My standard small talk typically revolves around the weather. I use it to fill the uncomfortable gaps in conversation while chatting with the bus driver, the dentist, or the lady behind me in line at the Jewel. It’s safe. There is just something so simple and non-controversial about weather.
Or so I thought. I made mention of the recent temperature fluctuations to a neighbor yesterday. This led to a discussion of Hurricane Isaac which resulted in comments about the related delay to the Republican National Convention. Then, without warning, I became the recipient of an unexpected onslaught of political views.
I listened, nodded, and ran like hell at the first break in the conversation.
Next, I headed to Back-to-School night for my middle son, Jack. The school hypes this event as some kind of all-important affair where the secrets of the universe are revealed to those in attendance. In actuality, the entire thing is simply a half-mile procession to pay school fees in exchange for revealing your kid’s new teacher and room number.
During the long wait to fork over my $100, the topic of the teacher’s strike was brought up (this was several hours before the actual strike notice was in fact filed). I found myself sandwiched between two moms with diametrically opposing views. As the dialogue became heated, I ducked out of the fee line in favor of the Spirit Wear line (a table hawking school sweatpants and gym shorts for about $300 a pair). What were the chances of these rabble rousers congregating over embroidered socks and headbands? The Spirit Wear line, I told myself, was practically Switzerland.
My taste for civic debate died long ago. As a mother, most of my confrontational energy is spent arguing with kids over cleaning their rooms, turning off the television, and taking out the garbage. Whatever oomph remains is then used to diffuse my husband’s request to buy a deep-fryer or go on a trip to the Grand Canyon (did he NOT see that “Brady Bunch” episode where Bobby and Cindy got lost for like YEARS??).
This does not mean that I am devoid of passionate views. There are specific issues I hold sacred. But I have neither the heart nor desire to share them, explain them, or defend them to just anyone. I will not post them Facebook. There will be no Tweets. My blog will never offer a commentary on a single one. It took me many years to accept that most people’s political views come from a decent and good place, even if they are in stark contrast to my own. It took me even longer to realize that debate and argument rarely convince anyone to suddenly switch convictions or allegiances.
We are who we are. We support what we support. For the most part, it does not make us villains or heroes. It simply makes us individuals with our own perspectives, life experiences, and priorities.
I remember my sister-in-law telling me once about a little boy she knew. He had autism and sensory issues that left him desiring a very specific amount of personal space. Over the course of time, the boy became tired of constantly defending the “zone” he needed to feel defined. In a creative stroke of genius, the child started carrying around a hula hoop. When the world became too confrontational and overwhelming, he put himself in the middle of the hula hoop which let everyone know he didn’t want to fight anymore. He just wanted to be.
Sometimes I wish I had such a hula hoop.