Public Conversations

We were standing in line at the 10 items or less counter when little traveler number three turned to me and asked in a nice big loud voice “Why is the front of your bottom hairy?” I prayed that the people around me were non English speakers but when the girl behind the counter smiled and the man in front of me snorted I gathered this was a conversation we were sharing with everyone.

I tried a distraction “do you think we have 10 items? Shall we count them again?” It didn’t work, he continued on…….and it got worse “I mean, I know why you have hair on your eyelashes, to keep out the dust….but why do you have hair on the front of your bottom? What are you keeping out?”

I think all parents have had these conversations and it seems to be universal that they occur in public situations.

I found myself in a line of (I’m not exaggerating) about 50 women waiting to go to the toilet at the Australia Zoo last summer. As we all stood gazing forward waiting for a door to open it occurred to me that I had certain secret women’s business to attend to and 3 little travelers at my feet. I am a believer of open and honest communication with my children but a toilet cubicle at the Australia Zoo wasn’t quite how I planned to have the conversation. I was going to have to create a diversion.

As we all piled in to the cubicle I lined them up in order of urgency eg. seriously busting to just busting and managed to inconspicuously gather the necessary equipment out of my handbag. When it was time to do what I had to do I said in my best Sesame Street excited tone “what’s that up there? Is that a crocodile in the ceiling? All three travellers fell for it and I smiled to myself at my brilliance and speed. Done. Crisis averted.

As I stood up the voice of little traveler number three screamed with a tinge of both curiosity and amazement “what’s that string?!” The room fell silent. Someone giggled.  I had an audience. Before he could ask me again in a louder and clearer tone I whispered desperately (and making no sense at all) “my knickers are falling apart but please don’t tell anyone, I’ll be really embarrassed”. He was happy with the answer, he had a secret.

As I walked out of the cubicle I faced the crowd and knew that I had probably shared more information  than any of them had hoped for. A sympathetic mother gave me one of those looks  and said with a grin  “no secrets here hey”. I laughed and agreed “I know, I’m dying of embarrassment”. Little traveler number three knew he was in on the joke and said “yes, her knickers are falling apart, but don’t tell anyone….she’ll be really embarrassed”.

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