You know who you are. You're the one on the college tour with your handsome son and tall husband. You're the one with the perfect salon-blonde hair, the Louis Vuitton shoulder tote, and the 1.5 carat heart-shaped diamond earrings. I saw you. I took you in. I thought about you for so much longer than you ever thought about my girl. I carried you along with us. I could not leave you behind on the tour, though my girl seemed to not even notice you.
All of us were on a college tour (yes, dear readers, we are going on college tours – more on that soon!)
We were in the long echoey hallway of a major university in our city and the student tour guide was showing us the university's library from the corridor just outside – not from the quiet zone just behind the glass doors. A custodial worker began pushing a noisy cart through the hallway – it echoed and rattled off the long tile and cinderblock walls of the hall.
As the tour guide described the two million volumes available to students, my girl said, "Excuse me, could you speak a little slower, I'm having trouble hearing." This was a polite request for an accommodation. She spoke softly, clearly, with good tone and no urgency (however urgent it may have felt to her). Trust me, we've worked on this.
And that's when it happened. You rolled your eyes and then you looked around to find someone with whom to share this moment of superiority and dismissal. But no one returned your look. It's possible no one even saw you except me. My girl didn't seem to see you, for which I'm grateful.
The student tour guide graciously adjusted her pace and we continued on the college tour.
But from that moment forward, I could not stop thinking of you. Honestly, I was furious with you. Who could you be? Who are you that you would dismiss my girl's calm and polite self-advocacy?
I tried (and failed) to be generous: Could you be terrified about the road ahead for the handsome young man you have raised? Could you be often considered stupid and slow yourself, as pretty blonde women generally are? Could you be scared and alone behind the branded bag and bobbles, next to the perfect-looking son and husband?
I wanted to tell you a thing or two about my girl. I wanted to tell you how she has worked harder than you have likely ever worked on anything just to learn to talk. I wanted to tell you that she was told that she'd never learn to read and is now passing her high school exams and looking at colleges. I wanted to tell her how she hard it is for her to process language, especially in noisy rooms or corridors like this one. I wanted to tell you that your contempt makes the world a smaller place for my girl, but for you as well, for you most of all.
But I didn't. I didn't take you aside because, well, I didn't want to upset my girl. She didn't seem to notice you and I didn't want her to. She's the point, you aren't.
But still, you were there, and you changed my day. You made me wince at the realization of how much farther we have to go. I thank you for that realization. I won't soon forget you in the heart-shaped diamond earrings. I hope that some day you'll have a heart that's made of something other than stones.
Yours in college searching,