I was standing in line at the store, when I noticed the woman behind me had a purple Mohawk. Not the obnoxious color of purple that you spray on at Halloween or at sports games in team support, but a shade of lavender. It was a hue that suggested a lot of thought went into the decision.
What caught me off guard was that the woman looked to be my same age. I haven’t seen many women who shave off their hair voluntarily. It’s been my experience that women only do it because of cancer treatment or in support of someone going through cancer.
This woman was rockin’ the look. She owned it. How did I pick up on this vibe? She chose to wear a matching lavender dress to compliment her row of hair, and that also showed off the mosaic of tattoos across her back, chest, arms, and legs.
Don’t stare. Don’t stare. Don’t stare.
I kept repeating this mantra silently, but to restrict any gawking was practically painful. It was a meditative workout not to overtly stare. I failed twice when I tried to appear as if I was gazing at the beautiful luminescent lights in the distance of the store, allowing my eyes to drop and scan her quickly.
There was so much going on all over her skin, it was like searching for the hidden pictures in the Highlights Magazine that I obsessed over when I was a kid. I’m awesome at seek and find searches. I can spot Waldo in under five seconds, and this woman’s body was the ultimate challenge.
Breathe. Act casual. Be cool. Maybe not lavender Mohawk cool, but it’s all in the attitude.
It was my turn to check out, and after I unloaded my items, I was greeted with a cheery hello from the cashier. The clerk was clearly as man, but wore bright red lipstick, a short dress, and his nametag read, “Lulu.” Again, a bit out of my sphere of typical experiences.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I should wear a sign that says, “World’s rudest person. I WILL stare.”
Standing there frozen, I thought of all the hubbub in the news lately, and what came to me was what Jesus continually repeated.
It’s not that complicated.
I smiled and engaged in polite conversation about my successful shopping experience. Yes, I did find everything I was looking for, thank you.
In our brief conversation, I noticed how Lulu had grown his hair so that he could curl it slightly on the ends. His arms were extremely thin, and I worried if he was getting enough to eat. His body was narrow, his features angular. We were the same height, but he was tiny in comparison. He had bad posture where his shoulders rolled forward, as if he was caving in, or trying to take up even less space in the universe.
Having three teenage sons, I thought about how difficult, or painful, it must have been to grow up being so different from your peers. My boys are developing into big young men, with the weight and heft of linebackers, and their wish is still to blend in and disappear in the hallways at school. What must life have been for this individual that identified himself as Lulu?
As I left the store, my grandmother came to mind. She was an incredibly prim and proper lady. Her appearance was always impeccable. One of my memories of her, is when she was sitting on a bench in a mall, watching the people go by, and said, “I’m ready to die.”
It wasn’t that she was ill or in pain, but life was getting too much for her to handle. Things were changing too fast. She was born in 1906, and by the mid 1980’s, it was all too overwhelming. Punk was in, which horrified her. Nothing was familiar. She wasn’t only old, she felt out of date. Her bubble no longer felt comfortable.
Going to my next errand, my mind was still far away, when I nearly plowed into an elderly woman that had to be in her mid-seventies. Her jean jacket featured cut off sleeves which showcased the tattoos all over her arms. She wore black biker boots, and had long white hair that reached to her lower back.
However, what truly stood out were the multiple piercings sparkling in her ears. One earring had a chain that draped across her cheek, connecting to the piercing in her nose. I didn’t know a Hell’s Angel granny existed.
I’m ashamed to say that I literally gasped.
In a panic to overcorrect my rudeness of once again standing there with my eyes bugging out, I stuttered a pathetic compliment about the dog she had in a carrier. The little, shivering, once white, but now dyed, hot pink, five pound poodle. A. Hot. Pink. Poodle.
I escaped to the next isle to recover and take it all in. Ok, God. What is it that you want me to learn from all this? All these encounters are not a coincidence.
The answer? Experience life and don’t be afraid of it. Don’t shy away from the different. There are things to learn outside your comfort zone.
I spend the majority of my life dreaming and creating plots in my imaginary world. If I put three characters into a story, that were identical to the ones that I had just met in real life, it would be too farfetched even for fiction. Real life can be so much more than anything we dream up.
There are opportunities everywhere, every day, to show love and kindness, in this strange, beautiful, wild and diverse world. What my grandmother didn’t realize, was that the really interesting stuff happens outside the bubble.
If I was so curious, I’m sure the woman with the lavender Mohawk would have explained some of her tattoos. I should have commented on the intricate and lovely designs. I’m going to do more than smile next time at Lulu. He needs a kind word. And I could kick myself for not taking the time to strike up a conversation with the elderly biker woman. What on earth did she name her hot pink poodle? That one is going bug me.
No matter how we look on the outside, we are all a work in progress, and all need the same thing…love.
The lesson and challenge in life is to simply show love.
May 9, 2016