"How are you?"
"I'm tired. I've been working a lot. But I'm mostly happy. How are you?"
"Have I told you how I think you are such a wonderful person, and you are so funny and I just LOVE you?"
"I hate Jack."
"What? You don't hate Jack."
"Yes, I hate him a little."
"Se roba mis dinosaurios."
My niece is five and I just think she is such a wonderful person and so funny and I just LOVE her (and apparently I've said that before). We've been talking on the phone lately, which is better than eating candy. I had never heard her say she hates someone. But dinosaur theft is a serious offense. Especially when you love dinosaurs as much as Taiana does. However, I figure she doesn't really know what hate is. I see her in my head pulling up a chair to help my mom cook dinner, "I help?" she likes to ask. Hate seems like such an innocent emotion when I imagine it in this little person I love.
After hanging up the phone, I imagine what it might feel like to hate Jack. Jack the energetic boy who runs around non-stop. Taiana, normally very talkative and assertive, is passive around Jack. I imagined him taking her dinosaurs and telling her what to do and I imagine her silently feeling hate towards him.
This one time, years ago, I'd been having a lot of roommate trouble and was talking to my wise friend Randy about it all.
"I feel like I hate her," I told him.
"Well you do hate her," Randy said.
"No, but I don't actually hate her, I just feel like I hate her," I clarified.
"Well, that's what hate is, it's a feeling," Randy pointed out.
"But this is not permanent, it will pass," I pointed out back.
"Well that's what feelings are. They're temporary. You hate her."
Randy was right of course; I've carried that perspective on hate with me since then.
I'm not sure when it happens that so many women learn to be passive, but I know it happens. It's happening in my niece, and I almost don't recognize it because it's so shrouded in cuteness. Taiana and Jack are both such cute kids. And anyway, who am I to say a five year old girl can't feel hate for a boy that is her friend? I realize I just told my niece that she wasn't feeling what she said she was feeling. I hate when people do that to me. I hate feeling silenced, disempowered, unheard.
Suddenly I'm glad I'll be visiting in less than a week. This is an opportunity to help her learn something too many girls don't learn. After all, hate is just a temporary feeling (even if it is self-perpetuating). Silence can be temporary, too, but often isn't.