What Are You Saying?

The other day, I let a very pregnant woman and her little daughter who was eating an ice cream sandwich step ahead of me in line at the co-op. Outside, on the street, the woman buckled her child into a carseat. I stepped into the passenger seat of my daughter’s car.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my daughter — now fully an adult with adult responsibilities — was a little girl, too.

Yesterday, on a rocky hike in the White Mountains, she and I walked down the mountain together, while my younger daughter and my brother outpaced us.

At four, ice cream sandwiches were a very big deal. At four, this daughter was obsessed with snipping up paper with kid-sized scissors. At twenty, we talk about what it’s like to be a woman in this world, about going to school and work, about family and friends, and how things sometimes go awry.

Beneath all this, while we walked from the ridge down into the cool forest where the leaves were just beginning to turn an autumn gold, I kept thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Talking to Strangers. Since she became a teenager, I’ve returned to this thought over and over — what are you really saying? What’s the subtext beneath your words? Some of that subtext I know, some tugs at my own guilt and trepidation, and some is just pure joy, knowing this young woman in a richer way.

What is required of us is restraint and humility.

— Malcolm Gladwell


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