Last weekend, I took the kids to get haircuts. The place was crowded and there was nowhere to sit, so, the three of us wandered around looking at all the hair care products. I discussed gel versus pomade versus wax with Miguel and explained the differences between mousse, sea spray, and hair spray to Zeca. There is a lot I don't know but my knowledge of hair care products is solid.
When two seats opened up, Miguel took one and I took the other and Zeca settled onto my lap and we talked about perms and curling irons and I told them stories about all those mornings in the 80s when I curled, teased, and sprayed my hair into something larger than life. We talked and laughed and I was grateful that both came so easily because I looked around occasionally and everyone else was quiet.
Eventually, they went back for their cuts and I was left alone in the waiting area. I didn't have my phone with me, so, I just sat and watched people. At one point, I noticed a little girl was staring at me. She was about three years old and she stood by her father while he paid for her haircut.
Kids stare at me all the time. Most of the time, they are trying to figure out if I am a boy or a girl. I know this because I've often overheard the question and the shushing of their uncomfortable parents. So, I assumed that this girl was sizing me up. She stared and I smiled, which often makes kids break eye contact because they're shy or simply aware they've been caught staring. But this girl just kept right on staring. Then, she started pointing at me and I started to feel a little uncomfortable. Her mother noticed and said, "Oh, you want me to get your jacket?" Her jacket was on the rack behind my right shoulder and I knew she wasn't pointing at the jacket. She was pointing directly at me. Her mom grabbed the jacket and handed it to the little girl who said, "No!" and pointed at me again. The mother looked over at me and turned and walked out with her other kids, leaving the father to deal with her. The father kept asking the little girl, "What do you want, sweetie?" and she kept whispering to him and pointing at me. He turned to me and I raised my eyebrows and he said, "I'm so sorry. I don't know what she's saying." Then, she said something that sounded to me like, "I want her." The father laughed nervously as did I and then the girl pointed at me and said, "I want to be her friend." The father then laughed awkwardly and said, "We can't stay and we don't usually make friends at the salon..." She was insistent that she wanted to stay with me and he gave me a smile that said, "I'm sorry my daughter is weirdly fascinated with you" before he picked her up and carried her out crying.
Here's the thing, though. I loved it. Yes, it was awkward but that little girl surprised the hell out of me. I assumed that she was judging me because I looked different than everyone else but she was simply interested in me. I'll never know whether it was because of my stories and big laugh, the affection I clearly showed for my kids, or something more mysterious - a good vibe, perhaps. Whatever the reason, I was touched and remembered that people are complex - especially kids - and assumptions are often wrong.