This story is entirely true, and some people’d say I shouldn’t be repeating it because it’s just embarrassing.
But, it’s consolation to any mother who’s ever suffered any form of public humiliation for the sake of her calling: motherhood.
Another reason I tell this story is to let you know that when you’re a mom of little kids, things change (in some ways you’d never imagined) but they don’t stay that way forever.
So, I had a little run in with Oprah’s stylist in the mall. Long story short, he insulted my “do.” Publicly.
When I had little kids, hair, make-up and color coordinated apparel no longer trumped my list. Which is pretty obvious by this story because I stood toe to toe with the man for a full three seconds before he let me know exactly what he thought about my hair (and it wasn’t complimentary). But I learned something so valuable that it's worth the humiliation of re-telling the story.
As a mom of little kids, I placed some aspects of my personal life on hold--temporarily. I made that choice. And I also made the choice that no would make me feel bad about myself or my choices unless I let them because I live in the real world. I’m not Oprah; I’m a mother.
But, when I became a mom, life changed. Clothes, make-up, hair? Ain’t nobody got time for that (beyond complying with the laws for public decency).
I counted it a good day when I showered and picked up a comb, much less ran it through my hair. If you happened upon me two days in a row, and I looked like I hadn’t changed clothes, it’s because I probably hadn’t.
I hadn’t always been that way. Pre-kids, I wouldn’t ever have considered crossing the threshold of my abode without full vanity gear. But, that changed when I became a mom.
I had to make a decision, like so many of us do. This is where my life is right now, and I've got nothing to be ashamed of. So, when someone--no matter who it is--offers a less than flattering opinion of me, I get to decide what to do with the information and how to respond. I am a mom.
Which is exactly what I did the day I ran into Oprah’s stylist in the mall.
I'd decided to dart into the mall to grab a tube of mascara after running errands one Saturday morning when I lived in the Chicago area.
Wouldn't you know it? The mall was packed. Once inside, I strategically meandered my way to the make-up counter, hoping to quickly grab a silver cylinder of lengthening magic and leave . . . except they keep the mascara locked up like spray paint at Walmart. Annoying. I was in a hurry.
Finally a haze of people in black smocks floated my way. Just as I was poised to ask this guy to grab me a tube of the smokey long lasting, he looked at me and blurted out, "Cute haircut . . ."
As a haggard mom over 40, compliments (except from my endearing husband) were few and far between. Naturally, I was momentarily flustered. Before I could bat my eyes and gather my wits about me, he added nonchalantly but LOUDER, "It'd look even better if you'd combed it.”
Then with a dismissive flip of his hand and a slight lisp, he added, "Oh, I'm Oprah'th stylitht so I just thay whatever I want thometimes."
After sorting his words, I started processing at nano-speed. . . Oprah. . . Oprah's stylist. . . in mall. . . MY HAIR. . . combed. . . LOUDLY. . . people. . . watching. . . oh. . . no. . . he. . . didn't. . .
He dissed my hair! I'm not Oprah. I am a moth-er with 5 children at home. This is a good day.
Part of me tried to make sure I'd heard him right, and the other part fought back the urge to take a jab at his eye. I got kind of sweaty and didn't know whether to laugh, cry or crawl inside a rack of clothes and hide.
But then, something strange happened. Calmness gripped me. My years in the trenches with five kids paid off. Grace under fire. I smiled--not a nervous, twitchy grin-- a genuine smile. (I also smiled because I thought I might be on hidden camera.) Then I thanked him. For the compliment.
Yes, he did insult me, but when I became a mother, I realized that life was no longer about me. Suddenly I had a litany of responsibilities that trumped my self-centered musings. I had a more important tasking: training kids to become decent human beings and contributing members of society.
So in the overall scheme of things, hair and make-up were real low on my list. If I’d had to rank order priorities at that time, it would’ve looked something like this:
It’s not that my personal appearance meant nothing to me. I wanted to look just as good as the next gal. I’m saying that when I had more important endeavors—like the development of little people-- on my list, personal appearance didn’t take priority.
And, sometimes people took note, but rarely was anyone bold enough to say anything about it. Most people that I knew looked just like me.
So, I decided back then that when someone tries to put me down, I've got two choices:
- I can view their comment as a hard and fast truth.
- Or, I can view their comments as their opinion.
Viewing their comments as their opinion saves me a whole lot of grief and keeps me on
task. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. What really matters is how I respond to it.
The sooner I embraced motherness and accepted these principles, the easier life became:
- The world is full of difficult folks who may not approve of how I choose to do things.
- I'm going to run into them sometimes, and they may let me know.
- I won't let difficult people determine how I feel about myself or anything else.
I'm far from unflappable. I'm a work in progress, and I have to accept that some people may not like the way I look, dress, talk, parent, drive, or style my hair.
But they don't define me or my opinion of myself.
As my kids grew older, my priorities shifted. Clothes, hairstyles and make-up come in and out of fashion, but raising healthy, happy kids never goes out of style.