Emma Connolly: The Only Living Boy in Trader Joe’s
A wise person (my sister) once said to me that New York is a place that will wildly amplify any given feeling. Which means if you are happy, walking around listening to The Best Song In The World, feeling confident and on top of the world, you will feel EXTREMELY confident and on top of the world. It will feel as if the sidewalk exists solely for your very special feet. Conversely, if you are sad, walking around listening to sadsack music, you will feel like the biggest possible sadsack and people will inevitably be bumping into you and glaring at you and bringing you down in that inimitable New York way.
However this day was a good day, in no small part because I was listening to the new Best Song In The World. Nick Hornby raises the question “what came first, the music or the misery?” in his book High Fidelity, and it is a good question. As an impressionable youth, I am chagrined to report to Mr. Hornby that more often than not, the song dictates the mood. I might be happy now, but find me after one listen to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands;” chances are I will be a hot mess. (It might be worth mentioning that my complex relationship with songs is compounded by the fact that I am a veritable song destroyer. If I find a good song I will listen to it, repeatedly, until I cannot stand the sound of it anymore. The song destruction can take anywhere from two days to two weeks, but during that span of time I will rarely listen to anything else. Obsessive? Who can say. )
The Ting Tings “Great DJ” was my jam of the moment (a music aficionado/cutting edge I am not), and, true to High Fidelity‘s theorem, my mood matched the song’s upbeat tempo. I actually dressed up for work (you’re welcome, world), contributed good ideas once there, and was feeling the full force of My Song-induced confidence on my walk home. As I strutted down 6th avenue, my stride only broken to root around in my bag to find my iPod and press the “back” button (because I lack the technological savvy necessary to know how to set an iPod to repeat), I decided to purchase some groceries — and so to Trader Joe’s I went.
Before I go any further, this might be the time to mention that I have recently gone through a break-up. Boyfriended, I tend to be infinitely more certain of myself. Single, a childhood stutter rears its head and I blush far more often than I would like to. In the aftermath of this particularly painful separation, things had taken a significant dive into this spectacularly insecure territory.
But this was a My Song day, and I was wearing a low cut tank top and a passably professional yet tight skirt with tanner-than-usual skin from a recent beach sojourn, and a skinnier-than-usual body courtesy of a post-breakup loss of appetite. In short, I was feeling better than I had felt in weeks — so much so that I was willing to go double or nothing on my new found confidence, and risk it all (cash cab? no?) for the sake of getting validation from men in the form of that mysterious beast, conversation.
I walked into that Trader Joe’s like I owned the place, sizing up the produce, giving a “ ‘sup?” nod to the security guard. He knows. And then, suddenly, I felt His Eyes on me. Standing by my recently sized-up produce was A Young, Attractive Man. Who was Looking. At. Me. This happens now and again, but instead of trying to arrange my often-uncooperative mouth into a smile and looking literally anywhere else as I am wont to do, I decided, in honor of My Song Day, to play it cool.
With the Ting Tings (we’re on play #4) still bumping in my ears, I give my hair a flip, try to look like the impossibly important, just-got-out-of-my-high-paying-job-that-I-earned-on-my-own merits girl that I long to be (and not the unpaid internship, gotta-love-nepotism, profoundly professionally unimportant girl that I am), and go to pick up a basket sitting by the door. As I pick up my basket I hear a vague crashing sound but ignore it, both because the music mostly drowns it out and because I am too important and professional to respond to outside stimulus.
I begin to walk toward the produce. Young, Attractive Man is still looking at me.
And then I stumble.
I find myself teetering wildly, arms and bags flapping in the air. I look down and see that I have one foot ensconced in a second basket. A basket that I slowly realize I must have knocked to the ground.
Alas, I need not tell you what happened next. Young Attractive Man laughed and moved away while I bent down to de-basket myself and hide my beet-red face. As I sheepishly walked over to return said basket my former ally in cool, Security Guard, gave me a look that said I had betrayed the cause.
However My Song-instilled confidence could not be undone! I hastily reached into my bag to start the song over and went about my shopping, human interaction be damned. Soon I was back on my positive outlook grind, forever unencumbered by the brief embarrassment and more temporarily unaffected by the ex-boyfriend related sadness that I knew would inevitably return. To me, this is the grand appeal of a song (let alone the wonder that is a replay button, which I would very much like to have in the form of a re-do button for my own life).
Songs have the power to transport you away from baskets, breakups, and early 20s what-do-I-do-with-my-life terror, and take you someplace where you are once again a bad ass strutting down 6th avenue, only now with the week’s provisions in hand. An environmentally friendly bag-laden bad ass, beating on, borne forward ceaselessly by the Ting Tings, and whoever and whatever allows you to shake off life’s many follies.
About Emma Connolly: Emma is a hair-twirling pug fanatic and popcorn connoisseur who recently (in fact, just) learned how to spell connoisseur. Emma regrettably abandoned her career in the French language in 9th grade. Emma enjoys reading the “Economist” in public and thesuperficial.com in private. Follow her at @egconn or email her at email@example.com.