Monday, December 22, 2008

Comfortable in my Skin

Have you ever met someone who makes you feel entirely unselfconscious? I've encountered a few in the last months, and it was the absence of the initial "once-over" look that made me aware that such a look existed.

You know the look (or at least now you'll be waiting for it). You meet someone new and there's a moment where they assess your clothes, body, shoes, income, hair and stance in a single superficial sweep, conscious or otherwise. You can see certain questions being checked off in their much does she weigh? How tall is she? What is she wearing and what does it say about her? Does she have money, a wedding ring, good/bad makeup? Are her shoes new/cheap/appropriate for her outfit? Is she trying to be trendy/goth/punk/hip/conservative in her dress?

Of course I'm of multiple minds on this. On one hand it's a perfectly normal part of human communication to use non-verbal cues to figure out how to approach people or to correctly interpret or anticipate what they say. It's such a natural part of communicating that most of us don't realize that it's missing in these days of IM and chat. We've learned, to some extent, to adapt to the lack of visual cues, but this lack is part of the reason there are so many more arguments and misunderstandings in online conversations.

On the other hand, as Samuel Clemens said, "common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen". When someone does the "once-over" look, are they filtering what they see through a collection of prejudices that includes the Calvinistic belief that I am all of the negative character traits associated with fat people? That I am lazy, stupid, etc. ? When I defy that belief, is the surprise increased because of those prejudices? (Which, one could argue, might be used to my advantage).

But, as I said, I've met a few people recently outside my regular circle of friends who met me without the usual once-over. Coincidentally, they turned out to be people I'm really drawn to, have a lot in common with, and will hopefully end up as close friends. I don't want to use the absence of the "once-over" as a magic eight ball of potential friendship at this point, but I'm going to at least pay attention to it as a barometer; one more tool when it comes to knowing how people tick.

Then again, using the absence of a superficial assessment of my personality as a superficial assessment of their personality is quite probably hypocritical of me.

Then again, I never did claim to not be a hypocrite.


T.Allen-Mercado said...

*Enters sheepishly* Hello, I just wanted to tell you I find your blog refreshing. Unapologetically fat, thin, shy et al. is healthy and I wish more people would learn to embrace the differences that makes us-well some of us anyway) awesome.

JoGeek said...

Thank you! I'm always honored that someone thinks I'm worth reading :-)