The Girl in the Next Stall

She’s walking into the changing room with four items.  Three are from her usual color palette – shades of grey to black.  This time she found a pair of dusty pink capris in her size – 0.

 

She’s been talking of changing things up a bit.  She systematically cut all the long hair to shoulder length.  She didn’t cut it all at once, but over the course of a year, she had me cut two inches here, three inches there.  One afternoon, while listening to Pink Martini on Pandora, she had me cut six inches.  Between the two of us, Will and I always tell her she looks great, but I can see that she’s looking for other words.

She longs for words she’s heard before, only she wants them to come from someone who never says them.

 

Her style is all her own.  One day we were running errands and she mentioned Pastel Goth.  I had to ask her what that was.  She explained while we were stopped at a light.  I turned to her and said, “Is that what you are?”  She grinned and said, “Not really.  Well, maybe a little.”

She doesn’t dress like other girls her age.  That might have a lot to do with the fact that we homeschool.   Her style isn’t a copycat thing.

I’ve seen the girls at the skating rink staring at her.  As they pull their butterfly covered rolling backpacks over to the bench to put on their skates, I see them glance over at Jen.  I’d love to know what they are thinking.  “Her mom can’t afford butterflies and sequins.”  “Why doesn’t she wear pink or purple or teal?”  “How come her mom lets her wear black all the time?”

Jen told me of the time that a “Butterfly Skater” followed her into the locker room.  She stared at Jen the entire time Jen unlaced her skates.  The girl didn’t say a word.  Jen came out with a mixed expression – part fascination, part frustration.  “Mom, I think she was in there the whole time to make sure I wasn’t going to steal her stuff.”

Her choice in colors gets her looks.  She doesn’t always see the looks.  I always do.  I’m her mom.  I want to laugh at the other skaters’ moms.  They haven’t been the most welcoming group at the rink.  We don’t fit the type.  But when their daughters fall hard on the ice, mine is the first to ask if they are okay.

 

Which brings me to yesterday at the mall.  While Jen was in the changing room, I could hear that the girl in the next stall must have been on FaceTime as she changed clothes.  Weird, but whatever.

Times change.  Maybe this is the new selfie?

While I talk with my kids about absolutely everything, we all three respect privacy.  It’s been a lot of years since I was in the changing room with my daughter.  I browse the clothing racks as I wait, looking at business clothes I can’t afford.  I think of how many houses I’d have to sell before I’d ever even consider spending that kind of money on clothes for myself.  I see the clerk look at what I’m wearing, and realize I know exactly how Jen feels when the “Butterfly Skaters” are staring at her.

As Jen walks out, I try to read her expression.  “How’d it go?  Did you like any of it?”  She smiled her quiet smile, “Let’s go somewhere else.  The pants didn’t fit – too baggy in the thighs.  The shirt goes down too low in the front.  Sorry I’m so picky.”

“Don’t worry about it, honey.  We’ll find something.”

 

As we walk out of the mall I ask, “What was going on in the changing room?”

“A girl was trying on prom dresses in the stall next to me.  She was sending pictures to her mom and grandma and dad.”

“Too bad none of them could be there with her, but it is the time when most would be at work.”

Jen walked around to the passenger side of the car.  “She sent a picture to her dad and he said, ‘Oh, honey.  That’s so pretty.'”

I looked at her as I put the key in the ignition.  She looked at me and said, “Is that even real?”

 

Out in the Open

Hello!

Thanks for being here.

I’ve had a bunch of new posts churning around in my mind for several months – new posts for this new blog.  I’d given thought to starting out by writing something shiny and motivating and positive.  As much as I’d like to focus on that side of me, it’s just not where I am every day.

At least I’m honest.

I tend to gravitate to the intense or the darkly funny.  (I avoid scary at all costs, if I can.)  Sometimes I get on Pinterest and pin to manifest a new life by the beach with a stack of books and a beverage.  When I read, it’s most often about how to sort out the human drama and make sense of why things happen the way they do.

Recently, Jen and I were discussing the fact that humans are riddled with contradictions.  I’m no different.

I do like motivational quotes, but we’ve been force-fed those for so long that we become desensitized to them.  Maybe that’s just me?  Take a rock, a babbling brook, add a quote from some guru and magically your life will change.  I don’t think so.

I do know, that every day brings an opportunity to learn something that helps us along our way.  Maybe it’ll be something positive.  If we’re lucky, it’s an exchange with another who might be working to make progress along his or her own path.

Sometimes we’ll be presented with something funny.  Yesterday, I used the restroom at the ski hill.  A mom was helping her four-year-old use the potty and wash her hands.  Her daughter was resisting the process.  Each time her mom urged, the daughter replied by meowing.  The mom was clearly frustrated, and the daughter replied to her mom’s frustration by saying, “Meow, meow,” which clearly made the mom more frustrated.  As they turned to walk out of the restroom, the girl looked at me and meowed.  I meowed back.

 

It occurs to me that I could use that approach with more things in life.

 

This morning I read this line from J K Rowling’s, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

“He only knew that he did not want to see their looks of horror; that would make the whole thing seem worse and therefore more difficult to face.”

Immediately, I thought of children.

I thought of all the things kids might experience, and the hard decisions they make when figuring out which of those experiences they might discuss. Whether they choose to discuss with friends or family or their teacher, doesn’t matter.  If only they’d bring that stuff out in the open, they might get the support they need, or they’d learn that others are frightened by the same thing, and that they aren’t weird for being afraid.

And I thought of adults, who are really just kids with responsibilities.  I thought of the things adults refuse to discuss because they are afraid that if the light shines on what they have to deal with, they won’t have the strength to continue dealing.  How many are buried under the weight of stuff they think they can’t handle? Of course there is risk in bringing their stuff to light, but if they don’t, how can they ever be met with understanding, or an offer of help?

Maybe we need to be the vulnerable girl in the restroom who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.  We need to risk meowing to see if anyone meows back.

And, perhaps more importantly, when we hear a meow, we need to look up from our phone, put down the latte, and acknowledge the person brave enough to meow.

On that note, I’m going to meow at this messy house, and go back to reading Harry Potter.