Little pitchers may have big ears, but it’s their mouths I’m deathly afraid of.
Today at MJ’s preschool a little girl — she couldn’t have been more than three — looked at me from her perch on the baby swing and said: “When you smile you have fish eyes.”
“Fish eyes?” I said, mildly taken aback.
She laughed. “Yup.”
I laughed, too. Because when a little waif of a girl — whose name you can’t even remember — tells you that you look like a mackerel what else are you going to do? But, wow. These kids. They really know how to zing you. I mean, it’s true that I’m a Pisces, and thus do, like all of my sign, have a googly-ball thing going on under the lids. Still, one would love to forget it.
But it’s not going to happen. Not now that I’m around two dozen nursery-schoolers most days. Kids that age won’t let you forget anything about your appearance, good or bad. Mostly the latter. Their job is to keep you — ahem — me, humble. Or that’s one word for it. Mortified is another. But let’s stay positive.
Myra-Jean, (as anyone knows who follows me on Twitter), has been on a thing lately about the lines on my face. A couple of weeks ago she started guffawing while gazing at me. When asked why, she declared “I’m laughing at your small, small wrinkles!”
That was funny. Ish. But bearable. Then, a week ago, she asked me “Mama, why are your wrinkles more than Daddy’s?”
Ouch! I started to explain the great inequalities in the male/female aging process — Mike and I are, after all, both 44 — but then thought better of it. Why burden her with the knowledge of deeply unfair truths so early in her life? Instead, I just kissed her on the forehead and said: “Guess I’m just lucky.” Cue the grin — brave, bright, and totally inauthentic.
Later, when I told Mike of this exchange, he laughed. Then, after a moment, he said, “maybe you just need to drink more water.”
There was a long beat, during which I regarded him disbelievingly.
He took a small step back. “What?”
“Next time,” I said icily, “a simple ‘honey, you look great’ would do fine.”
He nodded quickly. “Of course! You do –”
“Next time!” I snapped.
Really, though, I may as well get used to it. I’m not getting any younger, and kids — mine especially — aren’t getting more tactful. This is the way it’s going to be. And actually, I suspect it’s always been this way. I remember clearly, as a child, asking my mother why she had lines on her forehead. I thought it was funny. I asked if you could write words on them. Poor woman. One of these days I should apologize.
Oh, right. She reads this blog. Sorry, Mom.
Anyway. Now I’ve got the funny forehead. And the aquarium eyes. And all the rest of it. Thank God I have a sense of humor, too. Sort of. I’m clearly going to need it.
And if that occasionally fails? I have a pretty good — if fishy — fake smile.