Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When Angry Meets Angry

It takes very thick skin to take four small children shopping when you are eight months pregnant. Nevermind the physical aches and pains, the comments and gawking is enough to make even the most confident want to run screaming from wherever they are. Little stingers such as "So, you're done, right?" or "All they all yours?" make me feel like a circus sideshow. And it is not like we are trying to grab attention. The kids usually behave fairly well - but the sheer volume of our presence is enough to move bystanders to commentary.

As you might imagine, I have been in no mood to deal with the attention. I just want to move quickly and efficiently into and out of the places we frequent, avoiding all pregnancy/baby/large family-related conversation until I feel physically stronger. So I have taken pains to make sure that we get all of our running around done while the big kids are at school and we usually make it out of the public eye without notice. Until yesterday...

A heavily aged woman pushed a loaded shopping cart near us in the grocery store. She stopped near us where I assumed she was looking for similar fare. All of a sudden I heard her voice pointed at me, "That's quite a family you have there." I looked down at my two youngest kids with their sparkly eyes and their soft little blonde heads and smiled at her in agreement, "Yes. And this is only half of them." She stared venom at me. "Do you mean to tell me that you are expecting your fifth child?" Oh, hell, I thought. This isn't a compliment. I felt the flush of anger, pain, rage rush to my cheeks as I chose my words carefully. "Well, yes," was all I could muster. "Well, you must want a large family," she scoffed. "God wants us to have a large family. Plus, they are wonderful kids," my flight response dying quickly as fight quickly started to kick in. Her, "You must be Mormon." Me, "No we're Catholic." Her, "Well I am glad you can afford them." Me, "Well, who can really afford them? If you wait for that, you'll never have any." Her, (nasty laughter) "Well, good luck to you." Me (screaming) "WE DON'T NEED LUCK!"

As furious as I was that someone could actually insult my children and lifestyle choices in front of me, I just wondered what brings a person to the place where they are so angered by the presence of a happy, well-adjusted family? What is it that moves people to be so aggressive as to make a public spectacle out of someone who was otherwise just trying to mind her own business? Have I ever done that to someone? If I have, whoever you are, please, please forgive me. It's awful.

And of course, in the moment, word always fail me. When cornered, I usually resort to either shouting, tears, or a combination of both. Never calm articulation. But in this case words probably wouldn't have worked anyway. I probably just sent that woman on her way with the calm assuredness that I was too unstable to handle minor confrontation without screaming my head off. And you want to know what? She's right.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Give me her name and number - I will give it to your Dad and he will take care of her! If he had been with you, she wouldn't have been left standing.

Anonymous said...

i would have told her to step the f' off, then i would have poped a cap in her ass.

Sharon Kieffer Steele said...

I am heartened by all of the acts of violence against the elderly. Really. I am. :)

Angie said...

It amazes me that some people think they have the right to be so rude and spew their ignorance on the innocent. I am one that is always without words in the moment and then wish for a do over. It sounds like you handled yourself just fine. One would hope that she went out to the car, realized what a asshole she was and then felt great remorse....you never know. Any cleaver or hostile banter would have been wasted on her anyway...as my dad always says, "you can't argue with an idiot", and that is obviously what you were dealing with. Either way, you get the last laugh....your family is beautiful!

Sharon Kieffer Steele said...

Thanks Ang! "You can't argue with an idiot." Absolutely hilarious. I will definitely be using that from now on.

Emily J. said...

Oh Sharon, if it makes you feel any better, you are not alone! Most comments people make are the "you've got your hands full" variety. But one, lone, triumphant time I was over the top filled with glee when I got to borrow your husband's line to retort to a particularly rude overpopulation comment - "Well, my kids will be paying your social security!"

Sharon Kieffer Steele said...

Emily, do you want to know what is funny? Grant used that same retort to a particularly obnoxious coworker a couple of years back. They must be on the same wavelength. I have never had the nerve to use it. You go! Did it feel good?

Anne said...

I had to comment on this one as well. Just as you get the comments about having 4.75 kids, I get them for only having one. "Oh, were you not able to have more?" or "Poor kid. He will be so lonely" or my personal favorite "Oh man, you don't want an only child. They can be terrible." (that was the only time I was fast enough on my feet to respond with...Well, that explains what's wrong with me.) It is incredible how people don't seem to mind giving their opinions on this particular topic.

Like someone else said, your family is beautiful and you manage them with seeming grace. Good for you. And Grant is right, your kids will be paying for my social security. So here is what I say "Thank you!"
xo
Anne

Emily J. said...

Hey Sharon - It WAS Grant - your husband, not mine - who told us the story of his great comeback. Just want to give credit where credit is due!

Betty Beguiles said...

I feel your pain. I can never summon a worthy response when I need one. Sometimes I'll try to plan ahead and will actually spend time rehearsing witty, holy, charitable comebacks. LOL! They never sound natural coming out of my mouth though. Maybe vitriol just suits me better. ;)

Therese Jacobs said...

This post had me laughing in tears. Whenever I'm by myself and I get those crazy, silly comments, I always announce, "Well, you haven't seen my husband. He's SUPER handsome." Or, just for fun when I have all five, I love to see them get worked up when I say, "and this is only half of them!" Hee hee. Oh what fun to tease those who fail to appreciate the fun of children!

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