Cheating Cleanup on Aisle 2

Cost of large sweet tea at Smithfield’s: $2.08

Miles I run with my running partner per week: 22

Miles I run by myself per week: 3 to 5

I’ve never lived in a small town. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, and no one really knew my business or checked up on me or told my parents all the bad things I (mostly) wasn’t doing. The whole Agatha Christie/small Southern-English-Swedish town thing works so well in books, and I always wondered what that would be like.

Now I know.

One weekend afternoon, my running partner was hanging out at her house, reading deep stuff like Health magazine and eating chocolate carrot sticks, when her husband walked in with something upsetting to tell her.

“Umm, Honey?” he said, after slinking in from the garage. “I, uh, saw Anne running. Out. By herself. Is that… okay?” He didn’t stand close to her in case she lashed out and slapped him (okay, I made that part up).

I was cheating on her. With myself.

She nonchalantly flipped a page in her magazine. “We’re allowed to run alone on the weekends,” she told him. “It’s okay.”

Then she checked outside the window to see if I was doing sprints or hill repeats or 6 x 800s or whatever. (I made that part up, too, but mostly because it’s too silly to imagine that I’d be that motivated.)

We live in the suburbs, but our town is only 10 square miles. Not much gets past this bunch. And it’s a little annoying, because I have to put on makeup to go to the grocery store. It’s pretty certain that when the grocery store is right out in front of your neighborhood, you will see someone you know. And without makeup they’ll probably make that comment like, “Wow. Are you all right? You’re looking a little tired.” And I would sigh and think, “Eye makeup. Don’t ever go to the store without eye makeup again.”

So I’m a little bit careful how I leave my house and when I indulge in my vice(s). You never know who might be watching.

Like the times I drive to Smithfield’s Barbecue in the summertime (okay. Sometimes not in the summertime, too.) because I cannot go another second without a large sweet tea. I know it’s not good for me, and I know it’s a waste of a perfectly good $2.08. So I’m on edge as I make my way to the drive thru.

[iPhone blues riff]

Me: [Shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot.] Hello?

Our neighbor, on the way back from preschool pick-up: I see you, getting sweet tea in the drive thru line.

Me: What? No way. [scanning the nearby road for familiar cars]

Our neighbor: Does your husband know you’re gettting sweet tea?

Me: Busted.

Or there’s the haircut cheat… I’ve been a faithful client of my hairdresser’s for the past 10 years. I’ve followed her from one salon to her own salon to her doing haircuts in her home. She even made a chocolate milkshake for my kids when they had to sit and wait for me one time.

But I got in a bind one summer when she was out on a kind of medical leave and my hair started falling in my eyes and desperation set in. I almost gave the frou frou salon down the street a fake name. What if someone saw me? What if they told my hairdresser I cheated?

Yep. I saw someone I knew.

So when I got back on the straight and narrow, I confessed to my hairdresser right away. And she took me back and didn’t even punish me by cutting my hair all wonky with parts sticking up in the back.

I actually love living in a pseudo-small town now. Hours after my family got on a plane for England a few years back, fire engines pulled up on the street beside our home. All of our neighbors knew we were gone. And at least three of them headed towards the potential disaster to see if they needed to take action to save our house. It was a gas leak at a house two doors down. How awesome is it that they had our backs?

In the big city where I grew up, you cultivated a don’t-look-’em-right-in-the-eyes attitude. Here, I’m pretty sure they’re looking. I have to admit, there’s a certain comfort in being seen.

A couple of weekends ago, my husband walked in from the store.

“Hey… I just saw… your running partner. And she was… running. Were you supposed to be… running with her?”

“Cheater!” I screamed. Just kidding. She’s allowed to run without me on the weekend.

But during the week? She should probably know that I have my sources.

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