Tactful Beyond Her YearsPosted: September 28, 2011
Last night my husband gave a lecture at a pub/restaurant – one of those quasi-academic-talks-with-drinking sort of events sponsored by universities. It started and ended early so we took our daughter. One of our co-workers, a woman in her late twenties who competes in roller derby in her off hours arrived. She came with another derby girl she referred to as her “derby wife.” We’d spotted these women a few weeks before at the Pride Parade and they’d made a delightful a fuss over my daughter, bejeweling her with gaudy bead necklaces before moving on amid shouts and fabulous derby bravado. I invited the women to join us at our table and introduced my co-worker J. and her friend A. to my daughter. Standing around the table, she looked up at them. Eyes wide. They were mesmerizing to her.
Then she asked, “Are you two . . . friends?” as she pointed her finger at one and then another and back again. The women nodded in unison, laughed and replied, “yes, we are just friends.” Their laugh wasn’t demeaning; it was a laugh of recognition and appreciation.
They nodded at her unspoken question as if to say, “I understand what you are asking and yes, we are allies.”
Then they responded to the second question conveying that they were not dating with an answer as indirect as the question she’d poised, “we are just friends.”
I was stunned and impressed and proud of her ability to ask them if they were dating each other without actually asking that. Yes, it is sad that communities that endure prejudice learn to speak in a code comprised of carefully chosen words, body language, eye contact, and meaningful pauses. Yet, I was impressed that she had figured out how to speak that code already, at only 10 years old. I told her as much and all four of us shared a moment of “well done, kiddo.”