Having just arrived at the local farmer’s market, an unexpected encounter gave me pause. Near closing time, grocery bags tucked under my arm, I checked the first produce stand on my right. The corn was spare and picked over. Across the way, I was tempted by a basket piled high with popovers. Marv and I are trying to low-ball the carbs so I passed it by when a casual friend’s lilting voice stopped me.
“Faye, I just finished. My bags are full.” Noticing my empty bags, her eyebrows arched with question, she continued, “You start out this way?”
She stood too close; her comment, so direct and hinting with puzzling insinuation, caught me off guard.
“Yes. I check out what’s available, then go round again,” I explained.
It was a hurried but sufficient reply to mask my confusion. She opened her bag to show me her “wonderful” choices: the bright, just-picked-from-the-garden carrots, a few stemmed apples, fresh goat cheese. We smiled and bid farewell—on the surface, a friendly conversation.
But her tone left me unsettled. On this bucolic afternoon, a place of gastronomic bounty where adults chatted with vendors, children held dripping ice cream cones, was there a right way to proceed? There were no arrows, no visible stall numbers. The circle follows a corner of the park’s paved road. The entry point I chose ran parallel to the street, curves around to face woods, then runs straight before the turn to the second opening.
What was her point and why did I care? Her lilting tone masked judgment, implied disapproval. Her attention to my empty bags, my choice to enter her point of exit, was reminiscent of past unbidden encounters with females, who felt they needed to set me straight about my priorities. I was as an overweight girl struggling with body image, trying to fit in, often the recipient of vexing “I’m telling you this for your own good” comments.
I am grateful for the perspective that comes with maturity, the choice to be curious rather than sensitive. I wondered what determined my choice that day? Because I had parked close to the vendors, I walked alongside exiting traffic and entered the circle in the counter-clockwise position. Had I parked farther away, for safety’s sake, I would have faced arriving cars and entered at the forward clock-wise point. My choice depended on chance and pragmatics.
All these years later, I’m mindful of that moment when, as I teen, I resolved to choose friends who liked me for who I was rather than for my appearance. In time, I surrounded myself with individuals who shared similar values of appreciation and kindness. So it is with how I choose my vendors.
I prefer organic growers, like Tom, the husband of a writer friend, who is dedicated to an environmentally safe ethic. He often takes time to chat and introduce me to new products like last week’s round lemon cucumber with its crisp, explosive taste. His miniature orange tomatoes are the sweetest.