Awkward conversations

The library parking lot

Hurricane is at the age where he simply says what he observes.  As someone who doesn’t really have much of a filter, I tend to find his public commentary very funny. Though when the subject overhears it can get a bit awkward. BB is much more easily embarrassed than I am. Her empathy levels mean she tends to feel enough for the both of us, so I don’t tell her about all the conversations I get to have with Hurricane. She already worries too much about what comes out of my mouth.

As you would imagine, living in the Bronx is not really comparable to the majority white urban liberal mecca of Wellington city. Riverdale itself has a strong Jewish presence and there are some very affluent leafy streets a stones throw from us, but we also spend a lot of time in Kingsbridge where we catch the subway from and do our shopping. This is a Hispanic/black neighbourhood, and I would hazard a guess where most of the wealthy crowd find their nannies.

The first time I took the little ones to the library, the children’s area was packed. The library, I’ve learned, is where a number of nannies congregate for a couple of hours a day. Hurricane does not really know what a nanny is. He doesn’t have any friends that have one. So for him, all he saw was a bunch of white kids with dark-skinned mums. And so unfolded my first and hopefully last public discussion involving skin and hair colour.

Daddy, why does his mum have a black face?

What an opener. I took a little too long to respond, which meant he got to fire off the next observation.

He has nice hair. She has fuzzy hair.

Oh man. The first comment was easily survivable. A curious mind trying to understand how a mum with dark skin gave birth to a boy who appears to have never seen the sun. But that second one, that’s making a judgement on what nice hair looks like. Chris Rock made an entire documentary on this very subject after his daughter asked him why she didn’t have ‘good hair’ (the title of his film).

Obviously Hurricane didn’t mean anything by it. He’s just noticing differences, as kids his age do. In his old world nearly everyone had straight or wavy hair. ‘Fuzzy’ is different.

Now I would like to say I handled this situation with aplomb and sat him down and explained that families don’t have to be all one colour and there is no such thing as good or bad hair (just bad haircuts).

But all I could come up with was: “I like fuzzy hair.”

Now I’m exposed, and Hurricane takes the opportunity to get in a rib tickler.


Why do I like fuzzy hair? Don’t ask me that. I don’t know. I don’t care about hair at all. I go to the barber and just tell him to cut half of it off. Or if BB asks me if her hair looks ok I say yes. That’s about the extent of the verbal exchanges I have about hair.  How am I supposed to answer that?

I don’t. Because right at that moment Chaos walks past and fills the air with her stench. I’ve never been so happy to have to exit a conversation in order to change a monster dump.

At this point the ‘mum’ in question fires off something in Spanish to her fellow nannies and they all laugh.

Two weeks later that nanny and I are sitting next to each other on the reading couch. She finishes her book, turns to me and says: “So why DO you like fuzzy hair?”






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