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The first time I pixied my hair, years ago in the midst of a swirling life transition, a grocer called me “Sir” by the frozen pizzas.
(To be fair, I was donning sweats and a hoodie, no make-up. I offered the poor man no favors.)
I blushed, laughed it off all the way to the ice cream but then bought a pint to tearfully devour later that evening, questioning every life decision I’d made between spoonfuls of Phish Food.
A haircut is rarely a haircut, after all.
I now keep a not-so-strict rule in terms of the pixie, and it is simple: Don’t get called Sir in the grocery.
Some days this means I swipe on some bright lipstick before leaving the house. Other days, I’ll add earrings, a fancy blouse.
Still other days: Heels.
Here’s the thing about heels: I am ever picky. I have a tendency to clomp in them, to appear graceless and unrefined, which really and truly defeats the entire purpose of heels, mostly. What good is a few extra inches of height when you find yourself tripping over yourself in the parking lot?
And so, I fancy myself a bit of an expert in this department. The Unofficial Purveyor of Clomp-Less Heels, if you will.
These, in particular, are a grand slam.
Last week, our weather turned here in the Midwest. Spring arrived with a jolt, and we all cautiously crawled out of hibernation, blinking at the sun. The neighborhood tennis courts were filled, the wooded trails dotted with bikes, scooters, roller blades. Shoppers bustled; restaurants opened for patio seating.
Scout and I went for a walk while Bee gardened with Grandma.
I threw on a Comfy Sweatshirt, jeans, my sneakers. I pushed the stroller out the door and headed toward the walking path by the park when I’d heard it:
A woman with my grandmother’s haircut pulls her car over, and as I meet her at the sidewalk curb, she realizes her mistake.
Oh honey, I’m sorry. I don’t see well anymore, just got turned around here and am wondering if you can help me with some directions…
I offer directions, make small talk, she coos at the baby. I wave as she drives off and I remind myself to dig out the bright lipstick next time.
I haven’t given much thought to style these days. Mostly, I don’t mind. Weeks spent with a 4-year-old and baby often translate to avocado stains on shirt sleeves, dried formula on my lap, a single earring found on the kitchen floor hours after having gone missing.
To say nothing of the eye bags.
So when Ken and I had a chance to steal away for an impromptu date after my walk with Scout, my comfy sweatshirt and jeans combo stayed.
(The sneakers didn’t.)
Our date was the quintessential grown-up married couple’s date, complete with an appointment to get the brake pads replaced and a grocery run for guac.
It was perfect.
I told a girlfriend a few weeks ago that I could feel my identity slipping away, just a bit. I wondered if it was because I don’t hear my name much anymore.
“Mom, where’s my bike?” -Bee
“Hon, could you grab some almond milk while you’re out?” -Ken
I’m Mom and Hon and Babaababbaba, and I sometimes wonder where Erin has gone.
Mostly, it’s kind of beautiful, the fine act of condensing parts of myself to make room for others. Of growing into something else entirely.
Mostly, I don’t mind being called a dozen other names.
As we walk toward the grocery checkout, guac in hand, Ken takes a call from the car repairman. I dig through my purse, hand the cashier my card.
Thanks, Ma’am, she says.
(No Sir to be found.)
It might have been the Clomp-Less Heels. Or the delicate jewelry.
But it felt special being called Ma’am, another name added to the long list.
It felt like aging, like the shedding of one identity, the growth of a new one.
It felt like comfort.
It felt like me.
p.s. This essay was written for Zappos (fast, free shipping and all star customer service with a 365 day return policy!) and Sofft. Shop the collection here, offering style and comfort for your everyday (and every name).