I am a very big fan of my nephews, Oliver and Avery. Because they are only 6 and 4 years old, respectively, I must confess that they fail me in certain ways—e.g. giving me a lift home from the airport, lending money, selecting wine—but, overall, I do like them. More importantly, I really, desperately want them to like me.
I'm not sure why I crave the approval of a couple of toddlers, but why should they be different than anyone else? The only problem is, we don't have much in common. Sure, we think the same things are funny (farts) but outside of that I am pretty out of touch with their culture. I always find myself making very obvious and shallow attempts to relate, by awkwardly discussing the same two or three subjects. I talk to them about music, about video games, and about their sneakers. Then, when I've run out of things to say about any of those subjects, and the silence between has grown deafeningly uncomfortable, I hold up my hand and yell, "OK! High-FIVE!" That's pretty much how it goes at every visit.
In thinking about this, it has finally occurred to me that the self-consciousness and desperate need for validation with which I relate to my nephews is nearly identical to the way most white people act around black guys for the first time. And there's not a lot of love flowing both ways there, either.