Friday, November 1, 2013

Shut Up

It happened twice in the same month.

I was alone, shopping.  Both times happened in the middle of the morning, that magical time where stores are empty of the throngs of shoppers that highlight evenings, weekends, and holidays.  It was just me, the retired population, and the dwindling sea of stay-at-home moms with their small children, out looking for deals on cheap T-shirts, chips, and two-for-one London Broil.

As I perused the selection of spaghetti sauces at the grocery store, I idled my cart next to a young mom and her small child, an adorable girl with bouncy curls and long lashes, a little rumpled as if she had just woken from a nap, little leggings covering chubby legs that were stuffed into sparkly pink Velcro sneakers.

I smiled at her while her mother shopped.  Such a sweet time when kids are little, I thought, as I always do when I see a mom out and about with smalls in tow.  I remembered those days in my own past, the fog of wistfulness obscuring memories of tantrums over toys, food refusals, all those sleepless nights and my own lack of self-care brought about by the never-ending mothering that bled each day into the next.  Good times.  It seemed like yesterday.

I was thrust out of my idyllic reverie when this little cherub looked me up and down, and, never taking her eyes off of me for a second, pointed at me as if I was a sideshow participant, void of feeling or personality and placed there for her entertainment, and proclaimed loudly to her mother, “Mommy, she’s BIG!”

I was taken aback.  I raised my eyebrows a fraction, bit my lip and smiled. 

She’s just a child, I thought.  She doesn’t know any better.  Rudeness in kids is nothing but innocence when they’re this young.  Plus, at nearly six feet tall, and over that with any kind of shoes on, I AM big.  I’m just sensitive.  All my life people have taken it as their personal mission to advise me on my tallness.  It’s the stranger-touching-the-pregnant-woman’s-belly phenomenon – everyone feels impelled to reach out and comment on my height.  I’ve learned to smile and respond:

Yes.  I am tall.

The mother said nothing, clearly embarrassed and flustered by her daughter’s outburst.  She smiled at me while simultaneously avoiding eye contact and tried to distract the tot with a can of diced tomatoes.  I self-righteously wished she would have admonished the child and apologized to me, but she didn’t.  Maybe she’d wait to correct her until they were safely out of my earshot.  Maybe she wouldn’t, and raise yet another human who feels it’s okay to comment on strangers' appearances.  I felt the child’s eyes on me as I finished my shopping and the pair scurried away.

The next time it happened I was in a big box store, searching for something specific in the toy aisle, a futile task if you know anything about how big box stores are organized so that the one thing you want is missing, but there are twelve of everything else.

Maybe it was the time of day, or the mood I was in, or the fact that the same incident had happened to me just a couple of weeks before, but I was not so zen about the name calling this time.  The girl, at the other end of the aisle with her mother, stared at me the same way the other one did.  As they exited the aisle, she turned to her mother, thinking she was out of earshot and with eyes fixed on me, said “She’s BIG!”

I lowered my eyebrows into a frown, wrinkled my nose, and bared my teeth slightly at her.  Then I turned and walked in the opposite direction before I said it.

Shut up.




*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: The last time someone called you a name.

32 comments:

  1. A lovely tall drink of water is what you are. I'm tall too (but less drink of water and more milkshake) so I get this. Unlike your graceful exit, however, I probably would've seethed aloud adding, " and meeeaaaan."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha ha! I would have loved to say something more, but I had to get out of there. :)

      Delete
  2. I'm kinda envious that you're tall. Look at your leg! (jealous) I'm small. Barely skimming 5'3".
    For the record, if my kid said anything to a stranger, I would apologize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the whole point - that mom wasn't even sorry. Look at me, I'm still indignant. :)

      Delete
  3. Thanks for coming to my class! Have a wonderful day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! And right back at you!! :)

      Delete
  4. It always bugs me when kids make comments like that and their parents don't say a single thing to them - like you said, just adding to the people who grow up thinking they can say anything they want.
    Sorry you have to deal with that!!! I love the way you responded the 2nd time!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kim. My kids are far from perfect, and so am I, but I would not let my embarrassment win over good manners. Problem is, good manners are on their way out.

      Delete
  5. Also tall and feel your pain! And I know I'm turning into a crotchety old crone in my not-so-old middle age, but doesn't anyone teach their kids manners anymore??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think it's even on many people's radars to teach manners. As a fellow crotchety old crone, that really chaps my hide.

      Delete
  6. Ha! I love how you dealt with the second kid. As the mother of a four year old who notices EVERYTHING and usually feels compelled to talk to me about it - LOUDLY - I cannot tell you how many times I've apologized to strangers then had to give him the whole "It's not nice to comment on other people" or "you need to worry about yourself, not other people" or occasionally "OH FOR THE LOVE JUST BE QUIET!!!" talk when we are out and about. Plus, at barely 5 feet myself, I still occasionally get asked "Are you a kid or a grown up?" I think from now on I'm just going to make faces at people instead of answering ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it definitely goes both ways. Do people think they're starting conversation when they comment on height? Because that is just about the worst conversation starter EVER.

      I love that you apologize for your kids. It shows them how to do it, and it gives them a message that not everything in our thoughts should be said.

      Delete
  7. Oh gosh I said the same thing. Well not big. I'm sorry. I was surprised and my mouth started speaking before my brain started working. But know this, you are also beautiful! (And shorties like me are fascinated by tall people.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, no, no apologies necessary! Friends are allowed to make comments. :)

      Especially when they're followed by amazing compliments!!

      Thank you. xoxo

      Delete
  8. I think we have a responsibility to teach our children about these comments, because how will they know otherwise? Hopefully these moms said something after the fact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully they did! And you're right - when our children are children, we are responsible for almost everything that they learn. Many people don't realize this.

      Delete
  9. "I wasn't always tall... just after I started eating small children for lunch..."
    Wait, that's not right.
    Abbey likes to comment on people's hair color (when it's exotic - blue, purple, etc.) I remind her every, single time that it's not nice to comment on a stranger's appearance, even if you're saying something nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great response, Angela!!

      A simple "I love your hair" would go a long way in your Abbey's case. :)

      Delete
  10. Zilla has a tendency to do that - despite any direction regarding rudeness from her very capable parents. Part of it is the impulsivity part of her ADHD - she simply can't help saying out loud what goes through her head. But it's our job to teach her that we can't always do that and help her learn how to keep from making those kinds of comments or judgments about people based on physical appearances. To her, it really is just stating a fact - she's big or he's short or that lady has a black dot on her nose (it's happened) - but it doesn't change the fact that it makes people uncomfortable. I always make sure to direct her gently in another direction and explain. And for the record - the old lady with the black dot was completely gracious. Whew!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my - a black dot lady. I'm sure she got it a lot and that's why she was so gracious. I guess I'm not there yet.

      I get that kids just state the facts - big, small, pirate teeth, whatever - and that's okay. What's not okay with me is when parents let it go. Kids aren't hurting anybody with comments, really, but parents have to redirect like you do with your Zilla.

      Delete
  11. Like Alison, I would inform my child that making comments like that isn't necessary, and remind them that people come in all shapes and sizes. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I love that! Necessary comments are few and far between.

      Delete
  12. I hated being tall when I was young because all the boys were shorter than me...but as an adult I've learned to embrace it. I'll even put on heels every once in a blue moon!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, tall girls with heels high five!

      I don't mean to be ugly about tall comments, but I do sometimes let an audible sigh slip when I hear them. It's never a proud moment.

      Delete
  13. I have to remind myself that they have no filter at that age. If it had been my kid, I would've said the same as your normal response, "Yes, she's TALL," and try to point out a plus of being tall. Only I wouldn't know because I am super average at 5' 4". But I can see how it can get old!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, it gets SO old. I get "Are you getting taller?" STILL at age 40. I usually respond "Yes! I am!"

      Delete
  14. Aww I feel you, I'm quite tall at only 5'5" compare to my Asian friends but yes, if I was that mother I would apologize to you and take the chance to educate the kid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only hope that she talked to her child after they left.

      Delete
  15. I've done it before....commented on how tall someone was. Not in a "OMG YOU'RE A GIANT!" way, but in a wistful "wow, you're so tall, I wish I wasn't sniffing your belly button" kind of way. I'm short, and I'm jealous. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha!! I don't mind these kinds of comments, and I've never heard the belly button one, but I will laugh when we meet and you say thins to me. A family friend compares the height of our crotches, which I find hilarious. Mine is at her waist; hers is at my knees. It's the "Wow, you're so tall!" from a stranger, and then silence. What do I say, how do I respond? The only appropriate thing is "Yes." And then nothing else.

      Delete
  16. I know you're tall, but somehow I still think I'll be surprised when I meet you.

    Because I WILL meet you (she says ominously). :-)

    Okay I'm giggling at how weird I am just now, but am not worried a bit because I know you won't mind.

    PS. You're gorgeous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we meet, I will be wearing super high heels just to see your surprised face.

      And you totally made me giggle at your weirdness.

      And thank you. xo

      Delete