I recently read Lisa Bloom's article, "How to Talk to Little Girls" in the Huffington Post. I loved it, and if you haven't read it, you need to. Go on, this stuff will still be here when you get back.
It made me reflect more on the things we choose to say, and why they are important, ESPECIALLY in the day-to-day life, little conversation moments that might not be as important at first glance.
I swear to you, if I lived with my grandmother, the be-all-end-all of my life would be to fall in love, get married, and have some kids. The only thing that seems important to her about me is my relationship with a man. She has, of course, never told me this.
But when I was a young teenager, we sat out by the pool, and she spoke wishfully of a future summer, when I would be "falling in love." I rolled my eyes, but I secretly felt excited and hopeful. Wouldn't it be nice to have summer love? She said it like it was a sure thing. A done deal. I had that to look forward to.
Fast forward to a summer where I am more than old enough to be falling in love by some social standard I don't know who made, and I am not. At all. My grandmother has dutifully asked me about my relationship status every time I have seen her in the past year, at least. The questions have ranged from, "So, are you in love this week?" to "Are any of your coworkers attractive?" Once, she asked me what was up, as if she meant in general, in life, but I asked her what she wanted to hear about, and of course, the answer was "boys."
Once you get past the awkwardness of a grandmother nosing into her granddaughter's love life, you might notice that there is more to feel uncomfortable about than that.
Now, I love my grandmother, and I do not blame her for the narowness of her interests. She started dating my grandfather in the 10th grade. And it was the 50s. These are the things that are important to her, and I will admit, boys are one of my absolute favorite topics of conversation as well.
However, her husband, my grandfather, always makes it a point to ask me how school is going, how my classes or my job are. On the day my grandmother was asking me about cute coworkers, my grandfather asked me to tell him more about my program and the kids I work with.
And even though it is mostly small talk on both sides, my grandfather's questions make me feel empowered. They make me feel like a complex human being. They make me feel valued for the things that are important to me. They make me feel like my family is proud of me. Plus, with my grandfather's questions, I always have a good answer. I always have something to say. They make me feel more interesting and more accomplished than having to simply answer, "No, no boys" all the time to my grandmother, as if that ought to be really disappointing.
And yeah, I think I am the type of person (or I have enough outside influences- I'm still debating about just how much my environment can affect me, and it seems to be a lot) that is strong enough not to just start thinking the most important part of my life is my relationship with a man based on a few comments from my grandmother. But like I said, I have plenty of other influences, and a possibly inherent feminist side (is there a gene for that? haha). I don't know what I would be like if that was all I ever heard. And even when it isn't, I can still identify that other ways of relating make me feel better and more valuable.
Small talk. It can be really big.