single-serve packagings were invented.

One time, as I was waiting for my turn at the counter, the woman ahead of me (obviously married with kids judging by her overflowing cart) curiously looked at the contents of my cart and non-chalantly asked: student?

I blanched, then felt the blood rush back to my cheeks as I stammered a reply. In less than five minutes I pretty much summed up my life and explained my civil status to a total stranger. I was holding back the tears as the cashier was ringing up my purchases---never in my life did buying milk, bread and soda crackers belittle me so. It made me feel like a social aberration, just because I was shopping for one.

I've since recovered from that experience, managing to hold my head high and match the nosy women looking at my cart stare for stare.

However, on days when I'm really feeling low, I spare myself the agony. I just head for the nearest 7-11 or the sari-sari store around the block---where the clerks and tinderas don't give you a condescending look for purchasing supplies in retail.

I realized it isn't always cheaper to buy things by the dozen.


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