I recently started working out a new gym, Rev365. I love it! If you are looking for a gym, check this place out. This post isn’t about the gym though even though it’s great. It’s about an incident that happened at the gym that left me thinking for a few days.
I met a woman there. She mentioned I looked familiar and after running down a few leads we realized our kids went to the same school and were on the same swim team. As I’m talking to her, this is what I’m thinking in my head: “Wow, she’s so pretty. Way prettier than me. Are those her natural lashes or does she have mascara on? She’s also super fit. No way we will be “gym” friends.” As she continues to talk I learn she lives in the what my kids call the “big house section” of our neighborhood which only confirms to me there is no way this lady will want to socialize with me. Let me be clear – she was nothing but kind, gracious, and inquisitive. I was letting a few physical traits determine whether or not we would ever talk in the future. I had sized up the situation and decided in less than five minutes whether or not this interaction would be worth pursuing again in the future. [Note: I never think people are going to like me when they first meet me. I know… this sounds like another much-needed therapy session I should have. Instead, I’ll just blog about it.]
Another example! About a year ago, we moved into our house. The across the street neighbors came over with brownies to introduce themselves. I stress-ate six brownies that day. Moving is hard. Anyway, we are doing the normal “get to know you” chit chat and I asked her if she works and if so, what she does. She replied that she was a political commentator, but had taken a step back recently. I think she even said “a big step back.” Immediately, I wanted to ask…for what side were you commenting?? WHAT SIDE? I couldn’t come up with a polite way to ask that question on the fly, so I asked for what outlets. She rattled off a few newspapers, radio shows, and then I think she said Fox News. There it was! A reason we probably weren’t going to be friends! She was a conservative political commentator. [I haven’t really touched on politics too much here, but let me pause and say this: I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats in my life. I tend to be to the left of the middle on a most issues. I know that the majority of my friends and family would prefer me to be to the right of middle, but I’m not. 101 blog posts could be written on this subject, but honestly, I’m not brave enough to dive into politics here so… there ya go. Ok, back to the brownies, standing in my empty living room, and reeling that I’m living across the street from a conservative political commentator.] They walked out the door and I turned to J and said “Well, I doubt we will be friends.” Snap judgement. How immature of me. How small. The “across the street” neighbors have turned out to be some of the best neighbors we have ever had. They have helped with our kids, our dog, and included us so that we could integrate into the neighborhood. We’ve also had discussions about her beliefs and evolution stemming from the last presidential election. We still differ on a lot of issues, but these conversations have been incredibly valuable to me. Maybe politicians just need some camp chairs, sparkling water, and little kids playing in the street to understand each other a bit more? It’s worth a shot.
How many times have I made a determination about whether a relationship was worth pursuing because of a label, a physical trait, a title, or a zip code? More times that I would like to admit. Granted, my own insecurities are at play here, but so are labels with which we peg each other. It’s so easy to dumb people down to one word – republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, big house, small house. Labels make it easy to dismiss and not engage, but is that what we want to teach our children? I don’t. I want my kids to give people a fair shot, to hear the “other side,” and to be friends with people who are different than them. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my seven short years of parenting, it’s that kids will do what you do, not what you say. It’s up to me to show my kids how to face their internal insecurities and how to dismiss labels so they can reach out to the complex individual in front of them and be open to a connection.
So, if I’m the example, I better get to it… starting at the gym. And maybe a therapy session or two.