Thursday, July 11, 2013

Connections Are Not About Appearances

Jason Kottke's post today, titled How to Talk to Little Girls, got to me. He quotes a short essay by writer Lisa Bloom, in which she relates the story of meeting a 5-year-old at a friend's dinner party and how she successfully did not comment about how cute the girl was or on what she was wearing.

Instead they talked about books and the child opened up instead of shutting down. Kottke added his own observation about his daughter:

People do the "OMG, you're so cute!" thing with Minna all the time and it bugs the shit out of me. (I mean, I get it, she's cute. But come on.) It also completely shuts her down because she suddenly feels so self-conscious about herself and her appearance...which has led to her to be more cautious about new people and wary of cameras, the ultimate unblinking eye of cuteness collection. And this is a very chatty, social, and engaging kid we're talking about here, but the "you're so cute" conversation opener twists her up into a pretzel of self-consciousness that's so unlike her usual self.
What is it with us and our need to comment on what people look like? There's a connection here to the research on how comments about women politicians' looks affects people's assessments of them.

And it's not that different from the incessant questions to people of color about "where they come from."

We all need to get over starting conversations with what seem like easy openings but are actually repetitive if not actively offensive gambits.

1 comment:

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Ooh, I hadn't noticed this with my granddaughter, but now that I think about it I recognize the pattern. Something new to observe.