My first apartment was a block away from the Market District Giant Eagle in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh—one of the biggest and busiest supermarkets in the city. I didn't have a car at the time, so moving to Shadyside and being within walking distance to dozens of stores and restaurants was financially and logistically prudent.
A few months into my stay there, though, I noticed that I'd always have a bit less money at the end of the month than I should have—a surprise since, before moving there, I'd created a spending plan where everything from the NBA league pass to my monthly allotment of rum was accounted for in my budget. (Yes, I did have a budget for a monthly allotment of rum. And yes, I also realize that was one of the unsexiest sentences ever typed.)
Puzzled, I checked my balance online to see if there were any patterns causing this. Nothing stood out at first—rent, eating out occasionally, frequent trips to Giant Eagle for groceries, etc—until, wait…why was I going to Giant Eagle so frequently? While groceries are an obvious necessity, there's really no reason to visit a supermarket more than three or four times a month. Yet, here I was, buying random items individually—a pack of Gatorade here, a box of cereal there—a process that kept me in Giant Eagle three or four times a week.
Why? The answer came to me a few moments later, when "Kim," a woman I met a couple weeks before, texted me to see if our plans for later were still on.
Where did I meet Kim? In Giant Eagle's Kosher food aisle. How did I meet Kim in a section of a store I didn't even know existed? I spotted her leaving the produce section a few steps ahead of me, and kept my eyes on her. What was it about Kim that encouraged me to pretend like I was also interested in buying Kosher baked goods? Aside from her being cute, her college sweatshirt, sneakers, and stretch pants—a combination that always does something to me—made it impossible for me not to approach.
It finally hit me. I was going to the grocery store to people watch. More specifically, I was there because it gave me the best chance of seeing a very specific type of person: Black women rocking the typical "dressed down" look for 20-something sisters—a combination that, again, always does something to me. I wasn't consciously making multiple trips to Giant Eagle for this reason, but once I put the pattern together, it's influence was undeniable.
Since I can remember, I've always preferred the "dressed down" look or even the "just left work" look to the "dressed up" look. Part of it is practical. That particular aesthetic seems more natural, more fun, more "this is how I really look." More than that, though, my infinity for this particular look is mental. Despite the fact that I've become markedly more outgoing as I've grown older, I remain a natural introvert. And, since I'm an introvert who also happens to be very interested in meeting women, the sweats. stretch pants, and sneakers are a signifier of a certain condition that makes approaching women less stressful.
Chances are that if a woman's dressed this way, she's at a supermarket, coffee shop, or some other place where she's by herself as opposed to the nightclub or the happy hour where, instead of being able to talk to her one-on-one, you may have to navigate a group of girlfriends first. Also, while I'm aware looks can be deceiving, the dressed down look does imply a certain, for lack of a better term, approachability that the 'freakum dress' and Louboutins don't.
I've since moved from that apartment. I also stopped going to Giant Eagle so frequently once realizing what was pulling me there. And while I was tempted to do it, consciously going to grocery stores to approach women (and not spend money) just seemed a bit too creepy. The affinity hasn't gone away though. Every time I drive pass a Target or a Giant Eagle I can't help but wonder if there's a pretty lady moseying through the antacid aisle, head covered by a Delta snapback, a college sweatshirt covering her stretch pants. I don't stop in, though. I've run out of ways to pretend like I was looking for some Alka-Seltzer.