The first thing I notice when I pull into my neighborhood CVS is that the sign is gone.
The “Parking Reserved for Pregnant Women” sign the local moms found so cute when we first moved into suburbia had been ripped from its moorings, leaving a big blotchy stain on the wall that will stand as a constant reminder of the follies of our youth.
Not one to believe in omens, I proceed to park (not in that spot in case anyone from the neighborhood saw me and thought that it was me who had surreptitiously ripped the sign down because I was too lazy to walk an extra five feet) and trudge inside.
My list was simple, my list was short. Toothpaste, shampoo for the boys, and Raid.
In the toothpaste aisle, my heart sinks. I was supposed to get Crest, I remember that. I also remember my wife telling me earnestly earlier in the day which form of Crest to get, and me sort of nonchalantly writing it down. Of course, I thought at the time, I knew which Crest to get. I had been looking at that tube every morning for the last month.
There was “Crest Complete Multi-Benefit Whitening with Tartar Protection" right next to the “Crest Pro-Health Gel Toothpaste – Fresh Clean Mint" and left of that, some kind of “Minty Fresh” Crest with Scope, along with versions with baking powder, cinnamon, and sparkles. I’m not making cookies here, I’m buying toothpaste, for God’s sake.
Slightly panicky, I can foresee the future scene with my wife unfolding in my head: “You got the wrong toothpaste. How come you never listen to me? Is that too much to ask?”
Uh, oh, I better figure this one out. But Crest has gone all bunny-like since the last time I bought toothpaste. There’s even a “3-D White” and a “3-D White Advanced,” which sounds like a weird new plasma television thing for guys who like Pamela Anderson and Anchorman quotes. I look at my scribbled note again: “Crest, white, mint.” Ugh. I settle on the “Pro-Health Gel Toothpaste – Clean Mint” – even though it doesn’t say “white” in the title, it says it has “extra whitening power” on the label. (Yes, I read the label).
Satisfied, I turn to my next shopping conquest: shampoo for the boys. Looking at the choices, though, I can see that the marketing folks have figured out that no men buy shampoo. The frillishness jumps out at me like a pink Disney princess-a-thon, complete with dolls and teacups that you have to lift a pinky to use.
Macadamia Oil shampoo sounds like something I’d use for a stir fry. There’s dainty orange, cherry blossom ginseng, coconut milk bikini, and shea butter, along with all sorts of dangerous tropical fruits. Nothing for men, unless they were on a beach with a rum drink, and my sons are only 11 and 8, so no go. Ah, but wait, to my left I spy a big “Men” on a bottle. I look closer. Rogaine. I don’t think my boys are quite ready for that.
Right then, a 22-ish blonde female with a hint of coquettishness appears out of nowhere, wanting to get past me in the aisle. Surprised (as I always am now by any 20’s female that willingly comes within 5 feet of me), I jump out the way and suddenly realize that she probably thinks I’m looking at buying Rogaine, which is, of course, right near the men’s hair coloring stuff and my silvering hair can no longer be mistaken for “it’s just turning blonde in the sun” any more.
I breathe a sigh of relief as she breezes past, hardly recognizing my presence. She joins her boyfriend an aisle over. They laugh, giggle, and I hear little young-couple-in-love voice inflections as I settle back in to my shampoo hunt. Finally, I see it. Axe Shampoo. That’s it, I think. It’s in a black bottle, it’s just shampoo (no conditioner for extra fluff!), and, hey, it’s manly – I remember those commercials.
Oh god, am I going to get in trouble now for buying a shampoo that will make my boys stare at ads with scantily clad women?
I glance one more time at the shampoos, looking for another masculine alternative. A green bottle of Hydrating Tea Tree Mint stares back. Okay, I decide, Axe it is. They’re going to want to watch those commercials when they get older, anyways.
The Raid is easy. Raid for Ants versus Raid for Bees. No Tango Raid With Sesame Oil Extract. I guess there’s no fluffing poison in the marketing world.
I get in line, and then leave it to sneak over to the chocolate, which is calling me, siren-like, to a sweetened finish to a day of Book-of-Job-like calamities. No, I think, I won’t give in.
I get back in line, only to see the couple of Aisle 10 in front of me, huddled together like Antarctic penguins. I notice the boyfriend is buying condoms and KY jelly that heats up when rubbed, and he reaches down and grabs the blonde’s butt, right there in front of me. Taken aback, I wonder if anyone else has seen the effrontery to suburban decency and glance around.
Nope, just me, it appears. I briefly wonder whether, as the father of a teenage girl, I should be upset that this guy is so blatantly flaunting his objectification of women. She giggles, and I realize that she’s not very upset at all about the state of things.
I finally buy my stuff, after first discovering that our new puppy has unceremoniously chewed through my credit card. As I exit, I notice the young couple pulling out of the parking spot previously reserved for pregnancies.
Once home, I ask my wife if it’s ok for me to go join a couple of guys for beers on their front porch, as they threatened to take my man card if I didn’t. I was just happy they found it, as it’s been missing ever since we put the Nemo thing on the minivan antenna.
My wife glances up, looks over my purchases, says sure, and then says, “Wrong toothpaste.”
I’m suddenly anxious for the coming reprobation. Instead, she looks up at me with those eyes I’ve stared into for so many wonderful years, and she smiles. “Don’t worry,” she says, “I’ll take care of it. Go drink your beer.”
When he was young, Jeff Alperin wanted to be a baseball player, policeman, race car driver, and spy. As an adult, his adventures focus on his family, his sparkly wife, and practicing law in a large firm, but his comeback as a right-handed relief pitcher is imminent. Jeff's love for his wife is so great that he has agreed to write occasional posts for Parenting Without A Parachute. And she loves him very much - even though he didn't buy the right type of toothpaste.