Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Russian Grocery store

When normal people, meaning anyone not from Northeast Philadelphia, go into a grocery store, they normally expect nothing from the store except fresh veggies and a wide selection of breakfast cereals.

Not so for the Russian-American population.

The first time I went to the Russian grocery store, I was dressed like most normal people would dress to go to a grocery store: tee-shirt and jeans.  How naive I was, to think that would be appropriate in the frozen foods aisle!  My wife ridiculed me, saying she was going to be embarrassed to be with me, but I stood resolute - why would anyone wear anything else?  It's a grocery store!

Then...I realized what she meant.  The store is not a place to get fresh fruits.  It is a place for the women of Northeast Philadelphia to judge. It is like American Idol (but for un-Americans) and EVERYONE is Simon Cowell.
Natasha just picked up her deli meat from the kolbasa counter
 Both men and women are dressed as if they were going to a club - sexy, sharp outfits that make them look 50x hotter than they really are.  Women have more makeup on than clothes, and they're all wearing six inch heels.  All the guys are wearing designer clothes and button-down shirts with wild prints all over them, and leather shoes.

And the craziest thing is: my wife is among them.  A college educated, career-oriented and brilliant woman pursuing her MBA dressing up like, well, you know, so she can impress a bunch of people she only knows in the most remote ways. They're all deathly afraid that each other one will run home and say, "You see? I saw Katya Borisovna not wearing heels while ordering her dried cod's head!  That must be why she's still unmarried and poor!"  Then they go to pay for their groceries with food stamps (a subject for another time).

And rightly so, because they will.  My wife has said to me a couple of times that her mother has heard stories from her friends about how they can't believe a nice pretty young Russian Jewish girl like my wife can be stuck with such a dirty slob like myself.  

All because I wear jeans to the grocery store.

Now-a-days, my reputation is out, so I'm trying to cultivate it.  I'm now wearing a wife-beater, sweatpants and sandals.  I also refuse to shave more often than once a week, and I shower just as frequently.  
That'll teach'em.


  1. I've done this dance before, but now I refuse to dress up for the grocery store. It's Sunday, and I'm wearing sweatpants, damnit. Although that probably sends a signal that I am either pregnant or infertile. God. Now I have to change.

  2. And to think of all the times I've walked into my own grocery store wearing a stained t-shirt and sports bra. I'd be judged big time!

  3. I still dress up going to the doctors. My grandma said it is disrespectful to their profession not to. Paramedics had to wait for her to put some lipstick on when they responded to her call. Heart attack came second.

  4. Heh. I think you should wear an ascot with your sweatpants. That'll fancy it up.

  5. Tssk tssk tssk. What WERE you thinking? Dressing like an American relaxing on his weekend just going to pick up some produce? This is the GROCERY STORE! You must present yourself properly. lol No, I'm guiilty of the same. I make absolutely sure to wear makeup, good jewelry, perfume, the better pocketbook (NOT the one I take to the playground, beach, etc.) and I make sure the kids are groomed well before the store. But I do wear jeans, as I am a SAHM who loves to play in dirt and the woods with the kids. Not sure why but then, when I had my first daughter, my parents conference called me at 4 months old to make absolutely sure I was doing so daily to "teach my daughter what is to be woman". They forgive me for not wearing heels as I am much taller than most women, thankfully!

  6. I was fascinated by this and had to ask the Russian if it's the same in the Brighton Beach markets. He said it's not that everyone dresses for the grocery store, that's just how they dress in general. He said, "Long time we had no shoes, no good clothes, now we do so we wear all the time -- good pants, leather jacket, good shoes." Hot off the presses. His quote, not the shoes.

  7. It is amazing how different cultures can be. I'm so the anti-girl. Never wear make-up. Never do my hair. Think it's totally fine to wear black yoga pants as regular attire. :)

  8. It's true, it's not just for the grocery store! You can always tell a Russian in the crowd, cause they are the one person dressed totally innappropriatly for the occaison, no matter the age.

    60 year old women gossiping on the beach? Full head curls and red lipstick for all! (Whilst standing in a circle in the water, carefully not getting their head wet).

    Relaxed day on a rocky beach? 6 inch heals and full make up it is!

    Bus trip to pay bills cause you don't own a car? Best outfit!

    Going to the doctor? My god, the preparations that takes, and considering I'm going to a gyno since I'm pregnant, you'd think he'd be makin the preparations.

    We're a bit obsessive about these things, and my dog has learnt to wait for his morning pee until I've showered, put on my make up, clothes and heals. My own mother was shocked one day when she saw me without makeup, cause it just doesn't happen.

    I'm okay with looking ridiculous, as long as I have my beloved leopard print patterns.

    (Confession: I don't own any comfy clothes. I had to go and buy t-shirts since I'm preg now, I'm still not sure how to wear them, and women keep giving me dirty looks for showing up at pilates in denim shorts, blouse, and wedges. But where does one even purchase this so-called comfortable attire??)

  9. Ha! I get it now, you're American. Like my husband.

    There's no going back you know.

  10. "Look good, feel good" is not a Russian expression. Why to feel miserable while shopping?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.