Friday, August 12, 2016

                                                LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING

     At a recent meeting, a young man in his 30s approached me in his shorts and T-shirt, shook my hand, smiled, and returned to his seat. He looked like one of my former high school students who might have been getting ready to go to play baseball not give a speech in front of a group of aspiring public speakers. Another woman who I would describe as a grown-up tom boy with almost no hair and a 1950s gym teacher body snapped at me when I told her I was taking a certain role during the meeting. She said, “No, you’re not. I’m doing that.” “No problem,” I replied politely, thinking to myself “Who is this bitch?”

     Turns out the young man had a speech impediment when he was young and had to attend special classes to correct it. This was quite traumatic for him, but here he was giving a speech, a terrifying experience for many. He also has a disability which prevents him from playing any sports, not to mention his very favorite, baseball. The inspiration we all gained from listening to this young man speak with passion and eloquence taught me once again that you can never tell by looking at someone what they’re made of.

     The “gym teacher” woman was the runner-up in the District speech contest last year which means she is a top-notch speaker and one from whom I am sure I can learn. Could she have been more polite, yes, but I guess success makes one somewhat territorial. I also learned that she served in the Army so she deserves some respect for serving our country. Last I heard, that’s kind of how they talk to each other in the service—as though someone just said, “ATTENNNSHUN!” 

     The following evening, Mr. Wonderful and I went to the Apple store to try to figure out why we’re so dumb. The young 20-something who greeted us had a scruffy beard and his Apple t-shirt was disheveled. He smiled under his fur and said Justina would be right with us. A few minutes later, a young woman with bright red lipstick, a crew cut, a long tight skirt over leggings and work boots smiled warmly and shook our hands. Turns out she is a genius who taught us everything we needed to know in less than 45 minutes. I guess geniuses aren’t into the latest “suburban wife” fashion. I had students who looked like her. They are now singing opera in New York and running major businesses. 

     I asked myself what people would think if they met me for the first time based on how I look. Ah, to see ourselves as others see us, as some great philosopher once said. My cfm shoes might be off-putting, and my almost-cleavage could cause some to wonder if I was auditioning for a night club act. 

     What would people think meeting you for the first time? Do you dress in a way that is “outside the box?” Do you have a look about you that would make people say to themselves, “Hmm. this person looks very .. . . . ?” Just like no one knows by looking at us whether we have just lost our pet or won the lottery, so no one knows our story from looking at us from the outside. How is your story different than how it looks?