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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Oddity of Small Talk

"Where do you buy your toothpaste?"

The smile leaves my face. 'Why does she want to know that?' I wonder. This is hardly how I'd like to start a friendship with someone I just met.

"Umm..." I try to buy time while I attempt to interpret her expression. What's motivating this query? Is she an orthodontist? A representative of Crestgate? An entreprenure? A concerned mother? A political lobbyist? Simply nosy? Making small talk?

I finally just give it to her straight: "For the last few months I've just been putting baking soda on my toothbrush."

"WHAT!" Her eruption almost matches the fury behind her eyes. "How dare you! How can you leave something as important as your oral care to someone less qualified than the professionals who produce this stuff for a living?"

"I, umm..."

"Do you realize how completely irresponsible you are?"

"Well, no..."

For the next twenty minutes of this fictitious exchange I learn all about the importance of buying my properly branded toothpaste from a local supermarket.

How awkward would that be if it had really happened. So why do we so often get into similar discussions?

"Where do your kids go to school?"
"What do you do for work?"
"What's your major?"
"When's the baby due?"

Then, to make matters worse, we often have staunch opinions about whatever it is we just asked. But had we never learned that our new friend worked for "The Evil Empire" or was majoring in Paranormal Psychosis or sent their children to "that school" all while not really being pregnant... well... yeah: Life would be a lot less awkward.

And let's face it: Who you are has very little to do with the labels on your background. Where you come from has absolutely shaped you, but we have no way of knowing if hardship pushes you forward or crushes you, your educational environment inspired or bored you, the people around you called you to something more or dragged you down.

Now, I just so happen to believe that homeschooling gives you an excellent opportunity to work on becoming a better person. I firmly ascribe to the idea that parents should interact with their children because it's good for them. I found homeschooling to be a great educational option. But let's stop with this odd practice of using labels to "figure people out." If we did that, I think we'd say foolish things like, "But you're so normal!" less often.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father


paulmerrill said...

I buy my toothpaste from all over the world:

Luke Holzmann said...

That's awesome, Paul! <smile>



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Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester
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