Trader Joes, Tattoos, and Piercings

How many of you have a Trader Joe’s nearby?  I am so fortunate to have one only about 25 minutes away, but how often do I go?  Next to never.  And I really can’t give you a good reason why not.  People are always getting such cool stuff there, and when they tell me about it, I think, I’ve got to get to Trader Joe’s.  But when I’m nearby, there always seems to be a reason why it’s not convenient to go, and it feels a bit too far to make a special trip.  The few times I have stopped in, I’ve found myself wandering the isles aimlessly, unsure of what to get, so I’ve left with just a couple of items. 

Well, last night I wanted a quick dinner, and I was having a hankering for some crab cakes, and Trader Joe’s crab cakes are one of the few things I’ve had from there.  Plus I knew they had a great selection of produce and cheeses and healthy snacks, all of which I needed to purchase.  So I talked Husband into watching D and R, and I took C to spare Husband the 4-year-old Festival of Questions, and we made a special trip to Trader Joe’s.  Once there, I felt like I ought to make the drive worth my while, so I decided just to bite the bullet and get everything that looked remotely worth trying.

Suffice it to say, $147 later, I came out of Trader Joe’s with five tree-hugger-friendly paper bags full of organic goodness.  In a minute, I will ask you to share your favorite Trader Joe finds, but first, I’ll tell you a quick little story about our experience in the checkout line.  I know, who am I fooling?  I don’t ever tell "quick" stories.  Well, grab your coffee and sit for a spell.

As you would expect on a Saturday afternoon at 4pm, the lines were quite lengthy.  I absentmindedly picked the shortest line, and when it was our turn, I noticed that our cashier was quite, um, alternative in her sense of style.  She was very cute and friendly, and although I noticed immediately the funky hair and makeup and an uncomfortable-looking lip ring, I didn’t give it a second thought. 

If I had been a little more tuned in, I would have probably chosen a different line, not that I’m morally opposed to such alternative fashion, but because I should have known that my 4-year-old daughter would find her curious, and as most of us know, 4-year-olds don’t have much of a filter.

Well, C was sitting in the front of the cart, right near where the cashier was removing the items, and I was on the other end, bagging the groceries.  C was very sober and straight-faced as she took in the appearance of the cashier, who was smiling and making small talk with me.  Then when there was a pause in our conversation, I heard C say in a perplexed voice, "What is that in your lip?"

The girl smiled and said easily, "It’s a lip ring."

C looked at it as if to say, "Why on earth would you do that to your lip?" but fortunately she didn’t utter that sentiment.

I looked up, smiled self-consciously at the cashier, and said to C, "It’s like an earring, but it’s in her lip."  Then I started babbling as I often do when I sense the possibility of an uncomfortable silence, "C has been debating about getting her ears pierced.  She keeps changing her mind. She really wants them, but she’s afraid it will hurt.  Blah blah blah…"

Then the cashier girl offered C a balloon, and C took the balloon from her hand, thus drawing her attention away from the lip ring and instead to a very large tattoo covering most of the girl’s forearm.  I saw C looking at it quizzically, and just as I was thinking, "Please, nooooo," C says, looking a bit taken aback, "What is that on your arm?"

The cashier smiled patiently and said, "It’s a tattoo."  C continued to gawk, her amazement quite evident.  By now the cashier girl seemed quite amused, and she turned to C and said, "You should get your ears pierced before you get one of these." 

I looked up and laughed, and then I said to C, "Yeah, you can pay for that."  The girl at the cash register laughed politely, as I prattled on, "I’ll pay to get your ears pierced, but you’ll have to pay for your tattoos.  Hahahaha." 

Fortunately the girl seemed to take all of this in stride, although I’m sure she was wondering what kind of overly sheltered environment I’ve created in which a child has never seen a lip ring or a tattoo.  I guess with my my mommy uniform of T-shirt and capris and Vera Bradley purse, there’s no use pretending that I’m anything other than a conservative suburban housewife who has probably never stepped a foot into a tattoo parlor.  (Are they even called tattoo parlors anymore?)

So I put the last bag in the grocery cart, and we said our good-byes as I practically ran for the door before C could ask the poor girl any more questions.  Once in the car, C said, "Why did that girl have that thing in her lip?" 

"Because she thinks it’s pretty, I guess," I responded, hoping that was the right answer. 

Are lip rings supposed to be pretty?  Or cool?  What is the draw, exactly?  I mean, I’m not totally opposed to unconventional piercings.  I think on a flat, tanned tummy that a tasteful belly button ring is rather attractive.  And on the right person, a very small nose ring can be kind of cute.  But the lip and the eyebrow, to say nothing of places like a n1pple, AAAACK.  Those just don’t do it for me.  Maybe someone can offer some insight on this.

Of course the question to follow was, "Why did that girl have that thing on her arm?"  This one was even harder for me to answer.  Finally I said truthfully, "I don’t know, hon."  Fortunately, that answer satisfied my daughter’s curiosity for the time being, and then I expertly turned the conversation to topics upon which I am more of an authority.  Like ending the war in Iraq and reducing the national deficit.  You know, simple questions like that.

So, back to Trader Joe’s.  If you are fortunate enough to have one, and if you shop there with any regularity, what are your favorite Trader Joe’s treats?  (And kindly, don’t tease me with tales of cheap wine.  Here in PA, only authorized state-run stores can sell alcohol.)   

I am really interested in feeding my family healthier meals and snacks, and I also would like to try some of their prepared foods just for fun.  I don’t tend to buy much prepared stuff at the grocery, because they are full of nasty fillers and such.  Are the ones at Trader Joe’s really any better for you?

So give me your best Trader Joe’s advice.  Here’s mine.  Their frozen crab cakes are reasonably priced and quite tasty.  And those Pound Plus Belgian chocolate bars are TO-DIE-FOR.

**Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that "conservative suburban housewives" can’t or shouldn’t have tattoos or multiple piercings.  I know that both are becoming more and more common.  Particularly the tattoo thing.  I just don’t see the appeal, personally.  I mean, if for no other reason than the PAIN, omigosh!  Needles and I are NOT compatible.  I’m just sayin’.