Monthly Archives: July 2015

Three Things I Could Have Said to the B*tch at Target

angry woman

Picture the scene, dear readers: after several months of my husband being overseas and four weeks of my oldest son visiting his father up north, we were finally preparing for a two week vacation, the first of those weeks to be spent at the beach with family. Although packing for vacations is not something I particularly enjoy or excel at, we made a token effort to pick up a few necessities at our favorite neighborhood money-sucking establishment: Target.

“You guys should really get some sunglasses for the beach,” I suggested to my sons, aged 10 and five. In late July, the youth sunglass department had dwindled down to a few clearance items, so the pickings were slim. After several rounds of negotiating (‘how about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones?’) each boy secured a pair and we shuffled off to the register to pay.

My younger son, who is at the age at which he must tear through packaging or tags of whatever new item he has acquired before even leaving the store, was eager to put on his glasses, which had a picture of a tiny American flag over each lens.  After the cashier scanned them through, my husband began to peel off the small sticker that proclaimed them to be ‘100% UV Protective’. But, as the sticker came off, so did a bit of the striping on the flag image, leaving a mottled gap in the paint. (or whatever toxic chemical had been used to color on top of each lens)

“Uh oh,” my husband said, and showed me the glasses.

I turned to my son. “Do you still want these?”  I wasn’t shocked when he made a sour face and shook his head.

The cashier, a young, pretty girl said helpfully, “If you want, I’ll just charge you for these and you can go pick out a different pair.”

“Thanks!” I smiled as I looked around at the long lines and felt grateful for the few extra minutes of saved time, as it was already approaching 6:00 p.m.

I waited with the purchased items at the front of the store as my husband led the boys back toward the sunglass rack. But a few minutes later, his face reappeared with a look of irritation which let me understand that no other sunglasses were deemed by my son as fashion forward as the original pair of patriotic shades he had selected.

I rolled my eyes and checked my watch. It was 6:15, stomachs were beginning to growl and now we would have to retrieve the glasses to return them, which could mean another 15 minutes of lines and waiting. Annoyed, mostly at my son, I marched back to the register where we had checked out.

I saw the pretty cashier, already in the process of assisting another customer, who was casually conversing with her. I waited a moment for a break in the conversation (I swear on my future grave, I waited) and then said quickly, “Hey, I’m sorry, I just need to get those sunglasses back, because my son decided-“

“OH MY GOD, I WAS TALKING AND YOU JUST INTERRUPTED ME.” The female customer turned to me with a look of actual disgust on her face.

Immediately, my face burned with unexpected embarrassment – I felt electrically shocked by her reaction. I went into apology mode: “Oh, I am really sorry to have interrupted, sorry about that, I just….”

That was all I had time to say because as I was saying it, the woman turned her face away from me as if to mutter under her breath, but instead said loudly, “SO FUCKING RUDE.”

I stood with my mouth open, agape and horrified, transfixed by this situation for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably about three seconds. The woman turned back to the cashier, said “ANYWAY, AS I WAS SAYING…” and continued her conversation, as if I was a ghost who had just disappeared. For a split-second, I examined her: she looked normal; a fairly young woman with a top knot on top of her head and trendy clothes, with an appearance that did not scream ‘I might be unstable, proceed with caution.’ Her male companion looked straight through me – if he had any thoughts about what had just transpired, he had no intention of letting me know. Desperately, I glanced at the cashier, who looked troubled, but averted her eyes. It was difficult to know if she was a friend of this psychopath or was just caught in a triangle of awkwardness.

At this point, my shock evolving into rage at the outrageously ill-mannered behavior of this woman, I realized I had three options:

1. Turn to the woman and say, “How dare you speak to me like that! This is a store, not a dinner party, and I need to get a pair of sunglasses that we left here at the register. You have incredible nerve calling ME rude, when you are acting impolite!”

2. Turn to the woman and say, “What the fuck did you just say to me, you bitch? I cannot believe your fucking attitude! Go fuck yourself.”

3. Turn to the cashier and say, “I’m not sure you heard me the first time, but I need those sunglasses back. I’m going to excuse the behavior of this woman here, because she obviously left the house this morning without taking her meds.”

In reality, I didn’t do any of those things, although I obsessed about all of them for hours after we left the store. Instead, I sputtered,

“Was that really necessary?”

I stood impotently shaking with anger and embarrassment for another second as she continued to ignore my existence, and then I stormed off.  Yes, dear reader, I RAN AWAY from this bullying woman, and found my husband.  “You need to get those sunglasses, because I just can’t, I can’t even…” I stammered. 

He retrieved the sunglasses from the cashier, (later, he told me he had just walked over and said, “I need those sunglasses,” and she handed them over without a word) returned them at customer service and guided us all out, even as I ranted and raved.

“What a fucking bitch,” I said, not caring at all about my language in front of my sons. “I can’t believe that just happened! What the FUCK was her problem?”

“Well, here she is,” my husband pointed her out walking back to her car, “Should I run her over?”

“Yes,” I muttered, but instead I glared at her from the safety of my passenger seat. I couldn’t calm down and kept reliving the confrontation over and over and over. I was angry at the woman for acting like a jerk, but mostly I was angry at myself for feeling so helpless in that moment, for feeling like a child instead of a 40-year-old woman, for not being able to think of a witty or angry retort, for letting her make me feel so furious, for cursing so flagrantly in front of my children, for considering the possibility that she might actually think I was the one that was rude, for not being able to blow off what essentially boiled down to discourteous behavior.

By the time we got back to the house, I was still seething with rage and disappointment in myself.  That was when my oldest son casually remarked, “I actually think what you said was the best thing you could have said.  Because it was calm and showed you weren’t aggravated.”   

As I played through the scenarios of what COULD have been said and how each of those situations could have escalated, I felt slightly better about the reality of the situation. I may be terrible at confrontations, but I guess I’d rather be a wimp than a bully.

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Self-Promotion: New Essay on The Mid!

“As I felt increasing pressure about what I needed to look or act like, I longed to wake up one morning as a boy, throw on whatever T-shirt smelled the freshest, run a comb through my hair (or not) and feel ready to walk out of the house as Ferris Bueller or Marty McFly, convinced I’d be judged on how cool I was, not how pretty I looked. If I could not get to live that fantasy, I’d live it vicariously through my sons.”

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Hair Apparent


As the mother of two young boys, I have resigned myself to certain standard operating procedures regarding their appearance, which, per their preferences, typically include a lot of Minecraft t-shirts, Skylander tighty-whiteys and socks with skulls on them. Although, once upon a time, I had dressed my first-born in collared shirts and plaid short pants, relishing the look of a daintily-dressed prepster, I have accepted the fact that as he has grown, his taste in clothing has became more contingent on a myriad of marginally humorous cartoon characters and video games rated ‘E’ for everyone, eventually passing along those predilections to his worshipful younger brother.  Subsequently, I relinquished my position as fashion director. Or, maybe I just got lazy, as my days of roaming through the Babies R’ Us newborn section, marveling at the level of adorableness that one can find in a pair of teeny, tiny overalls have given way to rushed Target runs that allow me to pick up milk with a side of pajamas.

The one facet of my sons’ facades that I have remained steadfast in my partiality is their style of haircuts. From the day my oldest son was willing to sit still long enough to be draped with a nylon cape snapped tightly around his neck, I have enjoyed the ritual of taking them both to the barbershop. I love the barber chairs. I love the buzz of the clippers.  I love the old, weathered picture on the wall of each standard haircut, as easy to select as a fast-food menu item: “I’ll have a #4 across the top with a #2 on the side”.   I love watching the line of boys and young men sitting patiently as their hair is clipped, creating a scene that could easily be a snapshot from a long-ago decade.

Perhaps one reason I enjoy the ceremony of such an establishment is it represents a recent exposure to a world that has historically existed outside of my own. As the eldest of four girls who endured home-snipped bowl cuts sitting on a wooden stool in my kitchen, I never had cause to frequent barbershops and each time I passed by the door of one, would peer through the glass and ponder.  Barbershops were for boys. Boys who didn’t have to worry about what they looked like. Boys who could get their hair cut short without being judged. Boys, who wore what was comfortable, said what was straightforward and did what was easy.

For me, there was always a perceived freedom in being a boy, which grew more profound as I got slightly older and suffered through typical estrogen-related tribulations: my first period, a training bra, home-perms and blue eye shadow. As I felt increasing pressure about what I needed to look like or act like, I longed to wake up one morning as a boy, throw on whatever t-shirt smelled the freshest, run a comb through my hair (or not) and feel ready to walk out of the house as Ferris Bueller or Marty McFly, convinced I’d be judged on how cool I was, not how pretty I looked. If I could not get to inhabit that fantasy, I’d live it vicariously through my sons.

While it occurred to me they may eventually demand more of a say in the length of their coifs, for the moment, I felt certain the young ages of my boys and associated disinterest in what was probably required to style their own hair on a regular basis gave me a few more years of having my way. This confidence was foremost in my mind as I brought my five-year-old son to the barbershop last week. His hair seemed to have grown in much more quickly than usual, which I attributed to the time of year (summer) and a gradual evolution in the standard haircut that I requested. In recent months, his tolerance for haircuts (along with everything else) had dropped dramatically and required an increasing level of bribery. Since the summer was only half over, I thought it wise to insist on a slightly shorter cut – less upkeep, cooler for the weather, etc, which I did fairly casually.

“Sure,” said the woman barber, draping a cape around my pouty son, “I’ll use a #1 on the sides instead of a #2. That will keep him until school starts.”

Ten minutes later, she brushed the fallen hairs from his shoulders and spun the chair around to face the mirror…which gave me a clear view of my son’s grief-stricken face.

“Too short!” he shrieked, crossing his arms over the top of his head.  The barber frowned even as I smiled apologetically and assured her it was exactly what I asked for.  Granted, it WAS short, but not quite boot camp short, and certainly not the shortest haircut he’d ever had. Still, the transition from a grown-out longer cut to this may have been a bit visually shocking.

“You look great!” I assured him, “Very handsome!”

He glowered and kept his hands over his head as we walked out toward the car. “Too short, too short, too short….” he started to chant as he climbed into the back. “I look bald.”

I rolled my eyes as I looked back at him through the rearview mirror.  “Dude, get over it,” I grumbled, “It’s a haircut.”

Over the next several hours, I attempted to soothe my son’s anguish over the new length of his hair in various ways, each less successful than the last.

“You look older,” I said, “You look like, almost seven.”

“I look old and bald,” he countered.

“Lots of little boys get their hair cut this short for the summer,” I said.

“No one I know,” he said firmly.

“You know Daddy has really short hair,” I tried, “You look just like Daddy.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Look, I’m sorry I had the lady cut it this short,” I finally offered, “I didn’t realize you wouldn’t like it. I won’t have it cut this short again, ok?  But, let’s move on, because it will grow back and in two weeks it will look like it did before.”

“I want to wear a hat to camp,” he demanded.

As much as I wanted to point out to my five-year-old son that he was not being reasonable and rational about this situation…..well, I don’t think I have to finish that sentence.

His major concern seemed to be that everyone at camp (both adults and children alike) would make fun of him for being ‘bald’ and I could not talk him down from this imaginative ledge perched precariously above an out-dated and clichéd nightmare. And although I knew his age would not allow him to intellectualize the absurdity of this vague fear, I had difficulty contemplating how a common boy’s haircut had created such a sense of anxiety and dread.

48 hours later, he continued to refuse to leave the house without a baseball cap pulled down tightly over the tops of his ears and I marveled at his tenacity.

“Did he wear his hat in the pool?” I sighed to the camp counselor as I signed him out the next day.

“No,” she smiled, “But he kept his arms over his head most of the time.”

As dramatic as my son’s reaction to his haircut seemed to be, I realized I could relate. How many first days of school loomed heavily in my mind as I worried about whether my new polos and corduroys would be shunned? How many times did I try to express my individuality (in seventh grade for several months, I wore a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap after reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye’) only to feel a burn in my cheeks relative to the number of snickers I heard behind my back. As much as I wanted to stand out, I couldn’t stand the attention that came with it. My son, who routinely expresses his passionate and creative personality within the confines of our home, but worries about fitting in once beyond the front porch, is obviously cut from the same cloth.

Eventually, it dawned on me that my pre-conceived notions about the carefree nature of little boys were naïve and sexist and my attempts to dismiss my son’s feelings about his appearance were unfair. As five-year-olds go, he’s proven he has more than a casual interest in how he chooses to present himself and within certain parameters, I am willing to support that…..Which is a polite way of saying no pony-tails or mullets.


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Maybe it’s your special purpose…

Reuben: Mom, I can cough whenever I want. Is that a special gift?

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There was no sound, either….

Reuben: Mom, when you were a kid, were Sponge Bob cartoons in black and white?

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Same As Now

Reuben: (while going through my wallet) What is this?

Me: That’s my driver’s license.

Reuben: You look the same!

Me: Thanks! That was taken 7 years ago. So I was only 33.

Reuben: Well, you look 40! Same as now!

Me: Um, thanks.

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