The Kindness of Strangers

My hair has been growing, I’ve mentioned that before. But really, it’s grown a lot. I notice myself in the mirror and get a little excited when I catch my reflection. I feel a little squeal bubble up in my throat (not to be confused with the severe heartburn I get all the time now). I get a lot of nice comments from the people I work with everyday. It’s easy to breeze past the complement when I roll it into a larger conversation regarding everything else that’s going well.

But my hair is actually low key cute now.

Remember Natalie Portman in 2005? Her role in V for Vendetta? We’ve just moved past that look. That look on me was what I called my juvenile delinquent phase. I did not love it. I kept stroking it from the crown of my head to my eyebrows because I was self-conscious, but it was also very soft and pleasant to touch. I wore a head covering at that stage still.

Erin called it a pixie cut the other day. While most people who go into a salon to get a pixie cut will pay for more styling to leave with a pixie cut, I’ve achieved a very similar look all on my own! I did spend an exorbitant amount of money to get this look though, like, six grand in total. Call me bougie.

Now I can brush it and sculpt a pattern into it. So I add some product, (I add product to my hair!) and massage it in, brush it with a soft boar bristle brush to lay flat and follow my natural growth pattern. Its a deep side part on my left side. That alone reminds me so much of me that I… it takes my breath away.

Progress, people. I have come so far. I really look forward to rocking a real pixie cut, one that I pay a stylist to maintain, (not an oncologist) for several years. It makes a lot of sense while mothering two under two. The mom cut. I didn’t get here the stereotypical way. Take that SNL.

Anyway. This post is called kindness of strangers. Let me explain.

On December 1, 2022, I went to the maternal fetal medicine practice. We were moving from room to room and there was a person leaning against the hallway and we nodded a hello in passing. She extended a hand, and told me “I love your haircut!”

I instantly bawled.

I stopped in my tracks and wept while stifling my wailing because this is a full and busy public area with lots of pregnant people sensitive to heightened emotions because of hormones and anxiety. I put a hand on my heart, and reached a hand back out to this stranger and gasped that she had no idea what that just meant to me. Her face was a very surprised by my reaction. And I continued to weep in the exam room.

There was such a flood of distinct emotions that happened in a space smaller than a single fetal heartbeat. Flattery. Gratitude. Realization that the person has no idea that this hairstyle was not my choice, she had no clue what I went through to have this look and feel confident and savvy in it. Then I took a half breath and felt the tears rumbling behind my ears. The sound of joy. I next wondered if I could hold back the full extent of my reaction, but the flood of emotions carried me away, and it felt so good to left them free and ride the wave of happy tears.

I stood weeping into Nicks shoulder, blundering into the ultrasound room. I had alarmed the ultrasound tech because the kind compliment was so innocuous that she didn’t even register it in the hallway. I wiped away tears and more came right away. Nick held me and kindly reassured everyone that these were happy tears; very happy tears. I could only nod and gasp for breath. Finally I calmed down a bit and I took the hug that my ultrasound tech offered. I think she was looking for reassurance from me more than she was reassuring me.

The crying ebbed and I took deep breaths. I joked that it was good we already had my blood pressure measured, it was healthy and normal earlier. Now my heart was racing with joy and humility and gratitude but also pride… and just from gasping for air between sobs. We moved on to take measurements of my baby girl.

She’s perfect. As always. 4 pounds. Sitting head down, low in my hips. Kicking. Breathing like a champion. Waving. Wiggling toes. All the body parts in the right place, but a little cramped. We needed her to stretch, so I arched my back a bit and inhaled deeply. She cooperated immediately. I held Nick’s hand and squeezed when I felt particularly glad.

The next day was the grumpy day when I was supposed to get the 3 hour glucose test done, but didn’t because I mistakenly ate breakfast. I went directly to Dr. Mechtler’s appointment where he suggested I go very light on carbs today and try again tomorrow morning. So I grumpily treated myself to Panera, and ordered a dumb salad with extra dumb chicken, stupid boiled egg, and annoying avocado. For protein and fats to make sure I felt full. I also opted for a disappointing apple on the side instead of delicious baguette.

I got it, sat down, looked inside and it didn’t have any avocado. I had paid extra, so I passed by a woman happily bussing tables and greeting customers and asked the line manager to add my avocado to the salad. I stomped back to my table and dressed my salad alone at my table. Now, I enjoy eating alone in public, call me crazy, but it is a wonderful way for me to break up my day and feel peaceful. Luckily today, it allowed for that same cheerful woman to speak to me.

She asked if I knew that since they messed up my order, I get a free treat. Would I like a pastry or a cookie? A similar urge to cry instantly filled me up. Damn hormones. This kind stranger was reaching out to me to make sure I was taken care of. I swallowed hard and shook my head. I told her that I would love nothing more than a cookie, but I can’t. She asked why, and I could not reply or look at her because I was so choked up by her kind offer and cheerful energy which contrasted my sadness and low-carb resentment. She must have seen the struggle in my silence and responded for me: “its the sugars, isn’t it?” I nodded and looked down at my dumb freaking salad and apple. She asked if I wanted anything else. I let out a breath and asked if I could have a drink. She handed me a cup and I got an unsweetened iced tea.

I swear she would have hugged me if we weren’t in a crowded Panera and if it hadn’t looked like I would break down into sobs in her embrace. I couldn’t look directly at her for fear of a very public breakdown. I bet her hugs are excellent though. You don’t get to be that thoughtful and kind and perceptive without having an outstanding hug to accompany that personality.

So, the kindness of strangers. Pay a compliment. Pay it forward. Be kind to someone today. There’s a famous person who says that on daytime TV, Ellen DeGeneres? I’ve always thought it fitting that she includes kindness into her brand and her surname sounds like generosity. Anyway.

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