If you don’t like different, kiss it

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

She jumped in the car and immediately began messing with the radio knobs – stopping only when the rhythmic sound of “Gangnam Style” began pulsating from the speakers.

She shimmied a bit and sang along.

For once, it was only the two of us in the car – a rarity, as most moms know. One sister – the one with her at the after-school program – was at her dad’s following an eye appointment, and she asked where the other was.

At pageant practice, I told her. Her big sister – a seventh grader at Andalusia Middle School – had spent the better part of the afternoon practicing for Saturday’s school pageant, Miss Middlusia.

By this time, the car had grown quiet.

“I wish I was normal,” she said softly. Strong words from a child who, with her differences, will never be what society thinks of as “normal.”

“Honey, there is no such thing as ‘normal,’” I said.

“I wish I looked normal,” she said a bit louder.

I took a deep breath before answering, “I know.”

The car was quiet again as I thought of what to say. I mean, what do you say to something like that? “I’m sorry that people look at you strange, whisper comments behind their hands and point at you to their friends” isn’t the best reply – even though it’s true.

I know that the talk about her sister’s pageant got her to thinking. On one side of the coin, I’m very much opposed to an event that judges people on physical beauty. On the flip side, which bears the silhouette of a proud mother, I’m very much for an event that calls for a ball gown and big hair. I am female, after all.

But, at 9, I thought my doll baby was old enough to hear the truth – or at least my version.

“I know you do. It’s hard to be different when you look around and everyone else looks the same. But you know what I decided?” I said. She looked back at me questioningly. “I decided that, ‘I’m me. This is how I look. This is how I act, and there are only two opinions that matter to me – what I think of myself and what God thinks of me when I’m knocking at the pearly gates. Everybody else can kiss my big fat fanny!’ ”

She laughed at that – although (to my disappointment) she didn’t disagree with my anatomical description.

“Baby,” I said. “You got to be confident in yourself. You’re smart; you’re funny and you know how to rock a pair of boots. What else is there? Right?”

She nodded “yes,” and her good mood was restored.

“Yeah, I’ll tell people if they don’t like me they can kiss my fanny,” she said.

Right on, sister.