The reluctant growing-up


 What’s there not to like about a relaxing Sunday afternoon at the park? but what makes it even more awesome is if you have a book to read and an ice-cold milkshake to sip. I did my usual hunt for the most generous tree and claimed its cool shade, ceremoniously laid out the music player & kindle on the wooden bench and snuggled in to read. There was not a human in near sight or sound, just birds and rustling leaves to keep me company. I flipped to my last-read page and in an instant was merrily lost in the sorcery of words.

Don’t know how long it must have been, but looked up and spotted a kid and her mom walk my way. But by now, the author of the book had me at his next word, so I involuntarily snuck back to my last sentence, abandoning people-watching. However, I had to stop reading when my peripheral vision caught the little girl sit down at the other end of the bench, and seconds later she was intently staring at me. To put her at ease, I let out one of my ‘friendly smiles’ and a hello, instead it clearly made her nervous and in a knee-jerk response turned her head the other way. A few more curious glances from her, in a few more seconds. I could tell her attention was on some specific thing on my face, just wasn’t sure what it was.

Her mother reached closer to the bench with a toddler in the pram. The li’l girl got up, walked up to her mom and said something softly in a low voice. The mom straightened up, looked my way and gave out a faint smile and nodded. Well, what was it? did I grow a milkshake moustache! or perhaps I got lipstick on my teeth again?

‘Hey’, I said robotically intending to go back to my book right after. ‘Hey there’ the mom replied and walked towards the bench continuing ‘my daughter said that you have curly hair like hers’. ‘Oh yes that’s right, we both have curly hair! I chimed in with the suspense resolved. ‘I love your curls’ I added. The little girl still shied away looking down. ‘I really think they are pretty’ I wasn’t giving up. The mom nudged her daughter and said: ‘See, she thinks your hair looks pretty’ and turning to me added, ‘She’s been recently complaining how she hates her curly hair. She wants “something neat”. Not sure if her friends gave her that idea’. My heart sank; here was a barely 7 or 8 year old, believing that her gorgeous curls were messy and something to be gotten-rid of.

I got up, walked closer, ‘you know what, my hair gets messy too at times.. just like yours.. but I don’t ever want to change my curly hair. It’s mine’. ‘So, you’re saying you like your curly hair? the mom tried to drive home the point to her daughter. ‘Not just like, I LOVE my curly hair’ I said with a straight look at the girl, playing my part. Breaking her long silence the li’l girl said ‘My Dad has curly hair’. ‘Mine too, I got it from my Dad’ I echoed grinning and reached out for a high-five. After an exchange of cordialities with the mother, it was time for them to leave. The mother wanted a picture of the two of us, the “girls with curls”. I was camera-shy, the kid was still awkward.. but we both rhymed ‘go curly hair’ as we posed to the mother’s click.

I couldn’t stop pondering what could have made a 7 year old feel bad about her own hair. I reassured myself that she would grow out of it in a few years’ time, that’s part of growing-up, isn’t it. Pretty soon, she’ll realize that her curls are both the best and the worst thing that happened to her and she’ll love every bit of it! When I was thinking of going back to my reading, my train of thought landed me right on a moment when I was posing for the picture, few minutes earlier. There I was trying to tell a kid she ought to love everything about her and yet I hadn’t gotten over my ‘I hate me in photos, I’m not photogenic’ crap. I had never stopped cribbing and accusing the camera of stealing my usual earthy sexiness 😉

I had some serious growing-up to do as well. It was high time I loved my forced, terse smiles in photos…they were after all mine. So now here’s a grown-up me ready to say a big yes to pictures! But, no no..this yes is not for selfies..not there yet! That ‘growing-up’ can wait for another decade.

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