My family is transracial, so sadly I am used to unsolicited, inappropriate comments from strangers. During a recent trip to the hairdresser, as my daughter sat in the swivel chair to have her hair trimmed, the Singaporean hairdresser turned to me and said, “She swims a lot?”
“Yeah, she loves swimming,” I said, assuming she was going to educate me about the ill-effects of chlorine on hair. That would be the appropriate subject, one would think, seeing were at a hair salon.
“Too much swimming,” the hairdresser continued. “Makes her skin too dark.” She pointed to my daughter’s beautiful caramel arms.
I am used to the bias against dark skin in Asia, where women drive around wearing white gloves up to their elbows to avoid getting a tan, and sun visors the size of UFOs on their heads, so I took the hairdresser’s comment in my stride. It was a comment from another stranger later that day that had me stumped, and it had nothing to do with skin colour or race.
“Your children?” The Singaporean woman nodded towards my kids.
“Yes,” I smiled, ready for a dressing down in regards to their rowdiness. They seemed to have mistaken the supermarket trolley for a dodgem car.
“Girl or boy?” She pointed to my youngest.
“Girl,” I said.
“She looks like a boy.”
Well, that’s one way to give a 4-year-old a complex.
I admit, my youngest daughter is still struggling in the hair growth department. But seriously?!
I grabbed my daughter’s hand and marched off.