To the woman who briefly walked past me today at the grocery store,
Yes, I noticed you notice me. I noticed your upturned, scowling mouth, your judgemental eyes, the look of utter disdain upon your face as you took me in and proceeded to scan every inch of my body then spit me out. And yes, I did hear you not so subtly spew out “disgusting” as you made eye contact with me right as we crossed paths. You basically spat the words like venom into my face. Right in front of my child. Oh and yes, those words did hurt.
I was only walking into the shops to buy a basket full of fruit so I could go home and make my son a healthy afternoon snack. I was just trying to be a good mum to my child and you felt the need to verbalise your inner judgements that you made about a stranger that you had literally just laid your eyes upon. I saw you look and try to quickly gather up all that lay before you and bundle it into a neat little package of stereotypes and preconceived notions of the kind of person I must be, the kind of parent I must be, what my marital situation must be seeing as I was there alone as a sole parent. My mind could run in many directions with this; were you also wondering how/why I was there, as white as I am, with a child as dark as I have? I should stop myself right there because I can’t even begin to pretend to know what exact part of the person/s standing in front of you made your face suck in on itself like you just ate a bag of lemons, and I definitely cannot begin to know what part of a mum grabbing groceries with her kid would make you feel so disgusted that you have to exclaim publicly those feelings and thoughts.
All I can say to this is that while working with traumatised children and young people, I took in a wonderful training session that taught me one amazing thing, Hurt People Hurt People.
Perhaps you were having a bad day? Maybe you just lost your job, your husband, had an argument with your daughter? Maybe your card just declined at the checkout or they didn’t have your favourite brand of ice cream, who knows? Maybe your parents didn’t raise you to be open-minded and accepting of difference? It is exact moments like this that reaffirm for me that Oakland HAS to be raised to be kind, open and loving. I don’t want him to ever make another person feel how you made me feel by that very brief moment of passing. Unfortunately, those feelings were not brief. Here I am, hours later and you are still on my mind.
What you didn’t see when you looked at me is a mum who loves her child, devotes herself wholly to her child, struggled to conceive her child, wanted that child more than anything else and who would move mountains just to make him smile. You made your judgements, whatever they may be, without knowing that standing before you was a strong and dedicated woman, an educated and skilled woman, a mum, daughter, sister, partner and friend. You put a mother down right in front of her child. To him, I am his everything, his entire world. I am the funniest person he knows, the prettiest person he knows, his best friend, his protector and provider; I am Mummy. I am just thankful that he is too young to understand what took place right before him today.
After you left, we went home and we sat down together. I nursed him on the couch while we read stories. We painted, sang songs and we laughed. I looked at my son and watched him gaze up at me with a look of utter devotion, pure love and trust. He looked upon me like I was the most beautiful person in the universe, because to him, I am. It is a sad world when a toddler can see beauty that goes beyond skin deep yet a grown woman can’t. My son doesn’t look at me, see tattoos and think “disgusting”. I would like to think that he thinks “yep, that is my Mummy and I am so proud!”, because I am raising him to be a better person than you passed yourself of as today at the grocery store.