Costco: A Love Story

By Katiedid Langrock

May 16, 2015 5 min read

Costco makes me feel like a woman.

Scratch that; it sounded weird.

Costco is the uncredited lyricist of a maternal love song. OK, this column is going strange places fast. Let me back up a bit.

I typically hate going to Costco. It is loud, crowded and noisy, and frankly, I'm tired of getting elbowed in the right boob by angry grandmothers fighting for samples. To compound my hatred, I can never seem to leave without dropping $200 on such things as a year's supply of yogurt. Seems well worth the savings until I get home and realize the expiration date on my annual haul hits in just 13 days. For some reason, my attempts at a neighborhood yogurt eating block party have not attracted massive crowds. Maybe I should start including prizes. The neighbor to eat the most yogurt wins my 30-pack of nail clippers.

When I was a kid, I loved going to Costco. It was always an adventure — one that ended in pizza, a soft pretzel or a berry sundae. I would dash around the dizzying aisles, looking for all the best samples. The mean old grandmas didn't bother me back then — perhaps because I didn't have breasts for them to elbow but more likely because the act of getting a sample was such an adrenaline rush.

Children aren't supposed to be given samples, at least not at the Costco where I grew up. The trick in getting a sample was creating a very convincing story. Each latex-gloved lady standing behind a portable microwave provided a new opportunity to lie.

"I have a disorder that makes me look a tenth my age. I'm actually 96."

"My mother says to pick her up a sample." (Then I'd wave to the nearest stranger, preferably a woman.)

"I've been lost in the pets aisle for days, and this is the first food I've come across that isn't kibble. Please, feed me, before I get fleas."

When I became old enough for honest samples and both the grocery bill and the purchasing of celebratory food began falling on my credit card, Costco lost its appeal.

There was only one time in recent memory when I truly enjoyed my Costco experience, and it came a week before giving birth to my son.

It was a sweltering summer day. My overall discomfort was visible as I physically assaulted customers with my gargantuan belly bump. What should have been a horrible trip, waddling through a warehouse in extreme heat while being nine months pregnant, turned into a beautiful experience because of the women who were shopping that day. They smiled at me. Beautiful smiles. Welcoming smiles. They looked up from their exhaustion from wrangling children. They looked down at their bellies, some sagging, some tight, as if reminiscing what it felt like a few days before their own lives changed forever. Young moms and empty nesters shared such kind nonverbal exchanges with me that I actually chose to slow down and extend my trip. For the first time in my pregnancy, I felt as if I was being welcomed into a club. Here was something that was both unique and special yet positively universal. The club of motherhood, a world I had not previously been privy to, was opening its arms to me. The mothers' smiles said, "Welcome, new girl. And buckle up."

A few weeks later, I returned to that Costco. My postpartum belly had deflated to a nice tire ring of fatty flesh. My baby was home with my mom, when I excitedly walked through the doors of my new mommy clubhouse. Only this time, no one knew I was a mom. Without a baby or belly present, my club status was revoked. It hurt, and I longed for a big shirt with "MOM" bedazzled across it. My golden Costco trip was just a memory.

That is, until last week, when I picked up diapers on Mother's Day. Costco wasn't so crowded as usual, but the people who were there were moms, most with their children in tow. Perhaps it was the diapers in my cart. Perhaps it was my tiny baby bump, but the kind, knowing eye contact returned. Granted, this time, the shared looks I experienced were less sweet nostalgia and more "Can you believe this? We're here on Mother's Day." But I didn't care. It's just nice to feel part of a club again.

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