Sunday, September 25, 2016

                                                Names I’ve Already Been Called

     When you’re the new kid on the block, it’s interesting how people perceive you. We all have first impressions of people when we first meet them. How do you form a first impression? If you’re like most, you don’t even think about it; it just happens. You look at someone’s face, body type, smile, posture, clothing, and an impression emerges in your brain somewhere. Then the person speaks, and the impression is either enhanced or modified based on your own perspective. 

     Last night, Mr. Wonderful and I were invited to a large dinner gathering at a local restaurant. We had met about half of the guests (there were 24 of us), and we knew fairly well only the couple we brought who were the organizers. We love them. They are warm, friendly, humble and just beautiful people. When we approached the first of the two long tables, we said hello to those whom we had met last time. I remember the two pretty women who are about 20 years younger than me. I remember being impressed by their youth and attractiveness, and when they spoke, they became even more attractive, as they were humble, fun and very friendly. As we continued down the table, a man whom I had never met looked at me and said, “Hi, Daisy Mae!” I laughed and said, “Well, hello there.” At the end of the first table, we said hello to a couple with whom we had gone out previously and whom we liked a lot, and another couple who seemed older but nice. She had a very round face, and she was one of those people you feel like you already know and like.

     Fast forward to the end of the evening, after I had chatted with only a few people at our table, as I was at the end and couldn’t hear anyone further down. Mr. Wonderful was sitting to my right, and he was engaged in conversation most of the evening with his tennis friend next to him whom he liked a lot. His wife was sitting across from him, but it was hard to hear her from where I was. We did chat briefly, and I noticed how young she was and how pretty. She was friendly also, and I did eventually have a nice conversation with her. 

     At the end of the evening, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t had a chance to meet more people. At that point, the round-faced lady came over and sat down next to me. She asked me all kinds of questions and we ended up hugging each other good-bye. I found out she was diabetic and had nearly lost her eyesight. (We never know what people have endured when we make those first impressions.) She saved the evening for me from the new friend perspective, but then a lady from the other end of the table approached me. She said, “You look just like a former colleague of mine.” I never know what that means. Was this colleague a dog? She couldn’t remember the woman’s name, and it was only relevant because I discovered that we were both former teachers from Michigan and only lived a few miles from one another. We both agreed that it was a shame we couldn’t have chatted but that we would be in touch. Her impression of me was obviously colored by her relationship with her former colleague, which speaks to my point about how our impressions can be mixed with people or experiences from our past. 

     At a luncheon last week, a woman whom I had met briefly at another function sat down next to me, and laughed when she called me “Sexpot.” Boy, we never know how we are impressing people. “Daisy Mae,” “Sexpot,” “Colleague.” Hmm. “Round face,” “attractive,” “humble.” We tend to label people in our memories for various reasons. Whatever other impressions I may have made, I hope the names I’m called at the next party are as funky. What names would people call you?

     On the way home with our friends, we talked about how most of these people are retired and many of them were “someones” in their past lives, but now that we’re all here, we don’t flaunt our titles or successes. No one cares. We’re all here to just enjoy ourselves and have a good time. This is a good thing, but I don’t completely agree that people’s pasts don’t go into that first impression. 

      When you move to a new state where many others have moved from other states, there are “impressions” we have based on where they lived. New York conjures up a certain profile in my mind based on my experiences with New Yorkers, and as I used to live in California, I have impressions and memories of people I met there that play into my reactions when I meet someone from let’s say San Diego or San Francisco. So what’s the point? Maybe others react to me the way I do to them. Maybe the Michigan image conjures up the Detroit ghetto or the U of M Wolverines. Maybe my blond hair and hobo blouse conjure up comic strips characters. Maybe the colleague looked like a sleeze or a move star. Who knows? It’s all so fascinating, n’est-ce pas?