My husband refuses to use my reusable shopping bags. Okay, I get that he won’t carry the Butterfly Bag which could be considered a bit feminine. But my compact bags are small and sleek and come with a lovely belt buckle clip. They could sit on his hip, right there next to his ultra-masculine BlackBerry.
“I’d look like a dork,” he tells me.
This from a man who walks around town with holes in his shirt because he is too lazy to buy new ones. Back when the children were born, I quit the job as his personal shopper. It was hard enough to keep my growing boys in proper clothing. I told him he was on his own for socks, underwear and t-shits. This was about ten years ago and I swear he has not added a stitch to his wardrobe. Last week, when we went to dinner, I noticed he was wearing a fairly dapper shirt. I almost complimented him on his purchase until I recognized the shirt as one I had bought him in college --twenty years ago.
So why is he self-conscious about a perfectly innocuous shopping bag? My husband is not a stubborn man. In fact, he is what you might call “a trooper.” When I first started Chartreuse, he spent his evenings and weekends helping me pump lemongrass lotion and meticulously place Chartreuse labels on each bottle. To this day, he is my late night document proofer and occasional IT support. Lately he has been taking on more and more of the domestic tasks around the house, including shopping and preparing our meals. He is a much better and more enthusiastic cook than me, so the whole family is grateful for the change. But I can’t help noticing the large number of plastic bags piling up in what was once an empty bag dispenser.
I remind him that I sell shopping bags for a living to many of the same neighbors who will see him bagging with plastic at the grocery store. These supportive neighbors are proudly carrying my bags. He tells me it is perfectly fine for them, but he doesn’t want to look like a dork.
My eight year old son gave me the same excuse the other day. I dashed to school between two conference calls to see his end of the year choral show. My boys are not performers and their enthusiasm for this annual ritual has gotten much worse since the school hired a choral instructor who insists the children add corny movements to the songs. I arrived late but easily spotted my son in the front row. He was the only child not wearing spring colors as instructed. (That would be my fault.) He was also the only kid not dancing. He stood in the front row, his hands in his pocket, mouthing the words with a painful grimace. When I asked him why he didn’t do any of the dances he said, “I didn’t want to look a dork.” True the moves seemed specifically designed to make the kids look as ridiculous as possible, but I explained to him that by being the only kid in the whole class not dancing, he looked even more like a dork.
Why do we worry so much about what people think? What makes my husband behave like an eight year old child, when he enters the grocery store? I could lecture him on the poor example he is setting for his children. I could inform him of the alarming facts around plastic bag usage. But we have been married for sixteen years, so my words will drift out his ears along with my reminder to pick up milk
On the other hand, his comfort with disheveled clothing is perhaps a bit more green than my insistence on unblemished clothing. And the bags filled with fresh produce may actually contain less plastic than the multitude of take out containers (always packaged in a Chartreuse bag) I used to bring home when I was solely responsible for dinner. So perhaps I will stop nagging him and wait for the day when so many people are bringing their own bags, he feels like a dork for not having one.