shame, n 1 a: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety [Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1986]
I am not a member at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.
There! It’s out!
I have absolutely nothing against the Co-op. It’s a lovely place filled with lovely food — much of it locally produced — and staffed by lovely people. I do, on occasion, shop at the Co-op; just last week I needed two cans of garbanzo beans and I had only one child with me and the Co-op was on my way.
When I took my two cans to the register, the clerk asked, “Are you a Co-op member?” I hung my head in shame and mumbled, “No.” She looked disappointed in me.
Most people are shocked to discover that I’m not a member at the Co-op. It’s a topic that’s come up a lot lately in conversations with friends and acquaintances from all walks of life: new neighbors, my husband’s colleagues at Middlebury College, and life-long Vermonters. We’ll be discussing some food product or recipe, and they’ll say, “Oh, you can get that at the Co-op. You’re members at the Co-op, right?”
When I confess my outsider status, jaws drop. Conversation screeches to a halt. At last, broken by their silent judgement, I start babbling an explanation.