Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When are we adults and are there things we shouldn't talk about even if we are?


Last night at the Delta Gamma house, we had a wonderful conversation about our "true selves," and when we are most authentically ourselves. It started out as a discussion about My Space vs. Facebook (one of my favorite discussions to start with), and morphed into asking whether the person we are when we're drunk is who we really want to be. (A distinction was made between being buzzed and being very drunk, as well.) I attended the event with an older woman (I refuse to speculate on her age) who remarked afterward about how uncomfortable she got when I started discussing drinking. She was both laughing at herself and being impressively self-aware, explaining that while she knew the women of the house drank, it still made her uncomfortable to talk about it. Drinking is bad, she said, and she didn't like acknowledging it (the implication being that talking about it was endorsing it). Of course, she admitted that drinking isn't bad but that she instinctively reacts as if it is. She attributes this reaction to being of an older generation; I think it might be that but cultural/religious stuff as well. For the record, I at least don't think there's anything wrong with being drunk either, but I can't attest to her views on the more extreme activities.

I had an interesting parallel conversation with my 4-year old daughter Adina while driving her to school today. She is very interested in watching Hannah Montana videos but her mom and I are reluctant. Getting her involved in all those story lines about dating and the traditional gender stuff tat they are packaged in makes us uncomfortable, not because we won't talk with her about sex or dating when she's older (there's pretty much nothing I am uncomfortable talking about) but because its way too early to sexualize her social experience that way. The pressures on even a four-year old to dress and act like a mini-Hannah Montana are immense. The wolves are at the door. (Or at least the Cyruses). Some of her female friends watch the show and she's very interested, and in her conversations with me, she is hyper aware that it is the girls who watch it. That's part of the issue too. But her mom has agreed to let her watch one episode if they watch it together so they can talk about it. Forbidden fruit is of course the most dangerous thing of all.

Thus, the question I pose today is whether talking about things is ever dangerous. Is it better to keep things hidden, or is it better to risk unintended consequences of exposure in order to try to help people neutralize threats through knowledge. Of course, the main difference between the two examples are the relative ages; Adina is still a little kid and the sonority sisters are college students. However, the most interesting moment of the night came when one of the Delta Gammas remarked that they all behave better and more formally when they are around adults and I responded that I found it worth noting that she thought that people between the ages of 18 - 22 were not, in fact, adults. This led to laughter but also a short but very powerful tangent. So, I leave you all with this question: when do we become adults?

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