For the first time ever my children and I were confronted about our ‘otherness.’
We are not people of color, we are not minorities in any sense, unless you count being Democrats in a Republican town. We don’t encounter issues with police, or neighbors or well, anyone really. We are lucky to be able to live our lives in relative peace with the world.
Except when some people get a glimpse of my tattoos. Or, as is the case this month, I have purple hair (I’ve been dying my hair purple every May for Lupus awareness month…I was a bit late this month, but I made it for the last few weeks of May and now into June) my son has a red streak in his hair, and my daughter’s hair is a nice turquoise. Standing together if you glanced over at us you might see nothing but a rainbow of hair color and the Mom’s wrist tattoo.
I never really think twice about these things. It is just not a big deal. My daughter and I have been dying our hair since the first Lupus awareness month we celebrated back in 2011 or so. This year, my son decided he wanted to dye his hair too…but he wanted red. This lead my daughter to think about blue and well…it didn’t make much difference to my husband and I. It’s just hair. They can do whatever they like.
Yes, they are 9 and 11. For some people. children shouldn’t be making their own decisions about their hair. Especially dying their hair. However we don’t subscribe to this sort of parenting. If they can decide what to wear and how they express themselves through their clothing (so long as it’s weather and age appropriate) we don’t really mind. My daughter spent a few weeks big on fingerless gloves and knee high socks. Cool by us. My son could care less what he wears so long as it’s comfy and he doesn’t have to think about it much. He is, however, very particular about his hair. He likes it long. Also cool by us.
So when we left the grocery store the other day and we were getting ready to load bags into the car I really wasn’t thinking about much of anything, certainly not our hair.
An elderly woman walked towards us saying ‘wow. WOW. wow. WOW. wow. WOW!’ and varying degrees from a whisper to loud to average speaking tone. Looking at us and now openly tsking, she began to shake her head as she uttered her ‘wows’ … and walked past us to get a cart.
The wows and tsks now louder, I finally turned around to confront her, as I could fee her still staring at us as she begged for my attention.
‘You know you are RUINING those children by allowing that ridiculous hair. You are RUINING them! And you doing it too…you encourage this? This.. this… ridiculousness? You are RUINING them!’
I took a breath and looked at the kids who both had their jaws hanging open. My brother has just pulled up with the car and could see something was going on between the woman and I but wasn’t sure what to make of it…
‘We enjoy expressing our individuality…I hope you have a really nice day!’ is all I could get out with a huge smile on my face.
The kids, now realizing what happened had varied reactions but mostly were in shock.
My daughter, with a confused look said ‘Wait…WHAT?’
My son, repeated the woman but in a totally different tone of questioning and confusion, ‘WOW…really?’
We got in the car and on the way home I told them that some people may think we look strange with our hair different colors. And some people probably don’t like my tattoos much either. But do we care what other people think of how we look? Nope. And how much do we love our hair? A LOT…we’re having fun!
They agreed and we laughed and I felt sad for the angry, elderly woman…who clearly was so upset by our hair she absolutely had to confront me. It was shocking to her. This made me sad. Not for us, but for her. To be so angry at people who are different. To be so upset by things that are weird or not the norm.
I wanted to go find her again and give her a hug. Although I’m guessing she doesn’t want one from me. At least not until the purple fades from my hair…