When Someone Shows You Who They Are, Believe Them the First Time: A Story in Eight Parts by Amy Fish

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stack of cloth diapers

A few years ago I went to see Oprah live at the Bell Centre with my sister. We sat so high up that we looked down on the nosebleed section. We devoured every word that came out of Oprah’s mouth, especially a Maya Angelou quote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

I have re-quoted Oprah quoting Maya Angelou so frequently that my husband finally turned to me and asked, “Did Oprah say anything else that night?”

He was joking, but not really. That phrase resonated with me at the time, and those were the words that marched through my head when I sat down to write this story.


1. Prologue

Family vacation. Time to unwind, unplug and yes, check my email. I will put my phone away as soon as I finish this last—Oh what’s this? Message from my accountant? There’s someone he wants me to meet. Actually two people.

Accountant has a pair of clients that have started their own cloth diaper company right here in Montreal. They’ve become fairly successful and believe that the next logical steps are for them to write a book, do a speaking tour, and become known not only for their diapers but for their ability to make small business dreams come true.

One problem. They don’t write.

That’s where I come in.

He gives me their contact information.

2. I show them who I am

I’m in the car with my husband and three kids on our way to our annual beach vacation which is already cut short due to scheduling complexity.

Being a working mother is a constant juggling contest. Do I ask everyone to pipe down so that I can jump on this opportunity and call the diaper ladies? Or, do I politely acknowledge the accountant’s email letting him know that I am out of town and will follow up when I get back?

I reach into the backseat and stuff socks in each kid’s mouth so that they remain quiet while I get more information about this potential book situation. (Just kidding about the socks—who wears socks in summer?)

Two minutes later, I’m on the phone with one of the diaper ladies.

“Wow, that was fast,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon.”

Almost before we say hello, I have shown myself as someone who moves fast, possibly too fast.

3. She shows me who they are

Diaper lady tells me about her book concept. “The goddess buried within me moves my heart to teach these lessons to women,” she says. “Empowering the feminine spirit is a divine responsibility.”

“Uh-huh,” I mumble, shushing my children with my eyes and wishing I was indeed wearing socks.

“We, as internet entrepreneurs, must embrace the growth of our souls. As we reach for the sky, feet planted securely on earth, we learn that each breath in is essentially a breath out.”

And now I know who I’m dealing with: an earth-mama-turned-successful-entrepreneur who clearly exists on a different spiritual realm.

We make plans to go for Poké bowls with her business partner and I remove the socks from my kids’ mouths (kidding) and turn off my phone.

(Two Weeks Elapse)

The Poké restaurant is a couple of blocks from my office. I am excited and nervous to meet these two diaper ladies. On the one hand, I think this book would be a great opportunity for me. On the other hand, I don’t have time to write it. I walk to the restaurant—my face soaking up the sunshine and my fingers calculating how many hours there actually are in a day.

I wait 27 minutes for the ladies. I get a text saying, “Caught up at the office and took longer than we thought to get downtown.”

Note that the phrase “I’m sorry” appears to be missing from the text.

They are now showing me something else about themselves. They are late and not at all remorseful.


4. I show them who I am again

“No problem,” I write back. I don’t say: “Maybe we should reschedule.” I don’t say: “My time is valuable too and this really is not acceptable.”

I don’t say: “Yum, these Poké bowls are delicious. I’m headed back to my office now. Sorry I missed you! Xoxo”

I show them that I will be a doormat. I will lie down and let them wipe their feet on me in disrespect just to get a good story.

(In my defense, we are still in First Impression Territory so maybe I’m showing them I’m nicer than I normally would be under these circumstances.)

(Also, I may also be a person who exaggerates. Just a teeny, tiny little bit.)


5. They show me who they are three more times

Fourteen minutes after that, another text. “Parking.”

They float into the restaurant, fresh-faced and radiating positive energy. I am instantly at ease, the forty-one-minute wait completely—almost completely—forgotten. They are showing me who they are, and I am distracted by friendly smiles and a few funny birthing stories.

They pose for pics and post them on Facebook, not tagging me or mentioning me at all but making it look like they are out to lunch together.

Well, I rationalize, maybe an intro is premature in this embryonic stage of book development.

“Shall we get in line?” I ask them.

If sushi and Subway sandwiches had a baby, it would be a Poké bowl. We line up and choose a grain, a protein, and toppings which the bowl artist assembles for us with our choice of sauce.

We slide our trays forward. It’s time to pay.

One diaper lady is in line in front of me and the other is behind me.

The one at the cash says, “I’m paying for my lunch and,” gestures around me, pointing to her partner, “her lunch.”


6. I show them who I am

I push my Mahalo tuna bowl with extra seaweed to the register and hand the cashier a twenty.


7. So then what

The lunch ends with me late to the office because I have no time to take long, leisurely lunches —especially with people who are close to an hour late—and I have therefore no business taking on projects of this magnitude even though I’m attracted to shiny objects and insurmountably herculean tasks. It also ends with an enthusiastic handshake agreement to continue to work together because, even though I greatly admire Maya Angelou and (let’s face it) even more greatly admire Oprah, I don’t always listen to their words of beauty and wisdom.

I then speak to a few people about the project, including my uncle who sends me a “successful entrepreneur” book he thinks I should read, and a guy I went to high school with who lives in England and thinks the diaper book is a great candidate for Kickstarter.

I procrastinate yet ultimately send the diaper ladies a proposal letter outlining my vision for the project, possible timelines, and how we can work together.

I never hear back from them.


8. Lesson learned

I am listening to an Oprah podcast in my car. “Remember,” she says on the air, “you are co-creating your life with the energy of your own intentions.”

I reflect on my intentions with the diaper ladies. They have an interesting story that I really want to tell. I think another creative nonfiction book would be great for my career. Sure, the timing would be a challenge, but I’ve balanced worse schedules.

True, they showed me who they are. Women who don’t work well on a schedule. Business partners that are deeply committed to each other, maybe even to the exclusion of other collaborators. Free spirits that also have made a fortune on the backs—or, backsides, of the back-to-earth movement.

Given the opportunity, I still feel like we could make this project work.

My phone pings with a text that I’m putting in quotes, but is actually a paraphrase: “I’m sorry that neither of us have responded to your email yet. We have been up to our ears in business stuff, responding will be a priority this week, hope you are well.”

Close to eleven months have passed and still, nothing.

Yes, Oprah. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Whether it’s the first, second, or eighth time, you are co-creating your life with the energy of your own intentions.


AMY FISHAmy Fish is a Canadian who writes about complaining and other small stories. She is the ombudsperson at Concordia University where there is a Tim Hortons Coffee right in her building. Amy lives with her husband and three teenagers.




STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Hannah Ball

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