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that little girl really shouldn’t…

24 August 2009

Oh what a glorious weekend. Perfect fall weather. Fun improv shows (5 total).
Family BBQ. Time with the boyf. Gem of India lunch and Darjeeling Limited netflix.
A new TV obsession: CALIFORNICATION. (seX-files? David Duchovny is a lover and a writer. He’s just workin’ it out.)

Precious little moment at the family bbq. My cousin’s little girl Hannah is three-and-a-half. Just in the last few months she’s warmed enough to let me be her pal. One of her favorite games is playing waitress, where she takes a notepad and pencil around to all of us, asks what we want, and brings back plastic food (usually a chicken nugget or an empty cup) to fulfill our order.

This weekend, a surprise baby shower with family and friends, she was leading around another little girl (possibly two-ish) by the hand. My mom asked her, “who’s your friend?” and without missing a beat Hannah says, “SHE’s my friend. She’s little.” and keeps on walking.

It struck me at the time as the cutest thing ever, and I realized Hannah probably didn’t remember her little friend’s name. But it didn’t matter. She was still her friend.

And it was only later that i figured out there’s a nice little lesson here in childhood un-self-consciousness.
I freak out when I’m in a situation where I don’t remember someone’s name. It happens a lot, because I’ve crossed paths with enough folks in different situations whose familiar faces don’t conjure names when I meet them out of context. It’s one of those etiquette faux pas I dread.

I feel I have a higher tolerance for embarrassment than many of my friends, and I think it’s just how I’m wired. But I admire the innocence and honesty of Hannah with her little friend, and I long to be more like that in my grownup life. She was purely enjoying the moment.

There’s nothing quite like first embarrassment, is there?
I can remember a fateful trip to Hallmark with mom when I was very small. Mom was looking at something while I wandered the card aisles, and looked at (and read? possibly, but definitely didn’t fully understand) the Maxine greeting cards. (you know, the sassy old menopause-joke-spouting grandma?) While I pulled out the cards one-by-one, no doubt the only ones within my tiny reach, I overheard the store clerk talking to the UPS man (in my mind there’s a vivid picture of her pouffy brunette curls and his brown shorted uniform),
“that little girl really shouldn’t be reading those cards…”
and i was immediately struck with creeping hot shame, just knowing I’d done something horribly wrong. I carried the guilt of this incident for years, until I finally told my parents about it on a family trip sometime in high school.
I received Maxine-themed products for the next few holidays.
No one understands my pain…

My point is, the little embarrassments we internalize, be they at three years old or twenty-three, can lead to us carrying around all sorts of wacky guilt that we could really just do without.
All those “should”s and “shouldn’t”s we buy into without a second thought.
It’s time to question those, and put away all the shoulds that don’t make us into the kind of person we want to be.

There’s a healthy amount of adult self-awareness—which keeps me from, say, dancing on tables—but this should be balanced with a big dollop of self-acceptance.

So I’m keeping the image of Miss Hannah in my mind, to remind me to approach life with a balance of adult responsibility and childlike openness to life.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    25 August 2009 9:35 am

    Hey….. I danced on a table at the KA house a couple years ago! There is nothing wrong with dancing on tables! Unless, of course, you’re at a bar and you are taking off your clothes. That would be not so good.

  2. 30 August 2009 8:21 pm

    There is a significant lack of Jenksiecat in these updates, Sarah. I’m disappointed. :(

    On another note, you are adorable. Hannah is also adorable when she isn’t smacking people’s butts.

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