With Great Love Comes Great Vulnerability
Cal State LA students hold intimate discussions around the table
February 21, 2017
Filed under Lifestyle
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The Center for Gender and Sexualities and the Cross Cultural Centers organized the very first “Conversations at the Dinner Table” event in the University Student Union’s Los Angeles Room. The room had Valentine’s Day themed tables with red tablecloths fully set for a fancy dinner, colored mason jars and love-themed poems by Rupi Kaur. Students opened up about their feelings on life and loving.
The concept for the event came from the Cross Cultural Centers Gender and Sexualities Resource Center. Alejandro Muro, coordinator at the Resource Center, explained that students were “really interested” in having a space to have “difficult or uncomfortable conversations on certain topics” in a safe, comfortable space. “So today, because it is Valentine’s Day, we decided to talk about love, dating, and relationships,” Muro said. “What does love look like, what [do] relationships look like, especially in the age of Tinder and all these different social media apps?”
The event was a social affair, with breaks for food and conversation punctuated with activity cues from the coordinators. This is where the mason jars came in. Each table had four mason jars marked “Love,” “Communication,” “Vulnerability,” and “Self Worth.” Each jar had a few papers folded up with a question pertaining to the subject on the jar. Some examples included “What is the difference between saying and showing love?” and “How do you know when you reach or experience self-love?” Some of the questions also referenced the Rupi Kaur poetry on the tables.
For the first activity, students were encouraged to discuss the questions with the people around them. Though some students came to the event in groups, this forced everyone to speak intimately with others they were not familiar with, and from the first round of questions it was clear that there was some initial awkwardness. There was a brief awkward silence when one of the coordinators asked what came up in the conversation, but some students did step up and discuss out loud, answering questions anecdotally and honestly. The topics were a bit difficult, but the shy air noticeably lightened as everyone got more familiar with the event.
Coordinators had tables switch the jars and moved people around to other tables in the second and third rounds. The conversations became livelier, and many students expressed their answers in more than just romantic love, but also self and platonic love. The event was this way for a reason, according to Muro. “We felt like there’s so much pressure to have a Valentine, and there’s so much pressure to be in love or be in a relationship, so we wanted to have a space where we talk about those things, but also ‘what is self-love, and how does that look like?’ and how we can communicate with each other,” he explained. “We were specific with the poems we chose and how can we talk about love in different ways, right? And it can be romantic, it can be a partner, but how do we practice it with ourselves, with our friends, with our community.”
When asked if the campus had enough events that focused around expressing emotions such as the ones that day, Muro disagreed. “I think we have some classes that talk about emotions, or we have some lecturers or guest speakers but…there should be more, because this conversation could have kept going.” Muro was surprised by the large attendance and engagement of the student body. “I’m really glad people enjoyed it.”
Conversations at the Dinner Table was advertised in the university events calendar, but there were more reasons why students attended. A student of Animation major, Majid, explained that he went to the event to “be more open with people.” “There are also some things you’re not comfortable speaking about with family,” and he felt the event helped him express his feelings well. In the final round of the event, each attendee was asked to stand and “give an affirmation to themselves.” Students affirmed they would be more self-confident, more vocal in their love for their partners, and be less critical of themselves. Conversations at the Dinner Table was more than a safe space to discuss love, but also a space for self-growth and self-confidence.