"The first tiiiiiime ever I saw your face / I thought you were a huge douchebag"
by Brendan Cavanagh
Human beings are innately superficial creatures. Admittedly, I myself can be one of the most shallow strangers upon initial interaction, though not visibly because I try not to allow myself to let my first impressions of others negatively affect the way I treat them. However, I seem to consistently judge a person's character simply by the way they look or act when I meet or see them for the first time.
For instance, over spring break I revisited my high school in order to shadow a young English teacher, my observations of which will soon form the basis of a presentation I have to give in my Education class here at school. After a full seven hours of shadowing the teacher around school, asking questions and observing her students, I decided to pay an old teacher- a lasting friend- a visit and have a chat with him before heading home and taking a much-needed nap. While he and I sat down in his classroom for what was intended to be an intimate discussion about college, movies and each other's educational philosophies, two sophomores sat down and worked on homework, punctuating our conversation with their oft-irrelevant opinions, which became increasingly frequent as the conversation progressed. Due to my annoyance at being regularly interrupted while I attempted to enjoy an all-too-brief conversation with a teacher I rarely see these days, I found one of the sophomores, whom I did not know while I still attended the school, to be rather pretentious and too young to truly have experienced and understood all of the surprisingly valid references he made to various movies and books. Because of his age, I assumed that he was not as cultured as he purported and I refused to bestow upon him the credit which he deserved, and which I would have liked to receive when I was his age.
At the end of the week, I was on my way to meet a couple of friends for dinner, and I was forced to stop at a red light on a busy intersection. In celebration of the arrival of much-welcome warm weather, I had the windows of the car rolled down and the stereo turned up. As I anxiously looked about to ensure that my music was not disturbing the cars halted in my vicinity, as I am prone to doing every time I meet a red light, I saw someone two lanes over looking at me and trying to get my attention. At first I could not adequately make out who it was, but upon further inspection I realized it was the sophomore that I had inwardly despised at the high school a few days before. Unfortunately, I cannot recall exactly which words we exchanged, but for the minute or so we were simultaneously waiting for a green light, we had a brief, albeit meaningful conversation during which we exchanged names and pleasantries. Once the traffic light became green, he and I gently accelerated, and as I turned left, he headed forward, ultimately shouting over the cacophony of car engines with a wide smile,
"Good luck being a teacher!"
At the utterance of those words, my heart broke. How could I have been so cruel as to immediately discredit his claims when we conversed at the school? I believe it was an amalgamation of two feelings: First, that I was upset that I was unable to speak privately with my former teacher that day, and second, that I was jealous that he was so cinematically and textually informed for his age. Clearly I failed to look past my misconceptions of his character and actively get to know him better.
As is most often the case, I fail to see the inherent goodness in most people. College, for example, is the perfect sociological testing ground, at which I have had the chance to meet more people in the shortest amount of time than I ever have before. In my numerous encounters with meeting strangers, I think I have too frequently employed a subconscious and entirely irrational defense mechanism that causes me to think everyone is, for lack of a better term, a douchebag. One can vaguely understand why I do so: Since I am overwhelmingly unfamiliar with the culture of cities and states beyond Springfield, Illinois, I am not used to seeing people dress routinely in outfits that consist of, say, madras or khakis or Sperrys. While initially judging these characters as "preppy," I soon came to realize upon meeting them that not all of them exemplify the characteristics I so erroneously assigned them. Some of them do, though. But at least I discovered as much after I had conversations with them.
Consider the dating scene. Do not most people initially decide who they want to pursue romantically based off the most visceral, carnal feelings that arise when they see a person's body? And I do not necessarily mean that every guy sees an attractive girl and thinks (or exclaims), "Damn, look at those titties. I want to tap that shit." But do you find that the people towards whom you gravitate and for whom you perhaps develop feelings are those who fit the qualifications of your "type?" I am of the conviction that it is acceptable to do so, provided that an attempt to get to know the person better is taken. Once I found myself taken by a very pretty girl. Primarily motivated by physical interest, I took her out now and then to get to know her better. I soon realized that our personalities did not particularly mesh, and when she told me,
"I've only seen The Happening, but M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible director,"
I extricated myself from that relationship. It took a little while, though.
Anyway, it is important to not always let our initial reactions affect the way we treat others. A person's most defining qualities are not always those that appear on the surface, and they are certainly not physically manifested. If they were, then one of my best friends here at college would be correct in assuming that I am gay because I wore neon colored ankle socks on the first day we met. Though judging by the latest change made to my short description on the sidebar of Classic Brian's home page, clearly he is not the only one who has at some point doubted by heterosexuality. Maybe the culprit has not hung out with me enough to accurately assess my character. WINK WINK READ MY BLAWG WINK