Deal Breaker

Well, who would have believed it: no prominent entertainment personalities or political figures have been accused today of sexual misconduct. It’s a holiday miracle.
It’s also only 10 a.m.

All of these recent revelations – Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Roy Moore, George Takei, John Conyers, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose (this list is just off the top of my head; surely I’m missing some) have really been bothering me. Like, a lot. What’s pushed me over the edge is President Trump and the RNC’s triumphant endorsement of alleged child molester Roy Moore… because preventing a Democrat from taking that seat is more important than preventing girls from being assaulted. SWEET BABY JESUS.

The more I consider my exasperation, anger, and disappointment, the more I realize that what really gets me isn’t the terrible actions of these powerful, flawed, egomaniacal men — it’s how everyone around them has handled the knowledge of their disgusting misdeeds.

And when I say “everyone around them,” I mean all of us here in the USA.
All of us. Collectively. We’ve done this.

Obviously, collectively we’ve done this in our daily lives: we have created a society where men harass women on the regular. It is so commonplace, so much a part of the fabric of our tapestry, we often scarcely notice it. Heck, my 10 and 12 year-old daughters have been whistled at, asked by male classmates to hug them despite their protests, and told by boys that, “if you’re really my friend” they would always sit touching one another.

That’s just your basic, entry-level, don’t-bat-an-eyelash harassment; we’re not talking “serious” sexual harassment or assault or rape. We, collectively, have created an atmosphere where this is okay. We have done this.

What we’ve also done is turn a blind eye when sexual harassment occurs. From Hollywood to The Today Show to Congress, producers and reporters ignored the women who shared their stories or paid them off with taxpayer funding. For what? Ratings? Box office bluster? Protecting one’s ego no matter the souls sold?

The entertainers seem to have been particularly ruthless in their endeavors (with those in the know being willfully dishonest). It’s not just them, though. That there are people in Alabama who say that even if Roy Moore assaulted their own daughters, they would still vote for him… because even a children’s sexual predator is preferable to a Democrat… is effing MIND-BLOWING. I’d ask since when women have meant so little, but we know the answer to that one.

And it’s not just Republicans or conservatives, either. The Democrats and liberals who are positively bending over backward to find every possible excuse for how the cases of Al Franken and John Conyers are different than the others – especially in light of “all they’ve done” to help the Democratic cause – is absurd.

The hypocrisy makes me want to tear my hair out. Self-proclaimed “Christians” voting for a child molester. Members of Congress sniping at accused colleagues in the other party while ignoring wrongdoers in their own. Hollywood pretending that it’s a bastion of liberal, enlightened thinking as its members demean, degrade, and terrorize women – those who know pretend it never happened.

This is where we, collectively, come in: by continuing to support these men who behave so disgustingly badly. Whether it’s through our wallets, our retweets, or our election day choices, we as a nation allow these men to say, over and over and over again, that it doesn’t matter what they do so long as we, the people, get what we want elsewhere. Which means that we, the people, send the message – every. single. minute. of. every. single. day – that women don’t matter.

Our nation’s children are hearing this message loud and clear.

It happens every time we refuse to condemn what we know is wrong – every time we say, “It’s his word against hers;” every time we bemoan that women dare to mention something that happened “so long ago;” every time we ponder why women didn’t come forward sooner (because we believe them when they do, right? Because they’re treated fairly and with respect? Because there’s no stigma? No repercussions? HARDY EFFING HAR); every time we decide, “Yeah, he may have done that, but he’s also done X, so that makes it okay…,” we perpetuate the cycle of women being treated like shit. Every time, we tell women – every single one of us – that they do not matter. Or at least, they do not matter enough.

I understand how we’ve gotten to this place –  but how we continue to remain here, in 2017, is mind boggling. What the hell? Seriously – WHAT. THE. HELL.


The solution seems to lie in making sure that once we know what these men have done, we do not support them or provide them a platform.  We trash the magazines with Louis C.K. on the cover. We admit, “Kevin Spacey may have acted the hell out of Kaiser Soze, but he shouldn’t have gotten an Oscar because he is a garbage person.” We lament that Matt Lauer is no longer preening on that couch but agree that he is a piece of filth.

In government? We don’t elect them in the first place. Clarence Thomas (nope, haven’t forgotten him) should never have been selected for the Supreme Court. (I realize we didn’t elect him, but we elected the folks who voted him in – including Joe Biden, whom I deeply respect, but who was dead wrong to ignore the testimony of Thomas’s other accusers.). I don’t care how many of his decisions you endorse – they are crap, because he is wearing that robe on stolen time.

Lest you think I’m out to get conservatives in favor of Democrats: Bill Clinton never should have been elected. I think he served our country well. And I also think, because of his numerous assaults on women, that he never should have been President. WE KNEW what he was… but we elected him anyway. We did that.

Likewise with Donald Trump. Not because of any of the other gazillion reasons for disliking him, but because his abominable predatory behavior should automatically have disqualified him.

You know how when you’re looking to buy a car and you absolutely need seating for eight because you’ve got six kids or you’re the basketball team driver or whatever and the salesperson says, “Check out these shiny bells and whistles! This is the best car ever!” And you’re like, “Those bells and whistles are sweet, but this car only has seats five. I need seating for eight.” And the salesperson is all, “BUT LOOK AT THIS LEATHER! And the rearview camera! And it folds your clothes as you drive!” And you think, “Man, I could really use a clothes-folding car…”

But you absolutely have to have eight seats – it’s a nonstarter, a deal breaker – so you turn it down. Even though it is otherwise your dream car. Even though the only other car on the lot makes your skin crawl. Even if it means you have to walk home with no car at all: you cannot get a car that betrays one of your fundamental requirements. You don’t even consider it.

Donald Trump was our leathery, clothes-folding five-seater car and his refusal should have happened well before election day. “Well, we’ve got this Republican and this Republican and a sexual harasser – oops. That’s one line we can never cross. That’s a deal breaker.” ASSAULTING WOMEN SHOULD ALWAYS BE A DEAL BREAKER.

Instead, we’ve told women that they don’t matter enough. The highest office in the nation is held by a man who openly admitted to groping women without their consent. Why on earth do women think they’ll be heard and valued when the most powerful man in the world behaves otherwise – and he was chosen to represent us?

We did this.

We can also UNdo this. Maybe not for Trump, but from here on out. We can come together to say, “If you have harassed, demeaned, assaulted or preyed upon women, you are disqualified – from office, from directing movies, from hosting television programs. We don’t care what other terrific qualities you may have or what you might accomplish, because your treatment of women renders you unfit for your position. We realize that this may leave us with other folks with whom we vehemently disagree, but hey – they didn’t treat women like shit, and you did, so we’ll have to figure out how to work with them (*gasp*). You literally leave us no choice because we will never choose someone who’s done that. It’s a deal-breaker.”

John Conyers “retired” this week. He did many important and fundamentally good things in his more than 50 years serving this country. He also needed to go, and even though he didn’t call it “resigning,” I’m glad he did. It was the right thing to do.

Now let’s cross our fingers and see how many other politicians follow his lead. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath… and if you’re a woman, bring pepper spray.









My favorite Mother’s Day tradition

Like many moms, I have certain Mother’s Day requests: time with my girls. Time to myself. Something delicious (Starbucks is dandy, thanks). No cooking required. A few nice words. Nick, Ella, and Annie are really good about making sure these things happen; every year, I appreciate their consideration.

In addition to the above, I also ask for something a little unusual: computer time. More specifically, computer time to spend on Facebook, writing messages to every mother on my friends list. This may seem like an odd Mother’s Day request, but it’s actually one of my favorite parts of the day.

Over the years, people have commented on this annual rite of passage. Most are cordial or appreciative. A few are skeptical (“You spend all that time online when you could be outside or reading or laughing with your kids? Isn’t that the opposite of what Mother’s Day is supposed to be about?”). More than a few comment that the messages are “so thoughtful” or something along those lines.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not comfortable with the praise ’cause here’s the truth: I didn’t start this tradition from a thoughtful place. I started it because I felt obligated.

I have a group of mom friends who I “met” through an online message board when I was pregnant with Ella; we all had babies due in December 2004. Eventually, we moved our communications to Facebook, where we continue to “see” one another today (we have also met in real life, but those are crazy stories for another day…). When I first joined Facebook, I was tickled to discover several of my former message board mama friends. Being able to easily keep up with them again was a terrific treat. Hence, in 2009 – my first Facebook Mother’s Day – I decided that I wanted to reach out to these lovely and inspirational gals.

Mother’s Day seemed perfect. After all, in addition to being pretty excellent friends, the very reason that these ladies and I had met one another was through our shared motherhood. Our friendship was made even stronger because we all had children the same age; we’d gone through leaky boobs, sleepless nights, potty training, and the first day of kindergarten – together. As much as anyone on the planet, these women shaped me into the mother I am today through their advice, their friendship, and through how they parented their own children. I wanted to tell them that they were doing a fabulous job as moms and, although it’s sappy and clichéd, I wanted to tell them on Mother’s Day.

That was all: tell a small group of friends I thought they were great. Easy peasy, over and done. When I sat down and began to type, however, I found myself scrolling through my entire list of friends, many of whom are also mothers. Some I didn’t know very well, but with others, I’d see their names and think, “She makes those crazy bento lunches!” or “She’s always at her son’s football games!” or “When her daughter was sick last year, she did a helluva job holding it together.” 

So I thought, I guess I’ll write to those moms, too. And I did. And at first, I felt pretty good, writing messages to the friends whose mother-ing I knew well enough to talk about. But here’s the thing: all of the messages were written on my friends’ walls, which meant that any of their friends could see them… Meaning that the rest of my Facebook mom friends – the ones I didn’t know very well, the ones who don’t post often – could see them, too… Meaning that it would be pretty obvious that I’d picked and chosen to whom I was writing.

So then I thought, Well damn. The whole point of this was to say nice things, not to make anyone feel left out or crappy. I guess I’d better write to every mom on my friends list. Or, in other words, I felt… obligated… to write to everyone.

So I did.
And it was… incredible.

I know that whenever anyone reaches out to me and says something nice, it feels good, so I definitely hoped that my doing so would make people feel good. It did. But there was so much more than that.

Most of the time, I received an acknowledgement – maybe a “thank you.” While that wasn’t why I was writing – I wasn’t looking for recognition at all; I just wanted to make people smile – it was lovely nevertheless.

But then there were friends who were just floored. Some had had a rough Mother’s Day. Others were in a difficult place. Still others had been feeling gross about themselves for whatever reason. The vast majority of the time, I had no idea that any of this was going on; it’s not as much fun to talk about bad stuff as it is to post selfies, you know? When these ladies heard from someone randomly telling them that they were damn fine moms, it caught them off guard – in the best way. They said they felt they could go on. They said they felt good about themselves for the first time in ages.

I’d had no idea; I was stunned.

And then there was the most unexpectedly exciting thing of all: the joining in. I don’t remember why I posted on Friends’ walls instead of sending private messages, but I was immediately glad I did because other friends started adding on. Sometimes, they’d simply “like” my post. Others, they’d write comments telling the friend why she was, indeed, a kickass mother. Either way, these women suddenly had dozens of friends confirming their awesomeness.

It was stupendous.

Women do a really good job of tearing one another down, either overtly (“How can you feed your kids Teddy Grahams? They’re basically toxic” or “You allow PG-13 movies? How… interesting…”) or more quietly (“No, Raphael’s not doing soccer; we refuse to schedule any after school activities because we believe in letting kids be kids”). We whisper behind one another’s backs about everything from eye wrinkles to how often we allow our kids to buy school lunch.

This is nothing new – the whole “Mommy Wars” thing and all. It’s not just moms either, of course; women, in general, can be pretty damned nasty to one another. Yes, we are good friends; we can call on our pals when we need advice or support. We compliment one another on our outfits or our haircuts. We thank people for their help. But in my experience, it’s pretty rare for a woman to say to another woman, “You’re fantastic. You inspire me. Here’s why.”

I include myself in this statement. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true: I don’t often tell my friends that they’re wonderful just for the hell of it. Being so vocal feels… strange. Uncomfortable. Plus, when I’m telling someone that I love how patient they are with their children, the unspoken sentiment (in my own head) is that I’m not as patient. There’s a comparison (again, in my own head) that, frankly, doesn’t always feel so good.

Basically, I avoid saying nice things to other people because it makes me feel bad about myself. Which is pretty neat and not at all embarrassing.

Somehow, on that Mother’s Day in 2009, I was able to break out of my selfish, self-protective bubble, and the response was beyond anything I could have imagined. Turns out, when you say kind things to people (and really mean what you’re saying), people appreciate it. Go figure.

Writing Facebook messages to my mama friends has become a treasured tradition; there is no obligation about it. I wish them a Happy Mother’s Day and, when I know them well enough (otherwise it sounds forced or canned), tell them why I think they’re magnificent moms. Yeah, it takes hours and during that time, I’m not outside or hanging out with my daughters or reading magazines, but the happiness that connecting with these women brings – considering why they’re making a difference, why their kids are lucky to have them, how they inspire me – is incalculable.

It’s pretty hard not to feel awesome while you’re pondering someone else’s awesomeness.

So, if you’re looking for something to do this Mother’s Day, I’d encourage you to tell some moms that you think they’re doing a bang-up job. You don’t have to go through your entire Facebook friends list or your entire neighborhood or even your entire family tree; just pick a mom or two or ten and tell them that they’re fabulous. Be genuine. Mean what you say. Then sit back and revel in the delicious feeling that accompanies celebrating other moms.

I mean, that’s what Mother’s Day is about, is it not?
Although I’m sure as heck not going to turn down any Starbucks or handmade cards or You just sit here and we’ll do the dishes. Life is all about balance, after all. My mother says so.
mama n me
You can bet, come Sunday, I’ll be telling my own mama why she rocks.

Okay, Universe. I’m listening.

This was not the post I’d started to write. I’d meant to talk about something entirely different – and maybe I will tomorrow – but then this thing happened this morning and now I’m writing this instead. Funny how that works. (Then again, maybe the universe just didn’t like my other post. Stay tuned…)

So, I’m at the hair salon, right? It’s (almost) fall and, after letting my dark, winter shade gradually fade out and get much lighter over the summer, I figured that now would be a good time to change it up. In addition to feeling all kicky with a new color, I was also really looking forward to the time just for me, especially gabbing with my stylist, and those glorious, quiet minutes waiting for the color to set. Also, what better place for an impromptu therapy session than at the salon, ladies, am I right?

I’d purposely scheduled the appointment as my stylist’s first of the day, thinking that I’d be in and out and there would be no delays. But when I got there, there was, in fact, a woman already in the chair! Not only that, but she and my stylist were all chatty-chatty, sipping Starbucks and giggling away. When I finally sat down (fifteen minutes late), I was champing at the bit to not only change my look, but also to unload my very important thoughts.

My stylist remembered, the last time I’d been there, that we’d been returning from  Minnesota, and she asked how it went. As she started putting in the foils, I began telling her about that trip and the others, about Bill, about how difficult it had been, going all Good Will Hunting and ready to let the healing begin… And then I learned that her grandmother had just passed away last week, only two days before she (my stylist) was to be in an important wedding – and the wake is tonight, with the funeral tomorrow.

Oh. And I was her first customer today. The lady who’d been in the chair before me? Her aunt. Who’d requested a quick blow-out for tonight’s gathering. And who’d also brought along Starbucks as a way of thanking her niece.

I’ll just wear the I’m a Presumptive Asshole sticker right on my shirt, thanks. YES, UNIVERSE. I HEAR YOU.

So, anyway, I’m finally sitting in the chair waiting for the color to set, right? And I just know that now is the time for me. Now, I will relax. I will read. I will accomplish things. It will be beautiful and incredible and angels will sing.

My stylist has taken her next customer to the sinks – a mother, accompanied by a stroller-bound baby – and I just start to write a blog post (see above) when this unbelievable ear-piercing screech emanates from their direction. The baby’s howl soon turns into a wail – not just crying, not yelling, but a make-your-ears-bleed, life-is-ending, what-do-you-mean-there’s-no-more-chocolate-cake screeeeeaming. It’s so loud, it’s physically painful, and I can’t concentrate on even one word of my narrative, so I sit back and close my eyes, hoping that maybe it will just magically stop.

As my stylist returns to her chair, her customer follows, pushing the screeeeeaming baby along in the stroller. As she sits down, she reaches into her bag and hands the baby a large pretzel rod, which quiets her, and I think that maybe my prayers have been answered… But, no. Not five seconds later, the baby has started again, unleashing yet another unearthly, window-shattering scream.

She’s not wriggling around in her stroller. She’s not hurt. There’s nothing wrong — except that her mommy is getting her hair cut and is unavailable to hold her, which, when you’re a baby, means the world is ending. And it’s your responsibility to let everyone know just how upsetting this is.

I’d needed to use the restroom anyway, so I decide that now is a good time to go, assuming that the closed door will provide some protection from the wailing… and it does, to a degree, but I’ve got to give this kid credit. I’ve heard many, many crying babies, and this kid’s scream is, by far, the loudest, most eye-twitch-inducing – maybe in the history of babies. She has lungs, y’all.

In addition to slightly muffling the screeching, the (subjective) quiet of the bathroom also allows me to hear the conversations of the other stylists and customers, who are standing just outside of the door, a bit away from the mom and the baby. At first, they’re saying just what I’m thinking: “That poor baby!” “She seems really upset!” “She really wants her mama!” “Goodness, she’s loud!

But then, as the screaming continues, their conversations begin to shift: “I wonder why she doesn’t do something about it?” “None of the rest of us enjoys hearing that.” “Can you believe it?” “When my children were little, we never let them behave like that.

Until finally, the shift is complete: “This behavior is unacceptable.” “If she wants to get her hair done, she should leave the baby at home.” “When you’re a mother, sometimes you make sacrifices.” “She should just get up and leave right now.

‘Cause, yeah. That’s how this works.

It’s really easy when you have a baby, right? First off, they always behave exactly as you’d like them to. They are in full control of their emotions and are careful to show excitement at appropriate levels, and, naturally, they never cry in public. They come out of the womb with their bodily functions running like military institutions, peeing and pooping on schedule, which means they never crap through their onesies while sitting on your lap just after you’ve boarded an airplane.

They fully understand when they are, and are not, hungry – and, heck, they can feed themselves really easily (my girls learned to make coq au vin when they were about seven months old; such global palates!) – so they never allow their blood sugar levels to drop, resulting in any behaviors that might be considered impolite or testy. They speak in full, elaborate, metaphor-filled sentences and can clearly communicate their wants, needs, desires, and visions of world peace.

That’s one of the best parts of parenthood, is it not? That there’s never any guesswork when it comes to babies?

They wipe themselves (especially after the 4:04 p.m. poop – that one’s always a doozy!). They neatly rearrange the toys in their cribs, careful to fold the hand-made blanket just so and hang it adorably over the railing. They sleep – well… like babies! – which is to say, brilliantly, always sure to get the requisite twelve hours (straight, of course), then awakening at a perfectly acceptable hour in the morning, upon which they delightfully request their bottles (or breasts) like one might ask for Grey Poupon.

In fact, babies are so simple, being the parent of one is a little like owning an iPhone — everything is bright and shiny, easy to navigate, and they’re so stinkin’ awesome, you want to show them off to everyone you know. Plus, on the very off chance that there’s a malfunction, you can always update them to iOS 7 (although you might want to wait just a few weeks until they work the bugs out).

Best of all, babies — and kids in general — never throw you a curveball. If babies are one thing and one thing only, they’re predictable. As soon as you’ve got them figured out, you basically just hit cruise control and enjoy the ride.

And let’s not forget how easy being the parent of a baby is, shall we? Naturally, you’re well-rested. Your clothing is stain-free (unless you’re a klutz – *raises hand*!). Your diaper bags and purses are perfectly organized, because you’ve never needed to frantically rifle through their contents looking for a set of toy car keys when your baby has become fussy in the middle of the first dinner out that you’ve had in four months, and you just know his favorite toy is in here somewhere.

You almost never have to schedule your life around that of your baby, which is so freeing and open, just like you’re living on a baby commune. If you do prefer to arrange your life around your baby, you can rest assured that your baby will stick exactly to your schedule and will never, ever disrupt it. In fact, when you’re the parent of a baby, your whole day is so wide open, you can do virtually anything you want at any time, especially meet friends for surprise lunches, decide to spontaneously begin marathons of both Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead, keep the house spotless, and go on regular date nights with your spouse.

Because your baby is so independent, you’ve also got oodles of time to yourself – to do things like, say, get yourself a haircut (which means you’re never literally months overdue for a cut and your bangs are so long you’ve already cut them twice yourself with Fiskars and you’re trying to cram the haircut in next Thursday between your six month old’s well-visit and your Mommy and Me class before the older ones get off the bus, but that should be no problem because you have a sitter who is always healthy and doesn’t cancel on you for any reason whatsoever).

Your baby’s perpetually sunny disposition, predictability, and level-headedness also mean that you can continue doing all of the activities you used to do pre-baby. Come to think of it, you’re so calm and even-keeled these days, you no longer need therapy or even a glass of wine in the evenings, because taking your baby out in public is essentially a zen experience. Since babies are welcome in every single setting, virtually everyone – especially older folks and people without children – ooohs and ahhhs over your how very cute your little one is, and you’re never, ever given the evil eye over a parenting choice, nor are you ever made to feel like a leper because you’ve brought your baby along.

But I think the best part of being the parent of a baby is how utterly confident you are in all that you do, and how awesome you feel as a parent every minute of the day. Since your offspring never misbehave, you never have to worry about tantrums while you’re out and about, which, in turn, would lead to everyone around you judging you as not only a parent but a human being. Thank God there are never meltdowns in the middle of the grocery store, because then you’d have to be concerned with that age-old question, Do I stay here and let everyone around me think that I’m a horrible person (which they might or might not say to my face) while also knowing that my child’s screaming is louder than that of a jet engine and is causing hearing loss in everyone within a ten mile radius… or do I pack up and leave everything right where it is and hightail it out of the store, knowing that the window of opportunity for grocery shopping is exactly 23 minutes long, and there is just no way I can come back and finish the shopping even if the baby does magically stop shrieking, and so leaving might result in us eating Ramen noodles and Kosher pickles for the third night in a row?

Yes. Thank sweet baby Jesus you never, ever have to make those decisions.

As I’m washing my hands, I mull all of this over, trying to decide what to do. Given what we know about babies and parenting, this situation is – obviously – the first time anyone in the salon has ever heard a screaming child. Clearly, either the baby is defective, or the mother is doing this parenting thing very, very wrong.

And so, after weighing all of the evidence, I opt for the only solution that seems truly reasonable: I leave the restroom, approach my stylist and the mom and the baby, and ask if it would freak the baby — or the mom — out too much if I unbuckle her from the stroller and walk her around for a while. The mom, who is clearly frazzled, mutters that she’s not sure how the baby would respond… but my stylist immediately chimes in that maybe I can simply wheel her about in the stroller. (Perhaps this would have occurred to me, too, had both of my daughters not thrashed about like addicts undergoing drug withdrawal every time they were strapped in a stroller or car seat.)

I turn the stroller away from the mom and walk a few feet away to the brightly-colored bottles of exorbitantly-priced shampoo and styling gel… and, just like that, the screaming stops. Yes, she’s still sniffling and hiccuping the way that all of us do post-hysterical sobbing, but she’s got her pretzel and her mama is no longer just inches away but unable to touch her, and all is right with the world. Phew!

Sure, I could have said something to those ladies, the ones making the absurd statements outside of the bathroom. I could asked if it occurred to them that maybe this mom hadn’t intended to bring the baby with her, but at the last minute, she had no choice? And maybe she would have rescheduled, but sometimes, finding a time when your stylist’s schedule matches yours is more difficult than balancing the federal budget? And, similarly, perhaps she could have left, taking the baby in tow, but then we’d be back at the whole rescheduling thing, and we’ve already discussed this, have we not? (Then again, they might have had a difficult time remembering what had been said, considering that they clearly could not recall what life was really like when there children were babies, unless they actually had one of the mythical babies mentioned above.)

I could have reminded them that perhaps this baby has never pitched a fit in her stroller before, so there was no reason for the mom to assume that she’d go all I’m melting! What a world! today. I might have let them know that, while parents make countless sacrifices, basic hygiene shouldn’t have to be one of them; just because it’s basically a rite of passage for new parents to walk around for days in the same mystery-stained clothes, and sometimes just brushing one’s teeth seems to require more energy than can be mustered, that doesn’t mean that this mom shouldn’t be able to get a damn haircut every once in a while… even if it means bringing her baby along with her.

I gave serious consideration to pointing out what should have been obvious: that no one was more upset by the baby’s behavior than the mom. Here she is, just trying to get a simple haircut, and her kid unexpectedly freaks out, so now not only is she concerned that her baby might give herself a hernia, she’s also worried that everyone around her is going to suffer some kind of hearing loss. And, of course, any shot at her actually experiencing a quiet and relaxing haircut has long gone out the window.

Okay, to play devil’s advocate… Might this lady routinely bring her child to places where children aren’t usually present? Sure. Might she be one of “those” people who seem to think that they, and especially their children, are more important than everyone else around them? I guess so. Might she have not given a hoot whether anyone else in the salon was having a miserable experience, instead thinking to herself, “Babies cry. Deal with it“? Perhaps. Would that make me less sympathetic to her? Probably.

But here’s the thing: sometimes, shit happens. Sometimes, babies do cry, even the best of babies, under even the best of circumstances. And, to me, there’s a vast difference between a screaming baby whose parent is doing everything she can to rectify the situation — within reason — and a screaming baby whose parent seems oblivious or flippant to both the child’s distress and the distress the child is causing in everyone else. (For the record: this mom was definitely the former.)

Was it pleasant listening to this kiddo wail away at the top of her lungs? Hell no. It was downright painful, quite literally. And, given that I’d hoped to use that time to relax — and given that my salon is generally not full of screaming kiddos — the baby’s shrieks were even more disturbing and stress-inducing. Not fun. Not at all. But at least I was just, you know, getting a haircut, rather than, say, performing brain surgery or attending a funeral or doing something important.

Which isn’t to say that getting a cut and color isn’t sometimes absolutely essential. Like Starbucks lattes. I do have priorities, people.

In the end, I decided that more than telling these women what I thought, I’d show them (and, yes, let’s be honest – I hoped that the baby would stop freakin’ screaming). I’d show them that, kidding aside, parenthood is the hardest gig there is, but that it’s made just the littlest bit easier when we help one another out and show compassion rather than contempt. That whole It Takes a Village thing wasn’t made up by accident.

More importantly, I’d show the mom that she’s not alone, she’s not doing it wrong, and that I understand: being a parent is hard stuff. Sometimes, we all need a little help.

And, hey, by actually helping, instead of baby-shaming in the corner, maybe the baby’d stop crying, and we all – mom, baby, the entire lot of us – would be better off, and helping someone else might feel really, really good.

Turns out, being a presumptive asshole doesn’t really get you anything but a shiny sticker.


Oh, and the color? Autumnal and lovely.