For the first time in too long, I’m linking up with today’s prompt. I know I can count on you to rip me to pieces!
Jon Acuff recently urged a room of writers, photographers, and entrepreneurs: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
This week we’d like you to write about a time you compared yourself, unfavorably, with someone else. Focus on how the comparison affected you, negatively or positively.
Word limit is 400 words.
I stare absently at a woman wearing dark jeans, a crisp button-down shirt and ballet flats in the check-out line at the grocery. Her shiny hair hangs down her back and every few minutes she tucks some behind each ear. Her toddler, who’s eating a banana, sits in the front of the cart snuggled inside one of those protective covers that keeps germs at bay. She babbles and smiles at her mom, who stops unloading the organic items from her cart to give her a loud kiss on her pink cheek.
“Mommy, can I ride the horsie, please?” asks the older girl standing next to her.
“Sure, as long as you’re ready to go when I’m done here,” the mom says.
“Yay!” she squeals, skipping off towards the mechanical horse with bits of paint peeling off in places.
I look down at my yoga pants with dried baby barf on them. I scrape off bits of orange crust with a jagged fingernail. Sweet potatoes, I think to myself, recalling her dinner last night. My ratty tennis shoes, laces about to go. Day three dirty hair in a bun. I can smell myself–salty, sweaty, and sour, like sleep. Which is ironic because I’m not getting enough of it.
I look at my twins, each clutching a pack of M & M’s, arguing loudly over what kind of gum to get and yanking things off the sugar shelves conveniently located by the checkout.
“Mooooooooommy,” comes A’s familiar tattling tone.
“I didn’t DO anything!” insists her sister, followed by another, more insistent “Mooooooooooomy!”
Clenching my fists, I squish my eyes closed, and press a thumb and forefinger to the bridge of my nose. I breathe in slowly. Don’t, I think to myself. Don’t lose your shit in the grocery store.
But the fighting doesn’t stop. It grows louder, grating against me until I snap. Kneeling down, I take their two hands tightly and hiss, “Stop it NOW or no candy.”
I stand up just in time to see the mom leaving the store. Her older daughter rides on her hip as she pushes the cart. The toddler is still working on the same banana.
Maniacal laughter bubbles up inside me. I snort quietly. I’ll never be that mom. There will always be bribes and candy and fighting and tattling. Crisply ironed blouses and clean hair are reserved for date nights, not trips to the grocery store.
As we head to the parking lot, I blink back tears behind my sunglasses.