Don’t Look At Me

I have a great many fears.

Climbing ladders make my heart race. I always put a key in between my fingers in case I need to stab someone in the eye when I visit the Kroger on 1st Street at night. This behavior is exhibited when I get out of my vehicle and when I return to it. My best friend had a knife pulled on her there, and her story has stayed with me. I fear things.

I fear when I know people are judging me. Inwardly, I know their judgements can’t hurt me but, in some odd way, it does bother me. When I look back to all the judgment I survived by having to attend a public school in a small town, I would like to think I’ve toughened up. It’s not the way I am made. I’ve been out of high school for almost two decades and I still worry about what those people thought of me.

When I see an old classmate out and around the town I have a million thoughts gathering judgement. Not about the people I encounter, but about myself. They sound like this:

“Should I say ‘Hi?’ Oh god, what if they don’t remember me? And then they”ll think I’m some weirdo hitting on them at the grocery story. What if they hated me in high school, and I didn’t know they hated me, and now that we aren’t in high school they don’t want to speak to me? My hair looks like birds have probably built a home in it today. Do I smell? I might smell. Do I have deodorant on? Why do I always forget deodorant? I sweat. I sweat too much. That might be a problem. Oh, for the love of God they looked at me. What do I do? Panic. Don’t panic in public, that is super weird. Oh good, they just smiled. Smile back. You’re smiling too big. Stop. Stop being so weird. Do the polite little wave thing. No stop! You’re waving like your hand is broken. Walk away. Run. No, don’t run. Just walk super fast and really casual.”

We should all probably take a BIG DEEP BREATH right now. My head is an utterly exhausting place. I seriously can have all those thoughts in less than two seconds.

I’m not exactly sure how one walks away super fast and really casual at the same time. It’s more like a ‘get-me-the-hell-out-of-here’ kind of pace. Seeing people I grew up with causes a great amount of fear and anxiety, and apparently nervous sweating. It happens. I don’t like to go out much.

For some reason every week, our family needs food and toiletries. I like to donate egg cartons to the organic food shop. My husband likes to visit the magic unicorn beer shop and let our son climb on the train they have there. Due to these circumstances, we have to go out. IN PUBLIC. WHERE OTHER PEOPLE ARE. Apparently these people like to buy food, and toiletries, and beer.


The boy wanted to go to the store. We needed to go to the store. After cleaning up two massive messes and doing the ritualistic pants fight, we finally made it to the grocery store. We strolled the aisles listening to the sweet whining noises of a little boy who wanted everything. He told every person he passed about all the things he wanted.

He wanted the Oreos. All the Oreos: chocolate, vanilla, birthday cake, thin mint flavored. He wanted butter, I agree with him on the butter want. I love some butter. But the answer had to be “No” because we already had butter. The best part was when he wanted the ceiling. Not joking. He asked me to lift him up so he could get pieces from the ceiling. I’m 5’5″, I can’t reach the ceiling. Metaphorically, I like to think we can all the touch the sky and grasp our grandest and greatest starry-eyed dreams. M-E-T-A-P-H-O-R-I-C-A-L-L-Y.

A 3 year-old doesn’t understand metaphors. He doesn’t like to be told “No.”

The inevitable happened.

Take me down to tantrum city,
where the grass is black and dead,
and beaten down,
and not pretty.

It wasn’t pretty.

Have you ever dropped an entire bottle of salsa in Aisle 6, and walked away pretending like you didn’t make that chunky splattered mess? Just me? The big meltdown in the checkout line was like dropping a bottle of salsa while a gallon of milk exploded in my face. The thing is I couldn’t walk away. I couldn’t pretend like the mess wasn’t mine.

The mess was all mine. Fear meet anxiety. Anxiety meet…. OH MY GAWD, MY SON JUST SLAPPED IN ME FACE. Yea, that just happened. Big girl panties on. I dealt with it in my mom tone nose to nose. Then I looked upward. I looked around. I looked at the cashier checking us out. At this point I tried to stopped looking because I saw everyone looking at us.

Judgement. So many eyes drilled holes into my head. Their faces told me what I should have done. Face to face with a fear. My parenting abilities were being tallied up. No one even bothered to hold up one of those Olympic scorecards telling me how I did.

“Mom scores a 5.3 for handling a public smack to the face.” I would like scorecards for future references. Otherwise, similar to those thoughts you read earlier; they will happen and they can go faster.

Here’s another idea, throw up your motherhood solidarity gang sign. We can all do it. Here’s a “M” or give me the Hunger Games sign or a peace sign. I welcome all solidarity signs.

 I’ve hoisted a screaming, fit-throwing toddler out of Target and didn’t think twice about it. I’ve sat in many parking lots and had the “we ain’t moving this car until you calm down” moments. I’ve wrestled a kid bucking like a wild horse because he didn’t want to be strapped into the carseat. I can deal with the tantrums.

I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with the judgement.

You can judge me as a writer. Fine. Editors judge me every day. I’m used to it.

You can judge my hair, or my face, or my clothes. That’s shallow judgment.

People can judge me as a wife and a partner and a mate. I don’t care.

Don’t judge my decisions as a parent. I’m already judging myself enough for everyone.

 Don't Look at me

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5 Comments on "Don’t Look At Me"

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I am definitely my own worst critic. 🙂 It makes it even more difficult when other moms judge instead of help and encourage. It makes it that much harder to be a parent. But I make it and move through it and hope for the best. 🙂 Good luck today and every day and know that you are a great mom and person.

Chris Carter

Oh girl… oh GIRL, do I get it. ALL of it. Seriously. Been there DONE THAT!!

I have to say, it reminded me of something that happened last year. I just have to share it with you, because I just KNOW that you will get it and love it. It was an impulsive and random experience- something I did, which I could TOTALLY SEE you doing.

I hope it’s okay that I dropped that link. I never do that! But felt compelled to share…

Jules Ruud

Wow. It’s like you are inside my head. I have these thoughts on a daily basis when I have to be around people. Being a mom has only exacerbated my fear of being judged. People tell me to trust my gut and quit caring what others think of me. If it were that easy don’t you think I’d have done that already? Ugh! Even now I’m worried you’re judging me for this comment. It’s obnoxious. I love this piece. Thank you for writing it.

Linda Hobden

I know how you feel – it’s happened to me – both the judging by people, including by my own teenage son – and the panic – sending virtual hugs & hang in there! Glad to know I’m not the only one!

Rachael Boley

The amount of love I have for this and for you is immense! I’m throwing all the solidarity signs and hunger games symbols and hugs and love and all of it. This is perfection and I think so many people can relate to this, even the ones who may judge. Love you!!! 😘

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