I arrive to the grocery store wearing my profile shirt. I figure it’s a pretty inoccuous place where I assume most people will stare at the box of Pop Tarts rather than my profile shirt. While this might seem like cheating, I have my rationale. People tend to look at a profile only if it’s someone they know and if they run across it on accident, they don’t stare for too long.
However, the shirt still draws attention to me. Holding Brenna helps to mitigate the concern that I might be homeless. Yet it does nothing in terms of proving that I’m not crazy.
“Excuse me,” a lady asks nervously. “Is that like your profile?”
“Yeah, it’s my real-life, Living Facebook profile. Want to read it?”
“Let me get this straight. You say ‘no thank you’ to religion, but you like Jesus?”
“What if when they say ‘this is my body broken,’ we’re also his broken body? What if you can’t have one without the other?” I stand there holding gluten-free crackers, dumbfounded by the reply of a stranger.
Minutes later, a man asks to see my shirt. I can tell he’s nervous, but he studies it closely. “What’s orange baseball?”
“I play it with my kids. We take oranges and do batting practice with them. They explode in the air and we’re bathed in stickiness. You should try it.”
“Oh,” he says and scurries off down the aisle.
Finally the cashier asks to read the shirt. “See, that’s me right there. I’m at Squaw Peek. Those are the mountains. That’s my big nose.” She stares at it silently while I fill the conversational void with more ramblings about my profile picture.
“You can’t be libertarian, republican, democrat and green,” she explains.
“Yeah you can. You just have to make sure they’re not proper nouns. As long as I stay away from capitals, I’m safe.”
My profile shirt confirms something I’ve experienced throughout this experience. Strangers are much more thoughtful, kind and interesting than I had ever imagined. And there’s something disarming about breaking the social norms first that allows an urban metropolis to feel a little more like Mayberry, minus the whistling.