Ever have one of those encounters with a stranger that just didn’t set well? That you thought about for quite a bit afterward, wondering …. was that creepy or what?
I had one at the mall yesterday. I was out with Girl from the East and Girl from the West, killing a beautiful but cold afternoon window shopping at our area upscale shopping district.
Our last stop was a quick tour through Victoria’s Secret. While Girl from the West browsed the colorful displays of panties, nighties and other secretive things, Girl from the East amused herself opening and closing drawers of well, drawers.
I think I must have zoned out for a moment, because something jarred me back to the present. I don’t know what made me turn around. Did Little Miss fall? Did she plow into someone and head butt them as toddlers are famous for doing?
First, I located my pint-sized terrorist, who had seated herself on a low pedestal under a mannequin. She was in one piece and smiling, so she wasn’t hurt. Next, I looked up, waaay up at a six-foot tall metrosexual kind of man with really odd eyes reminiscent of Norman Bates. His carefully groomed feathers didn’t seem ruffled so I ruled out a toddler incident. Mr. Bates’ thick black hair was slicked away from his deeply tanned face. He wore a high-quality leather coat, expensive leather shoes. Around him, an aura of expensive men’s cologne.
He was alone. And just stood there staring down at an oblivious Little Miss in her pink jumper and pink barettes. What just happened, I asked Mr. Bates, because the moment seemed to call for some kind of comment or question.
He didn’t answer my somewhat frantic question. (Why was I being frantic?) What he did do faster than I could react to was bend down, caress Girl from the East’s baby cheeks and say one word softly: “Beautiful.” Then he stood up and walked away.
Girl from the West, a young teen, thought I overreacted to the whole thing. Even husband didn’t necessarily find it creepy. But a mother’s instinct is stronger than Mr. Bates’ designer fragrance. There’s just something inherently odd about the way that all played out. Of course, there are men who love babies and children and chuck them under the chin or ruffle their hair. These exchanges usually happen among friends or acquaintances or at least in a family type of setting. You don’t expect some brooding man to caress your baby daughter’s cheek in the nightie aisle at the local lingerie store. At least I don’t.
As usual, my mom-zombie mind traveled down a lot of dark roads: What if I hadn’t turned around? What if he had grabbed her? Most likely this wouldn’t have happened. It’s quite possible the guy meant only to compliment Girl from the East and just crossed a line he may not know existed. He should get a clue.
I feel we mothers of daughters have to be hyper vigilant in watching our girls and in educating them on the right and wrong ways in which strangers can interact and “touch” them. Pedophiles are everywhere and they aren’t all seedy characters. I hope to God Mr. Bates wasn’t anyone bad, because if he is, he’s walking our streets freely.
It’s not OK to go up to strangers and touch their children. Not every caress is innocent.
This one, Mr. Bates, I call creepy.