Denial Runs Deep

Friday is market day. The Little Hun is the director of the operation, managing a rotating system of three stores based upon need, discounts and coupons, while I drive the cart and make a few decisions variously based on my doing the cooking, quality control and pure impulse.

So last week, zippity-zip, we cleared the produce section and scooted for Aisle 3. Booze. She wanted a six-pack of Spotted Cow and I picked out a third-shelf bottle of Savignon Blanc to go with my pork tenderloin. Nothing too fancy–fifteen dollar stuff. I laid the bottle out of the way on the lower rack of the cart and wedged it in with the six-pack.

Off we went to Aisles 4 and 5 for V8 juice and cranberry sauce. Always the considerate one, I downshifted on the cart and slowed for the end of the aisle.

“POP!” “Kushhhh…” “Uh oh!” Cleanup on aisle 5.

From behind, TLH asked, “What happened?”

I didn’t answer immediately, busy reviewing what went wrong–already searching for a plausible explanation that didn’t involve admitting any carelessness on my part, but there was no time for that because an employee immediately appeared on the other side of the incident with a very disapproving look about him. I was struck by the prompt attention. What about all those times I’ve gotten blank stares from a stockperson as I walked back and forth, obviously unable to find this or that?

“Where did that come from?” he asked me. It sounded like he might own dogs.

Now a better (and perhaps saner) me might have quickly explained things and offered to pay for the broken merchandise. It was only a $15 bottle of wine, and if you can afford one of those, you should be able to afford two. But then I wasn’t sure how that worked. Do I just tell the checkout person to charge twice for another one? Does this require supervisory intervention, and on and on, exposing my shame in ever-expanding circles? Or do they just tell you, “Oh well, that happens,” a certain amount of breakage being just part of the overhead? I would certainly be gracious if someone broke a bottle of wine in my house. Besides, we’re just a household of two, but we drop a decent chunk of cash in that store almost every week.

I somewhat convinced myself it was his move, but there he was, still waiting for an answer to his stupid question. Another part of me–the one that likes to have something pithy for any occasion–might have said, “Try Aisle 3, but things move around, sometimes.”

Instead, I stood there with a blank look on my face and muttered:

“I don’t know.”

Yep. The full Tom Brady. Your move.

I wasn’t proud of myself. I was relentless with Brady’s incalcitrance during Deflategate, much to the annoyance of many commenters on social media, including my son, who is a Brady fan raising another one. I ranted at the lack of unsociability of it all, disgusted with the audacity of some people to stand up in public and utter such juvenile crap. From time to time, I may have mentioned “those people” or something like that.

But there I was. Naked to the world, as Eric Burden put it in “Spill the Wine, Take That Girl”.

If there’s one thing in life you should be prepared to deal with, it’s denial. It’s everywhere. It lubricates every social process humans get involved in, from international diplomacy right down to the old one-on-one at home. More frighteningly, it’s a game you play with yourself–a coping mechanism that easily gets out of hand. Ignoring truth can get you through a tough situation, but that reward makes denial a very addictive behavior–and one that often enables other addictive behaviors.

An indicator of denial is having categories of “those people”. With that in mind, look around and consider if we are collectively in an epidemic. Look at your own life. Can you agree to disagree with any of the people you see?

In your dealings with the devil of denial, do the costs never end?

Look around. Step one.

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