The show must go on

Moms of Stillwater
Moms of Stillwater

“Nice tail.”

“Excuse me?”

“You have a nice tail,” a man mumbles under his breath in the checkout lane.

Now, after four babies, this is not a compliment I’m accustomed to fielding.

Nice salad. Nice Christmas card. Nice haircut. I’ll admit, while nursing, there was some suspicious eyeing of my bosom, but I’m pretty sure that was out of sheer awe or concern that the child may never find its way out of my shirt. It definitely doesn’t, or shouldn’t count.

But tail? Its been a while . . .

Granted, “tail” is not a sexy word choice. The feminist in me winces a little. Shouldn’t I have a witty comeback line? But since he is an older gentleman who has also been mumbling something about Dr Pepper for the last 10 minutes in line, I shake out an awkward nod of appreciation and note to myself what non-mommy-like-jeans I am wearing today. Maybe that online squat workout is really paying off? Do kegels count?

A mega-pack of gum to the forehead jolts me back to reality. My three-year-old daughter has exhausted all efforts to add Chapstick and lighters to the cart and has taken to gum rebellion. A dusting of Hubba Bubba lies sprinkled under the cart and I curse the woman in front of me (perhaps a little too loudly) for negotiating the price of a box of dryer sheets. Are we at a garage sale? Can I give you the extra quarter? It would be less expensive than my ten packs of opened Hubba Bubba here.

I bend over to gather the cubes hiding under the back wheels only to feel a tug at the back of my pants.

Are you kidding me? Did he really?

Now, flattered or not, it is unacceptable to TOUCH my mommy-tail.

I pause. Afraid of what is coming next. From me, I mean.

A little internal coaching takes place: Pull it together, mama. He is an OLD man. Black socks and sandals OLD. Pocketful of toothpicks OLD. For goodness sakes, he’s spent, now 20 minutes, having a two-sided conversation about soda pop. And yet . . . HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

I cautiously perform an about face and sense my fuse burning dangerously close to the end. I’m gathering words. Noting security camera locations. Praying this doesn’t end up on YouTube……

He stands there, hand outstretched. Smile on his face.

Cheeky little bugger, I think (no pun intended).

“Dr Pepper. Hanging from your shorts”, he spurts out.

There in his hands, is a giant chip clip with the words, “Dr Pepper” printed on top.

Its a little alarming how long it takes me to make sense of this new exhibit. I review my argument:

Sexy jeans? No.

Creepy old man? No.

Nice tail? Decidedly not.

Circus act? Yes, indeed. Just hand me the big, red nose. . .

I have been waddling around the store for an hour with a chip clip wagging back and forth between my cheeks. Aisle to aisle, I have bent over to heave Gatorade or baby wipes into the cart with a lone flag waving above my mass. A white flag. A flag of defeat. And of course, there was that alluring Hubba Bubba pick-up process … nice.

Note to self: The disclaimer on the shopping cart that suggests children should be strapped into their seats is not accidental. Toddlers makes quick work of free time. I sometimes wonder if my own is a leprechaun. Magically quick.

Sheepishly, I thank this brave comrade for my new chip clip (that I will promptly run-over in the parking lot) and quickly pay for my groceries and year supply of gum.

My mommy-jeans and I retreat to the minivan where I can listen to the crunch of plastic under my tire and muster new courage for the next act. Perhaps a trapeze artist? Somebody has to clean out those gutters and the show must go on.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a stout believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy. She never takes the last slice of pie and makes a mean brandy slush. Visit Chronicles of a CaveMom ( to read more of Marny’s work.