I was coming home from a week long trip in Belgium. I had been traveling for hours, and was a bit harried, hungry and trained-out. When I arrived at my halfway mark, I decided to take a bathroom break and respite to breathe and put down 3 heavy bags.
Thank God for bathrooms!
After a tinkle, I looked around the large space. I had just spent the week, amoungst other things, helping clean lots of toilets at a retreat center.
And while I have respect for Everyone, I felt an even deeper commraderie now for the woman charged with maintaining this sacred space.
And then I went to wash my hands, and got a look at my hair.
Now ladies, if you’re travelling long and get a bathroom break, you’re going to take a moment to fix yourself. Maybe wipe running makeup from under your eyes, maybe pop a shot of lipstick, and definately–well, if you’re me–you’re going to touch the hair.
Now, I don’t have straight, or flat hair (does that sound like an insult? Not intended. I only mean, my hair and gravity are not on speaking terms), and all that walking and sweating and shuffling bags made my hair decide to take a strike and get more massive than I intended.
It needed a little love (don’t we all) so I grabbed some hair cream from my toiletry bag and preceeded to try and coax my locks to become friends.
But they didn’t cooperate.
So I added some water. It’s a quick help that normally does the trick (and elicit shock from a straight-haired friend who looked at me incredulously when I said I wet my hair every morning in the shower).
So, I did, WHAT I NEVER DO outside of my home.
I put my things down, bent my head to the sink and proceeded to wet the locks completely. Back of the neck first, and my hair is so thick it takes time for water to actually hit my scalp, but that’s exactly what is needs to snap my curls out of rebellion and work with me.
I know you are waiting for the title of this post to activate, start the countdown..
It only took a moment to do the trick, and I grabbed papertowels to wipe the sink, thinking, I would never dare leave a mess of water droplets for this woman to clean.
And then I heard it.
A bit distant at first, and I thought, holy smokes, whats happening?! Sounded like someone was getting in a fight. And then it got closer to me, the woman, literally shouting at me. In French. Loud, aggressive words and hand gestures–just writing this I feel my cortisol rising. I looked at the other women near me–was this really happening? And was it directed at me?
Yes indeed. The other women also looked with raised eyebrows–like no one understood what was happening.
I could cry looking back at all of the things that started to happen in my inner world then.. (truth be told, I did have a good cry some days later).
In shock and confusion, I said, ‘look–as I started wiping— Look, I am cleaning it!’
But the tirade continued.
I don’t speak much French anymore, but I think I translated ‘Disrespect,’ and something like ‘shower in your own home!’ To which I, still shaking, replied, ‘I’m travelling.’ But her agression became frenzied and all I could think was, wipe the sink and get out quick!
I didn’t complete wringing out the exces water in my hair, so I was in a sopping, sorry state, but I did take a moment to put on a lick of eyeliner. And as I did, I wondered,
Why can I touch up my makeup, but not my hair?
As I left, saying, ‘Je Suis Desolee’…like a dog with tail between legs, and I realized, THIS WOMAN DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. This woman has NO CLUE.
Is malice born of ignorace still malice?
How could she understand? Her hair was straight on her head. She probably never had a day of frizz or fuzz in her life. She probably had no reference for the feeling of hair expanding off your head like it’s on a hotair balloon ride. My hair tries to kiss the sky whenever it rains. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you had another style in mind.
So, dear lady in Liege, whose harsh shouts I can still pull up in my memory bank,-
Do you know about Grace? I mean, Grace might see something and say, I don’t understand it, but here, here’s an extra towel! And then she would’ve seen, oh wow, you’re cleaning my counters for me! Merci Beaucoup!
I mean technically I dont care and will do whatever I need to do in a situation, and I’m not opposed to sitting on floors, streets, or picking up a strangers trash or some other mess to help keep someone else from getting hurt, or being grossed out, or humiliated..
But man, what a lesson in communicating, or curiosity instead of closed-door/mind shout downs.
Ofcourse I forgive her. Because who of us haven’t lost our sht.
But damn, to be so unkind to a stranger, to literally yell them out of a space. And then to hear such aggression in a foreign language whereby you can’t defend yourself, much less clarify or even understand the accusation against you. Man, that was rough.
So please be kind to the foreigners amoung you, big and small, old and young, be kind to the strangers and so-called ‘immigrants’ / ‘migrants’ etc etc who are actually just Fellow Human Beings.
You never know what someone’s going through, what someone’s life experience, and what you may be experiencing as a God Forsaken Insult, may just be a small, vulnerable act of personal help.
Look out for eachother, peeps.
Lady, I hope you have a better day tomorrow.
And I will definately learn how to say: ‘I’m not washing my hair, I’m only fixing it’ in French.
When was the last time you got chewed out?
How did you feel? How long did it take for you to get over it?
Share your experience in the comments. Or let me know how you might’ve handled my Bathroom Banning Incident.
Take care peeps, sending a latte love,