I am at work attending to the needs of my customers when I see a woman and her young daughter being seated in my section. The girl is about 5-years old. I go to the table to greet them. I smile at the little girl and ask them how they are doing.
“We’re good, thank you. My husband will be joining us shortly,” the woman tells me.
I tell them I will be back shortly to take their order and as I am leaving I notice that the girl’s eyes are transfixed on me. It’s not uncommon for children to be mesmerized by the awesomeness of my hair and I think nothing of it. Hell, I have had complete strangers on the subway ask if they can touch my hair and I willingly oblige as long as their hands are clean and they agree to go to my website later that day. After a couple of minutes, the father is still not there so I go back to the table to see if they need anything. As I am reciting the specials, I watch the little girl stare at me, her eyes looking like they are about to pop out of her head with curiosity. She is desperate to look at me, making her neck move in such a way that she reminds me of Regan in The Exorcist. It’s like she can’t stare at me hard enough.
“Gracie, stop staring!” her mother scolds.
It is now that I realize she is not spellbound by my locks, but confused about the rubber bands in my mouth. Yes, I am 49 years old and I wear braces with rubber bands.
“Are you looking at these?” I ask her. With my forefinger, I plink them, making a sound like the saddest ukulele in the world. She nods her head. “I have to wear these so that my teeth will grow straight. They’re called braces.”
“Oh,” she says. “I wear braces on my feet but I’m not wearing them right now. Only at home.”
I smile at her as the mother apologizes for her daughter’s brazen attitude that allows her to say whatever she thinks. It is not a problem, I assure the mother and continue on with the specials. They tell me what they want to drink and three minutes later, when I return with beverages, I can’t help but notice that the little girl is staring at me again. Maybe she has a rubber fetish. But then I realize she isn’t looking at my mouth anymore. It looks like her eyes are focusing on my hair and all is right in the world again, because everyone should always focus on my hair. It’s my strongest suit. She tilts her head with wonder and I can tell she is about to ask me another question.
“Why are your ears all pointy like an elf?”
“Gracie!” hisses the mother as she spins toward me. “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” I say. “It’s totally fine. Gracie? I’ll tell you why my ears are pointy. My Dad was an elf and when I was a little boy, my ears weren’t big enough so he used to pull on them all the time until they got real big and pointy.”
She stares at me in disbelief.
“And now they look like this. Crazy that my dad is an elf, right? But I’ll tell you one thing. It came in real handy at Christmas time.”
Gracie, unsure of what to say next, shrinks back into her chair and finally shuts the hell up. The mother apologizes to me again.
“She’s adorable,” I tell her. “Do you know the movie To Kill a Mockingbird?”
The mom tells me that she knows it very well.
“Well your daughter reminds me of the little girl who played Scout, with her big innocent eyes and eager face. Such curiosity.” I leave out how they both have teeth like a beaver that needs a root canal and how they have identical haircuts that look like they got them from a blind barber with no thumbs who was using a pair of gardening shears for scissors.
“I just love how kids will say anything they want to. It’s what kids do, right?” I continue. “I’ll come back in a bit when when your husband gets here and you’re ready to order.
Little does the child know, she has cut me to the quick. My ears are on my rather long list of things that I am sensitive about and my feelings were hurt just a wee bit. Out of the mouths of babes. Ten minutes later, when the father of the babe has arrived, I go back to the table to say hello. Gracie remains silent but her dad tells me hello. And then:
“Are you wearing braces and rubber bands?”
“How much did those cost ya, like $8000?”
“John!” says the woman. ‘I am so, so sorry,” she tells me yet again.
“It’s okay,” I say. “They were expensive, but when I was a kid, my parents couldn’t afford them. Now that I’m an adult, I can spend my money on whatever I want. Are y’all ready to order?”
It’s one thing for a 5-year old to say whatever is on their mind but when a grown man does it, it just means he’s an asshole. Good luck, Gracie. Now I know where your lack of tact comes from. And the mother should have some business cards printed up that say “I am so, so sorry.”
EDIT: I have removed an reference to actor Geri Jewell which some people took offense to. (By “some people” I mean Barb Chandler who took it very personally in the comment section. Jeez, Barb. If you didn’t like it, all you had to do was bring it to my attention with an email. You didn’t have to be a bitch about it.) It was not my intention to offend Geri Jewell or anyone with cerebral palsy. I simply take every chance I get to refer to The Facts of Life. I’m sorry. And I asked her personally about the joke and she thought it was funny. Also, Barb, you’re blocked. –BW