a tale of two Stores.

For starters, all that shall follow are my own thoughts and opinions. I do not pretend or claim to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or any other organization.

Now that we got that out of the way: a few background notes before the tale of two stores.

  1. I currently reside in Oregon. In my opinion, we've been shut down and restricted to the nines for 15 months.
  2. I have three daughters who have all reacted to the changes in various ways. While I may reference their various reactions, I'm removing any of their identifying details out of respect for their privacy.
  3. I'm not sharing this story for some giant debate, but only in the hopes of fostering thought and open conversation/dialogue.
  4. You should also know that I am SUPER non-confrontational. I loathe conflict, and I'm an introvert.
  5. Lastly, we have not received any of the COVID vaccines and have zero plans to do so. Lots of research and prayer and discussion went into that personal (and, quite frankly, private) decision.

One last thought before I begin the tale: I keep thinking about Harry Potter. Though it has been years since I've read the books in their entirety, I do recall part of the reason that people stopped calling Voldemort by his name. If I remember correctly, there was some sort of curse about his name that allowed the Death Eaters to find you instantly if you dared to speak Voldemort's name.

Why do I bring this up? Because it feels a lot like *ahem* certain social media outlets are adopting this outlook. Dare to mention certain keywords and your posts, stories, videos, etc. all get tagged with an annoying link to the WHO or CDC. And if you dare to share someone else's posts that mention those phrases, you are given the 'option' to 'research' the veracity of the post before sharing. It is creepy. Though, as Hermoine points out, "fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself."

So we begin.

I've been avoiding Costco for a while, mainly because I've been given a really hard time when I have declined to mask my daughter who struggles with anxiety. But after the recent, uh, revisions from the CDC vis a vis masking, I had hope. So we went. With no masks. For any of us.

Kids in the cart, membership card out, and enter. Oh, wait, there is a lady pointing to her arm asking people if they've been vaccinated. There are at least two other people at the door asking the same question. I just keep walking. One of them follows me to ask. I politely say that is it a violating of my privacy to ask me about my medical history. He instructs me to take a mask. I tell him that I am healthy and do not need a mask. He then tells me he'll call a manager and asks me to wait.

At this point one of my daughters is now scared of the Costco workers because she doesn't understand why we can't just go in. The manager comes over and asks me what the issue is. I tell him the same thing I told the other worker, "it is a violation of my privacy to ask me if I have been vaccinated." He simply tells me, "no, it isn't." I tell him that it is, he has no right to my medical information. He tells me that I can ask him if he's been vaccinated.

"I don't want to know or need to know. Your private medical information is none of my business."

"Ma'am, it is a simple yes or no question." "It is a violation of my privacy to ask me that question."

He tells me that the Costco lawyers have vetted everything and they are perfectly able to ask the question. I tell him that I still don't have to answer. He says that this is from the governor and he's not trying to be difficult. I tell him I'm not trying to be difficult either, but that, again, it is a violation of my privacy to ask me. I tell him that if I won't be allowed access to the store without answering the question, then I'll leave. So I do.

Now for some thoughts as I've replayed this scene: no one was checking proof of vaccination. I could have lied and said I got the vaccine. But (1) my faith compels me not to lie. I don't want to be a liar and I don't want to set the example for my kids that it is okay to lie. And (2) if I answer his question, honestly or with a lie, what that communicates to him is that it actually IS okay to ask me about my private medical history, even if we've never met.

I wonder, would he feel the same way if I was asking him about STDs he's had? Prostate exam results? Would those be medical details he feels anyone should have a right to? Regardless of how he feels, as I repeated numerous times, I am not okay with sharing my private medical details to a stranger.

So if I had lied and said I got the vaccine, he'd let me in, no mask, no problem. But my refusal to answer the question became the issue? And my declining a mask when I'm perfectly healthy and wearing one has led to increased anxiety in my kids?

Now we're back at the car and my kids have questions. Good questions. "Mama, why did they want to know that?" "Well, it is complicated, but the point is that they don't need to know. Imagine how silly it would be if they asked you if you had pooped today. They don't have any business knowing if you've pooped. Now imagine they won't let you into the store unless you tell them you've pooped. Well, they don't need to know. So you can either tell them the answer and maybe go in, or maybe not because maybe you're having a hard time pooping (which is still not their business). Or you can leave because that's not the kind of store you want to be in. Which would you rather do?"

"I don't want to go in! I don't want to tell them about my poop!"

"Exactly. We had a conversation. The manager thought he had a right to know something about my body that is private. We teach you that your body is your own, and that applies to the questions that people ask you about your body, too."

"But why didn't the people at the gas station at Costco ask if you've had the vaccine? You didn't have your mask on at the gas station either."

"Well, that is inconsistent, isn't it?"


It should be noted that as we drove to the second store, one of my children was practically in tears because she didn't want anyone to argue with us again. I gently reminded her that the man at Costco and I had a conversation. We disagreed and went our separate ways. No one yelled, no one got hurt, but that it IS important that we speak up for our bodies, even if it is uncomfortable.

We all go in, no masks. We are greeted with a friendly, "hello, welcome in!" and make our way around the store. We get everything we need. No workers ask us anything other than if we need help finding things. We stand in the checkout line and buy our things. We leave the store.

The moral of my story? Stand up for yourself. Know your rights. And if there's a store or a place that doesn't respect those rights, leave. Don't spend your money there. Because, as we've taught our kids for years, your body is your own, period. It has taken a long time - and honestly, the example of others advocating for themselves and their kids - to finally advocate for myself. And you know what? It is one of the most freeing and empowering moments (that also became an INCREDIBLE teaching moment!) I've had in a very long time. A breath of fresh air - puns sort of intended. :)

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