I knew I should have taken an extra ten or fifteen minutes. I knew it.
We were in a bit of a hurry yesterday, needing to leave the house in order to meet my Mom at Costco to do a little shopping. I looked at Lizzie's hair and it was rather atrocious - I had done nothing with it in two days and it looked matted in the back, frizzy on the top, and still a bit squashed on one side from her night cap. It truly was in horrid looking condition and I needed at least ten minutes to work some conditioner through and finger comb through the worst of it. But like I said, we were in a hurry...
Oh how I wish I'd done it...just phoned my Mom and told her we'd be a little late. Because almost every time I go in public with Lizzie when I haven't done at least the bare minimum with her hair, I get comments. From women of colour. Sometimes positive comments and sometimes, definitely, not. Yesterday's experience would certainly qualify as a not positive comment.
We had just started our Costco chopping when the kids saw a table of food samples that they were desperate to try. I said yes without really taking notice and they ran over to check out the table...I was examining something else nearby.
All of the sudden, I heard a rather loud voice saying "Who does this girl's hair?"
Oh shit shit shit, I thought. She's calling my name. Is there any way I can pretend they're not mine?
Just as I thought that, Seth called.
"Mommy," he shouted. "That woman needs know if you're ok with us having the snack."
Another shit shit shit. I looked over with a smile and inside my heart shrank as I received a stern look from the black woman serving samples to children.
"Are you responsible for her hair?" she asked.
"Well, yes, I guess I am. I'm her mother," I mumbled shame-facedly, looking down and then glancing up to her eyes. I quaked when I saw the look in them and immediately looked down under a pretence of putting an arm around Lizzie.
Her: "Her hair needs combing."
Me: "Yes, I know." (pause) "Look, I know it's awful today. I know it. But really, it did look great two days ago. I had it in ponytails. It was adorable."
Her (with tone): "Really."
Me: "Yes, it looked so good. Just two days ago. I'm so sorry about today. I was in such a hurry. Your hair is certainly lovely."
I said that last bit just as I looked up again and realized that her hair was netted and pushed under a Costco cap. She gave me a knowing look that quelled me. She knew I was full of it.
Her: "I have five children. Two girls. Plus my own hair."
Me (gushing, trying to flatter her enough so that she wouldn't be mad any more): "Wow, two girls and your own hair. I don't know how you do it. That's a lot of work."
Well, that was the wrong thing to say, too, I gather because she gave me another dirty look and then said, "When you have children, they might be boys and they might be girls. You do what you need to do."
There was just no getting around her outrage and her expectation that I be more caring of Lizzie's hair. I admitted defeat to myself, blew out a breath, and surrendered.
Me: "You're absolutely right. I do need to do a better job of her hair on a more consistent basis. I totally admit that I'm terrible with hair and I struggle with it. I think her hair is beautiful, spectacular even, but I know that I usually don't do it justice."
Her face softened visibly in view of my genuine and heart-felt confession. "What area of the city do you live in?" she asked.
I told her, and she gave me the name of a hair stylist in the area. I didn't tell her that I have a great stylist for Lizzie already - that it's just me who's the problem. She didn't need more affirmation of that fact.
She suggested that I cut Lizzie's hair very short because it would be so much easier to maintain. I gently declined, saying that she and I were both trying to grow it out so that we could put it into long braids, or one big ponytail.
She harumphed, but then smiled for the first time and said "That is the right answer. But you need to work more on her hair."
"I know," I sighed.
"Do you come here often?" she asked.
Me: "To Costco?"
Me: "Not often, but regularly."
Her: "I'm always here. I will be thinking about you. Next time, after I've thought, we will exchange phone numbers and I will figure out something. You need help."
I thanked her and assured her that I was committed to doing a better job, and then slunk away, ready to crawl back into bed and give up on the day.
But alas, that would have been too easy. Not a second after I'd concluded my farewells, I was charged at by my boys, who had come to tell me that Lizzie had just approached a woman, pointed to her and told her that she was very fat.
Seriously? Could this outing get any worse?
Behind me I heard a little "tsk tsk tsk" and it was the same woman from the sample table. She'd overheard what the boys had told me.
I didn't look back. I just couldn't. I strong-armed the boys out of there and went off to deal with Lizzie.
Bad Mama. Bad Mama. Bad Mama.