Life Is So Much Easier When I Don’t Think About The Fine Opinion Of Others

The offensive art.
The offensive art.

“It makes you out to be a dirty hoe,” said the Dimple, when he analyzed a piece of my art, fresh from storage. We have moved to Piha beach, which, for my US peeps is like choosing Sausalito instead of San Francisco, except it’s not fancy so probably not like Sausalito but more like Carpinteria.

On our first weekend, surrounded by too many boxes of stuff, Bob had the inspired idea to sell some of his.

“I’ll set up a stall by the store!” he declared.

There is only one store in Piha and everyone goes there. Wondering how I could cleverly dampen his enthusiasm, the Dimple said, “Brilliant! Fill up one of Mum’s old boxes.”

Bob encouraged the ‘Dactyl to get involved and they both filled up a box labelled strappy shoes.

Nekminute, we were driving down the hill with our wares.

Putting my largest hat on I watched the Dimple and Bob set up the goodies on a mat. They were by no means flash: a Lord Of The Rings puzzle book, some Archie comics [only in French], small bouncy balls, a pink baby doll, a plastic tea set, and some rocks enthusiastically titled crystals.

To make matters worse there was a surf competition on that day. As scores of people walked by, ignoring us, it occurred to me we looked a bit desperate. We didn’t even have a blind baby or gammy leg to explain ourselves.

Some hip parents with kids our age strolled past—eeek, potential new friends!—glanced over our exhibition, and turned away. Mortified my ego ran off towards the sand dunes flapping in despair. What a way to introduce ourselves to our new hood. Hi, we’re the stingy parents who flog our kids’ unwanted shit.

Actually just stingy mother. The Dimple was conveniently positioned fifty feet away helping the ‘Dactyl ride her new sparkly bike. Splendid in a pink swim suit, she occasionally rode by to note we hadn’t sold anything. Quite loudly.

After an hour Bob looked deflated, “Nobody’s buying anything.”

The rather bored entrepreneur and his equally uninterested assistant.
The rather bored entrepreneur and his equally uninterested assistant.

I had been fantasizing about buggering off but I saw disappointment creep over his shoulders.

Crap. What lesson where we teaching him?

Son, in this family we don’t do uncool things….

The problem was, (and is) I think about what others think. Too much. But it never gets me anywhere. In fact, it just means I have a stink time thinking too much about unimportant things like other people’s opinions and not important things like being present in whatever I’m doing. The reality is, strangers never think about us as much as we think they do; they think about their own stuff—are my togs going up my bum, did I bring the frisbee, where was my girlfriend last night?

If my ego was slightly smaller than my hat, I realized, I’d be helping Bob—not hiding. Put yourself out there and don’t worry what people think.

Selling, I explained, would require some engagement with passers-by, woo them in. Lifting my head I faced those strangers with him. Yes, we look a little weird but this is my boy trying out an idea!

He did his best. “Hi!” “Wanna buy something?” “Everything here for a dollar!”


In the end we chatted to nine families and he sold the puzzle book to a kind grandma. I was so proud of him. He was, to use a kiwi-ism, stoked.

Then we lugged all that crap home again.

As we have too much stuff, the Dimple wants me to get rid of the dirty hoe art.

Here are the words if you can’t read it:
Dear Grandma.
I have had a good day. It was after lunch when I had done my work we did some folk dancing. Andrew chose me. Then I went to Stephen. Then I went to Dean. Then I went to Simon.
Love from Angela. M. Barnett.

I wrote this when I was seven; nearly Bob’s age. It makes me laugh. Didn’t I have anything else to tell Grandma and did I have to mention all four boys?

The upside of emptying boxes.
The upside of emptying boxes.

“It’s not art,” argues the Dimple, which is precisely why I like it. But I also like it because it’s a reminder that I am not defined, anymore, by how pretty I think I am, who likes me or how many boys ask me to dance. Life is so much easier when I don’t think about the fine opinion of others.

So I think I’ll keep it for now, however, if anybody needs a pink baby doll, a crystal, some French comic books or plastic tea set, then let me know….


  1. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “The only person who has the right to make you feel bad about yourself, is you”. (or something to that effect).
    Love the article Ange and welcome home to NZ.


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