This is my great niece, Karys. Her name means love, and we have loved her every day of her life. Even when she was a little girl who used to scowl at me for no reason.
She graduated from high school this week and went to her prom the same day. She got into her top two schools and plans to go to UNC-Charlotte. Which is good, since it is close and we’ll hopefully see her a lot.
She’s an unbelievably beautiful young woman, and her friends are too. All girls seem to be gorgeous these days and so sophisticated. I was anything but either one of those when I was in high school.
Not having children, I take my aunt and great aunt roles pretty seriously. I often laugh at how many people of all ages call me Aunt Kim. I know a lot of families have dropped these sort of titles and mine has for most people, too. But still I am most often Aunt Kim for nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and anyone else who knows them or is amused that even the grown adults call me Aunt Kim most of the time.
I hate titles as a whole. Mr. Mrs., Miss, Ms. Ick. Why? Not that I never use them, or see positive reason, but so often I feel they are used to separate humans. To class us. For example, we class men all together and women based on their marital status.
I remember hearing the husband of a co-worker calling to check the status of his car that was being repaired. We were all in our early 30s at the time. He said “This is Mr. Smith, calling to check the status of my car.” It was as though he was better than them. Probably it was just what his parents taught him, but I had never referred to myself as Ms. McKinney and it seemed quite pretentious. (I almost always refused to use “Miss” in any circumstance.)
I admittedly still call the parents of my childhood friends Mr. or Mrs., as well as some teachers. I will typically call the medical doctor “Dr.” But overall if you need a title to get respect, you’re doing it wrong.
I listened to the podcast Armchair Expert this past week where they interviewed Prince Harry, and the hosts Dax and Monica remarked later that he did not set himself apart with a title when dealing with them. He was just Harry. Harry who had really great things to say that may get missed if you get too caught up in the fact that he is a royal.
But back to my great niece and her girlfriends. (Heck, let’s make it about her guy friends, too. They’re also quite spectacular.)
It’s easy to make them one-dimensional. They’re young. And beautiful. We often reduce them to those titles. What can they possibly know about life? Oh, so very much. More than many of us ever will.
Having so many good-looking family members, I realized quite a few years ago that people would speak of a niece and tell me how beautiful they were or how handsome my nephews are. Oh, there are good genes in my family and lots of beautiful people.
Maybe it’s due to my own insecurity, always being the chubby one, that makes my inner being scream out “Quit noticing only that!”
There are so many better qualities to discuss that they actually have much more control over. Your looks have a genetic component, along with some impact from your life history. But kindness? That comes from you. Intelligence – well, there is a genetic factor there but how many child geniuses have lived disappointing lives? Often it’s the slightly less intelligent with fewer expectations that have worked to educate themselves into multi-dimensional intellectual powerhouses. Internal strength, character, a sense of justice – these are all muscles that need to be worked and when they are strong we should celebrate with awe.
So let’s hear it for the graduates, and all of the great qualities they will be further developing over the next few years. Karys has been trained as a CNA while in high school. Who will she help with the knowledge she has gained? I don’t know, but I hope that she values that knowledge and the compassion needed to do any sort of job in healthcare, as much more important than being beautiful. I hope her friends and partners value that, too.
I often participate in writing challenges on Medium.com. I love the ones sponsored by the publication The Bad Influence. Each Monday they have 50 and 100 word challenges on an assigned topic. I was thinking about the subject above when I wrote on the subject taboo. In my mind it is taboo to reduce young people to how they look. They are so much more. They are World Changers.