A parenting lesson from @bonetiredmama that I will definitely remember: "Ma, why does that boy have makeup on?" Mateo tugged at my sleeve after silently watching @callmerichiev help me at the M.A.C. counter. "I guess because he wants to?" I said, realizing that the inflection at the end of that sentence sounded like it lacked conviction. Mateo noticed it too and gave me another puzzled look.
More questions, followed by more unsatisfactory answers.
That probing stare, still confused... A few minutes passed when I thought, I could either let this one go and explain this to him when he's older (he's only 7 after all), or I could try a simple, honest approach. But then again, is it really my place to explain this stranger's identity to Mateo?
I scanned the space past the lipsticks and mascaras, hoping to catch his attention. Would he be offended? Would I be completely out of line? Would he stop me at half sentence and assume I was judging him? Does he even identify as "he"? The tentativeness kept building till it dawned on me, "My God, this isn't complicated!" So I approached him. "I know that it's my job to explain this to him, I'm the parent after all, but I don't want to speak for you, so I was hoping you could help me with his question," was how I ended my breathless, eternal ramble.
Not an original idea I take credit for, of course. I remember reading on some parenting blog about another mom's response to a similar situation. Or was it a Facebook post? Nevertheless, tip noted. "You know they normally just shush their kids or run away when that happens. Bring him over!" he graciously offered, seeming pleasantly surprised.
Mateo of course melted in my arms, blushing, probably wishing he had never said anything. "Well for one, it's my job. And two, I like wearing makeup." By the time he concluded with, "So you shouldn't be afraid of what others think and do your own thing," Mateo had already zoned out, already satisfied with the first line. "Oh, but are you a boy or a girl?" he turned back. "Both," Rich said nonchalantly. "Okay," shrugged Mateo, not in the least bit confused this time. "Thank you for answering my question."