Sometimes I feel so defeated by my circumstances. I think I am one way, then I round a corner and unexpectedly the truth confronts me.
Our plan for the day was to go to Winners and get the kids some pyjamas, then get some lunch. Then we'd go to the 5th Street shops to play in the toy store for a bit, get an ice cream cone, and find a birthday present for my mother.
We were in the posh hand-poured chocolates store, choosing our ice cream cones. The girl behind the counter had black and pink hair, piercings and a complex tattoo up the entirety of one arm. Throughout the whole process of gazing through the glass, helping my five-year-old read the labels, and choosing what they wanted to have, the server was putting across waves of disdain. There was palpable scorn, covered with the thinnest-possible veneer of civility.
Unfortunately it takes me a few minutes to recognize rudeness when it comes my way. I don't know why this should be: whether it's because I am in a pleasant world of my own, or if it's because I expect others to extend the same courtesies to me as I do to them. In any case, after I paid, thanked her, handed the kids the ice cream, and was pocketing my wallet I realized that the complicated tattoo I had noticed before was in fact an illustration from Dr Seuss' "Oh The Places You'll Go!" I was about to compliment her on it when I saw her send a freezing glance in my daughters' direction then roll her eyes at a coworker before turning away without a word.
Why the disdain of a total stranger should undermine me so completely, I have no idea. Why it matters what she thinks of me and my children, I don't know. Maybe she got me at a bad moment, already tired and a little frustrated with managing the kids' excited day, and what I mistook for scorn was actually indifference.
That, actually, might even be worse.
Anyhow, whether it had anything to do with me or not, I felt like what I suppose I actually am: a harassed, tired-looking woman dressed more for comfort than fashion, with minimal makeup, pushing back those strands that always escape from the hairclip, two small ragtag children in my wake, and maybe a few days past that critical moment when I really should have shaved my legs.
There's not much point dwelling on it. I am what I am - it's been a long time since I was 22 years old, with pink hair and no stretch marks.
I felt this irrational urge to shout at her "I LIKE your tattoo! I LOVE your tattoo! And your pink hair? I LOVE your pink hair! Inside this unimpressive and possibly frumpy exterior beats the heart of a ONCE-COOL CHICK just like you!"