Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just Because My Hair Is Gray, Don't Call Me A Mother: Dumb Things People Say And Ask In Search of Conversation

I was the first twin to decided to keep her hair gray. Coloring and straightening was taking an unattractive toll on my hair and me. I was always touching it up, sometimes with mascara that ended up as a smudge on a friend's chin one day.
I remember the first time I became my sister's mother. We were waiting for a table in a restaurant and the young hostess said, pointing from one twin to the other, "Mother and daughter?" I told her and not so kindly that we were sisters.

Recently, I was uptown in a popular restaurant with my boyfriend and a good friend of his.  A young man looking at my friend, a very attractive woman, and me gave us a mother and daughter compliment.  I tried to be as gracious as possible and responded, "No, were just friends." Last mother's day I jokingly emailed my 'daughter' and chided her for not wishing me a Happy Mother's Day.

Yvette and I don't understand why people have the need to identify people they don't know. Why do they find it necessary, based on appearances to try and figure out people's relationships? How many older men are asked if their wives are their daughters? Plenty, I believe - and the same goes for older women with younger men.

If one listens and is earnestly engaged in conversation, this information will present itself and save everyone the embarrassment and yes, sometimes the offensiveness that is a result of not listening. Instead, many take the shortcut and blurt out a question.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I had arrived at a party with my sister.  There was a line at the door, guests preceding us congratulated the host as they entered the apartment. When it was my turn, I congratulated him as well. Yvette and I were guests of a guest, we'd assumed it just an old fashioned house party.  A while later I met the lady of the house and someone was congratulating her too.  About an hour into the party I walked over to her noticing her pregnant looking stomach. "Congratulations, when are you due?" The minute the question came out of my mouth I knew what was coming. "Do I look pregnant?" I had no choice but to be honest. "You, do and everyone has been congratulating you and your husband, I was sure you were pregnant. I am so sorry. I didn't mean to be rude."

She was kind and didn't ask me to leave. Yvette was mortified, she'd seen the whole thing. 

I learned my lesson. People will tell you who they are. Don't tell them. Don't ask two men if they're brothers, the same goes for two women. Don't ask a man about his wife just because he's wearing a wedding ring. Consider that he may have a husband.  A woman may have a wife. children may have two daddies or two mommies. 

We're losing the art of conversation in our rush to know it all. Better to make snap judgements and conclusions and worry about the facts later.

I decided long ago that my gray hair isn't going anywhere and so has Yvette. The picture of that appeared in Oprah last October helped a lot of women make the decision. Some decided not when we told them about the drawbacks. If you're not ready to become your sister's mother and can't contain yourself in a civil manner when this assumption is made and  comes flying in your face. Hold off on the gray. 

Happy listening and talking!

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