“The issues surrounding us are only getting more complicated. We need to rediscover our trust in others and restore some of our lost faith. It rarely happens when we are isolated in our pockets of sameness, communicating only with others who share our exact views, and talking more than we listen.” ~ Michelle ·Obama
We are in one of our favorite summer spots, American River. I float off it and then have a ritual of climbing up the hill and getting dressed. I love how you lie down and look up at the cloudless blue sky.
As you float, the sun beats down on your skin, but the coolness of the river softens the burn. A small group of Canadian geese spots the shore. The air is quiet, except for the occasional distant sound of a train.
Once at the bottom, head back towards Towel and walk a series of dirt paths that consist of small hills. They are fast and steep like rabbit slopes and are covered in golden dust that glistens in the sunlight.
As I walked through them, I noticed two men picking fruit from a distant tree. It feels half-dressed and exposed, and he quickly gets nervous. His lack of shoes means he can’t pass quickly.
I keep walking with a sense of discomfort. As we get closer, I wait for them to whistle or jokingly ask if they need help finding clothes.).
I passed, armored and shield raised—I raised it a little more when one of the men began to speak.
His words are “Hello” followed by “You have tough legs!”
Contains no subtle attempts at sexual objectification or intimidation. And in response to this comment — the kindness one would give to another, his equal — I find myself responding to human thoughts:
Yes, this terrain is pretty rugged. I think my legs are pretty strong. thank you.
In Vivaldi’s Whistle, I think about how black men whistle classical music on the street when they cross paths with a white stranger. He does this in hopes of quelling their fears and displeasures born of prejudice.
Perhaps this man’s comment was the (gender) equivalent of this example.
Or maybe he simply entertained the same thought that often precedes the kind of comment I expected. Perhaps, in the old days, I would unconsciously turn those thoughts into weapon words and throw them in my path. But perhaps because our society is growing and learning and people are evolving, he decided that day not to.
Either way, I’m relieved that the guys didn’t behave the way I expected them to.
It got me thinking about preconceptions. How to create a template and apply it to individuals with whom you communicate regularly. With so much of our lives structured around familiarity, few encounters encourage us to challenge or expand on these templates. It’s easy to file in a designated bin in your mind without realizing you’re doing it.
How often do we come across someone already made up about what they have to say? , confirms what we already know and believe to be true.
Sometimes our expectations turn out to be accurate. Otherwise they may do so mainly because we expect this from them.
People behave in ways that contradict what we first see, but we don’t see when we’re not looking for them.
When I was a Lyft driver, I drove many passengers who were convinced they had nothing in common. One was a seemingly stiff white man who worked for a tech company. I thought I had very little to say, but an hour later we ate In ‘N Out, and from our nation’s quick solution to processing emotions, his brother’s coming out of the force. We were discussing everything from how our relationship had changed to finding balance with a job…and a job paying the bills.
That’s why we often decide that a person is a certain way. our hearts close After that it indeed fails to connect. But it is not due to differences, but to the fact that when hearts are closed, there can be no connection.
A change of thought does not happen in one instance. For example, the fact that two men in a river pleasantly surprised me does not erase the overall pattern.
But it’s just the beginning. And from now on, if I can afford it, I would like to give people the opportunity to act in a way that contradicts my preconceived notions.
I don’t want to go to the point where I can’t see other people anymore as an individual. I can’t see the common points because I can only see the common points representharm by the larger group to which they belong; political consequences of their actions.
For example, a few years ago a young man approached me while I was reading in a bar and I completely ignored him. At the time, I was sick of men and so upset about their repeated intrusions on my dates with women. I didn’t reply. In that moment he felt empowered.
But when I thought about that incident years later, I regretted my actions. The man was not aggressive even in the way he approached me.He was serious, anxious and even shy. It may be the same when I approach women. He did not represent all men. He was his own person and did something in that moment that might have made him nervous or pushed him out of his comfort zone.
I’m not saying it was my job to assuage those feelings. That’s what I now realize I would really have. I wanted To. She wanted to say hello at least. I wanted to tell him, at least politely, that I wasn’t ready for a conversation. perhaps do not have Smiled, But at least they treated him more like a human being than an unspoken enemy.
I want to end my frustration with patriarchy and heteronormativity of concept themselves— and with individual humans only if they really practice it.
I like to believe that polarized positions are not fixed. That they can evolve and expand over time. That we are not forever destined to hold a shield while walking this planet.
This isn’t the climate we’re in right now, but I hope one day it starts to get at least a little bit closer.