When I think back over various events in my life, I often end up spending quite a bit of time strolling down memory lane. From the downright hilarious to the absolutely gut wrenching, I have had so many experiences etch an honorary and seemingly permanent place in my mind. Earlier today, I was randomly reminded of an experience I had many years ago. While I can look back and laugh now, it was hardly funny at the time. In fact, the scenario left me lost for words and sincerely mortified.
The interesting thing about this particular memory is that it was one of the very few times I can recall being embarrassed. Now, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I rarely do or say things that genuinely leave me feeling that way. If anything, I am usually embarrassed for other people. Well, I guess you can say the story I’m about to tell you fell precisely into this category, only this wasn’t a case of an adult behaving badly. No, this was a matter of a child sharing his own brutally honest (not to mention humiliating!) observations. Beforehand, I had heard that kids say some of the craziest things, but this really took the cake for me.
Back in college, a friend and I were regular nannies for two children. Out of all of the jobs I’ve ever had, that one was an obvious favorite. The pay was actually pretty good (we’re not talking babysitting wages either), the schedule gave me plenty of time for studying, and best of all, we were technically our own bosses. For the most part, both sets of parents were awesome to work for and quite laid back, so on-the-job stress simply wasn’t a thing.
We worked out of one of the children’s homes, which was the most inviting and comfortable house—ever. Mornings were spent getting the baby dressed, serving breakfast and planning out the day. Days were filled with activities of all sorts. We sang songs, read books and completed countless educational crafts and projects. Monday through Friday, my work week was a total blast. I loved being apart of the children’s lives. It was such a blessing to watch them grow up and be able to teach them so many new things each day.
Some of the most memorable experiences with the children occurred during our “field trips”. With their parents’ permission, we were allowed to drive both children around in order to expose them to different things. From aquariums and museums to parks and restaurants, there weren’t too many places those kids didn’t see! Though we didn’t go often, my friend and I would sometimes head to the local mall or Target in order to pick up items for the kids. It was nice to go searching for games or art supplies in the early morning hours when crowds were sparse.
Lucky for us, the children were always perfect little angels during our outings. Come to think of it, they were perfect angels at all times. The baby never, ever fussed and the older boy, “Chris”, never had to be told twice to put his “listening ears” on. They would sit in restaurants for an hour or more and be happy as clams. Meanwhile, their beastly young counterparts could be seen raising hell, throwing the worst tantrums you ever did see. *sigh* I can only hope my future kids turn out to be half as well-behaved as those two boys were.
On one particular outing with the kids, my friend and I decided to check out a Ross store in the next town over. I wish I could remember what we were there for…I’m assuming clothing (we often liked to purchase things for the children just to be nice). We had to have found whatever we were looking for because there were quite a few items that needed to be purchased once we were finished—I had a few things and so did my friend. Making our way towards the cash registers, I pushed the baby in his stroller while my friend led Chris by the hand. This was usually the arrangement even though we never actually had a formal understanding of who would be responsible for watching which child. I never minded though; that baby was so cute it killed me.
My friend got in line in front of me as I fumbled around in my purse looking for my wallet. Preoccupied, I could vaguely hear my friend say “hello” to the person who was working at the cash register. The man returned the sentiment and began ringing up my friend’s items. Well, at least I had thought it was a man. When I finally got myself together enough to see what was going on in front of me, I was shocked to see that the cashier wasn’t a man at all, but a woman.
I immediately felt sorry for having mistaken her for a man based on her voice alone. Her voice was so deep and gritty that I never would have expected anything different. Yet, as my friend gathered her bag of purchased goods and allowed me to step forward in line, I was able to get a closer look at the cashier. It was a man. I mean, biologically speaking. Believe me when I say that I have absolutely nothing against anyone who identifies themselves as being apart of the LGBTQ community. When I describe what I saw, I hope no one thinks I am poking fun at this individual because I am definitely not. I simply have to illustrate what I saw so the events that transpired next make more sense to you.
That being said, I am not sure if the cashier was in the middle of transitioning, simply cross dressing or what, but if they were trying to successfully pass as a woman, it was not doing the trick at all. They had a very broad and stocky build, but wore a skintight glittery dress. Their platinum blonde wig was crooked (never mind their dark hair poking through) and their makeup did a poor job covering up the facial hair. Overall, everything was overdone—the pink lipstick was too bright and the jewelry was a bit too gaudy. It genuinely looked like their very first time dressing in women’s attire, so I’m sure you can imagine the lack of finesse their ensemble had. The entire thing looked a like a costume. And then there was the Adam’s apple.
Honestly, I had never been in a situation like that before, so I instantly became nervous. What if I accidentally did something to offend them? I didn’t want to look at them too much or too little. It was very obvious that the cashier was not a natural born woman, but I didn’t want to do anything that would let them know that I knew because I would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them feel uncomfortable. I greeted them as I would anyone, but I caught my friend giving me “a look” as they rang me up. She had clearly noticed that there was something different about our cashier. And from the puzzled look that Chris had on his face, she wasn’t the only one.
Waiting for the cashier to ring up my items, I watched Chris as he stared at them in complete silence. First of all, if you knew this kid (even now), he is a talker. I don’t care where we went or what we did, he was always the life of the party. At the time, he was about four or five, so everything was exciting and newsworthy to him. He’d talk about a blade of grass growing if you let him, so seeing him standing there with his mouth completely shut was a rare event indeed. He kept squinting his eyes at the cashier as though they were the sun. He barely even moved! Til this day, I have no idea what I had thought he was doing as he gawked at the cashier. Whatever it was, I never expected him to do what he did next. I simply wasn’t prepared.
Thrusting his little arm high into the air, Chris pointed directly at the cashier’s face, looked at me and exclaimed, “Ummm….that’s a man!”
I gagged. All of the customers around us stopped talking as I felt several pairs of eyes suddenly dart in our direction. Someone even laughed. Humiliated, I didn’t dare look up at the cashier. Instead, I looked pleadingly at my friend, hoping our adorable tiny companion hadn’t truly said what I thought he had. When I saw that her face had gone stark white and was twisted in horror, I knew without a doubt that he’d said it. He’d really said it. He didn’t even say it as though he was surprised or unsure of himself either. No, no, he’d observed the cashier waayyy too long for that; he was quite sure of himself. His tone of voice was more akin to him having uncovered the location of the Holy Grail…as though he was telling us something we were totally unaware of—including the cashier!
I have a tendency to almost blackout when I’m put in a super awkward situation, so my body automatically went into damage control mode while I mentally ran off to hide under an imaginary rock. Aside from being concerned about the cashier’s feelings and embarrassed out of my mind, I was deathly afraid that Chris would repeat himself if we ignored his “discovery”. Luckily, it was my friend who helped eliminate the risk of Chris causing a big(ger) scene. Finally, coming to her senses, my friend let out a shrill and exaggerated, “What?!” Nervously laughing like a madman, she then pulled Chris away from the line and pretended to have seen something interesting near the exit.
My friend always had this funny habit of pretending to be completely deaf anytime someone said something she full well heard. I’m guessing it was a coping mechanism that bought her more time to figure out what to do or say next. People were usually pretty confused by her acting like she desperately needed a hearing aid, so they’d either look at her like she was batshit crazy or change the subject altogether. She mostly did it with adults, but that time, it worked pretty well on Chris. Although I heard him say something like, “But that is a man,” he was saying it directly to my friend and not practically screaming it in the poor cashier’s face.
Of course, I was left alone to check out (and deal with the mess Chris had created). My face burned hot and I scarcely knew what to do with myself. I think I stuttered my way through an equally embarrassing apology that included the phrase “kids say the most ridiculous things”, along with a profuse string of I-am-so-sorries. It’s so weird, but I actually don’t remember the cashier’s reaction to the whole thing. I was so flustered that I could never find the courage to look them in the eye. I felt absolutely horrible, but what else could I do? Here I was bringing some kid to the store who completely outed him! I mean, the Barbie hair wig sorta did it first, but that is hardly the point.
By the time I was handed my bag of items, I basically sprinted out of the store. Not thinking, I had completely forgotten about my friend and Chris waiting for me near the front door, so I just made my way to the car. It wasn’t until I’d reached the parking lot that I realized I’d left them both behind! Honestly, it’s a miracle that I didn’t leave the baby when I fled. That was seriously the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful!