Today I took Zoey out for a Super-Awesome-So-Much-Fun Girls Lunch. And yes, we called it that. Alll daaaaay loooong. This morning I had to take her to get blood drawn for a lead test and I was using anything I could think of as bribery. (She also got a new pink suitcase with wheels.) So we went to The Pub just before noon and were seated in our favorite booth — the one right by the fake (I think) buffalo head with a lei of pink flowers draped over its horns.
After we ordered, we were busy booth-dancing to ‘(Do the) Mashed Potato’. As we sat there wiggling our booties, bumping our fists together, and shaking our heads like were listening to an ’80’s hair band, a gaggle of old ladies walked past. One of the ladies paused to admire Zoey.
“Well, isn’t she just the most adorable child EVER,” she gushed.
“Thank you,” I said even though I had nothing to do with Zoey’s looks. Zoey wisely (as it turns out) avoided eye contact.
“Oh look, she’s shy!” The lady put her face about 3 inches from Zoey, who, tragically, was unable to scoot back as she had just spilled her lemonade on the booth chair. “She is just SO PRECIOUS. Look at that hair!” And then the lady reached out to touch Zoey’s curls.
“NO TOUCH!” Zoey put her hand up to push the lady away. But, it should be noted, she did not actually make contact with the lady. Nope, the lady pulled her hand back in what I can only assume was horror.
“Oh! Please don’t touch her hair,” I said. “She doesn’t like it . . .”
“Well,” the lady straightened up to her full height of 5’3″. “She’s not shy! She’s . . . she’s . . . RUDE.”
“Nooooo,” I countered. “Touching someone’s hair is pretty personal. She can say no.” I was going to go on about how Zoey didn’t mean to offend her and how she is just learning how to communicate about not wanting someone to touch her, but, alas, I was interrupted.
“She shouldn’t talk to adults that way. My children never would have done that. I raised my children right!” She jabbed her finger in the air for emphasis, her embarrassment turned into anger.
“Well,” I seethed, “I’m sure you need to get to your table and we are going to get back to our lunch.” And I gave her the fake, you-are-now-dismissed smile.
“I’ve never seen a child . . .”
“No,” I said sharply. “You know what? Just no. You would never approach an adult stranger and reach out and touch their hair, so don’t do it to my child. IT’S. NOT. OK. Now please move along.” And she did. With sighing and eye rolling.
Then Zoey and I had a talk about our bodies and saying no. Which really wasn’t what I had planned on for a lunch topic but whatever.
Now I’m sort of worried that there may be a special place in hell reserved for me because I told off a senior citizen. But the thing is, this happens ALL. THE. TIME. I’m not sure if it’s because Zoey is a kid, or if it’s because she’s a person of color, or both. But strangers seem to think it’s fine to just reach out and touch her. Without asking. Zoey hates it and it drives me nuts too. To me it seems so disrespectful — almost like Zoey isn’t real or whole. They can do what they want; there are no consequences because, on some level, she doesn’t matter. I know, I know, they may not be thinking that on a conscious level. But they sure as hell aren’t thinking, Hey, I really respect this kid either. And I guess I’d rather go to that special place in hell than not defend my daughter.