A friend and I have been talking lately about liking or disliking people we've never met. We appear to be in the minority in that we both believe that how can we like or dislike someone we don't know. Oh, we can like or dislike their behavior we've heard about but without knowing the motivation behind the behavior, without knowing the personality, the impeti (impetuses?) that created the motivation, how can we truly like or dislike the person?
I think part of my inclination toward knowing people before making a decision too is that I was such a sheep growing up - tried so damn hard to be who my parents (i.e., my mom) wanted me to be. People judged me without ever talking to me. They assumed I was stuck up because I was quiet, booksmart, and (tremendously) clumsy when I was really just shy and too scared of my parents to break the rules.
When I was in 8th grade, apparently, Mark Z was smoking in the back of language arts class. We were all called down to the principal's office individually and asked about it. People assumed I'd told on him, which I hadn't. One, Mark Z was one scary son-of-a-bitch and I would've thought long and hard about telling on him (he was quick to the fists) even if I were so inclined but, more importantly, two, I had no knowledge or even any idea that he had
been smoking. He sat in the very back, I was in the second row from the front. I adored my 8th grade LA teacher and paid a lot of attention in class (unlike math class where I read Star Trek books tucked inside my math book) so my brain was occupied by other things. The principal pushed me pretty hard to say something too; I'm sure he thought I was covering for Mark. That's what really frosted the whole episode. The adults assumed I was holding out on them and the kids assumed I was selling them out. Just totally fucking sucked.
Interestingly, with 25 years perspective on this, I think Mark was actually probably just a rebel but he seemed to have a code of ethics (compared to Dennis M. who kicked me in the crotch with steel-toed boots as I walked out of social studies for no apparent reason - I couldn't pee properly for at least a week from the bruising). Mark, at least, had the guts to confront me about supposedly telling on him rather than just say stuff behind my back and he had the honor to really listen to me when I told him I hadn't; my feeling is that I think he saw underneath to someone who was having just as hard a time though from the opposite end. I think we actually understood each other better than most maybe. The rest of the school? Not so much.
I've been thinking about this, though, and I realize I do tend to make judgments about people before I really
know them (though not before I've met them). I have to fight to keep myself from doing it. It's not that I automatically dislike people; it's that I automatically distrust them. Not in the sense that they might do me physical damage (in fact, if you ask my husband, I seem to have a rabid disregard for my own physical safety), but in the sense that they are probably going to make fun of me somehow, hurt me emotionally. I seem to approach life with the view that everyone out there is going to dislike me automatically and do what they can to belittle me to the world.
I realize this springs from the years of people yelling "boogerpicker" or "cunt" or whatever at me in the halls, from the time kids dumped my purse in the toilet in the boys room in 6th grade, from the stealing of my lunch, knocking me down, mimicking my rather distinctive walk, making fun of people who tried to be nice to me, from the time after time they set me up to be humiliated publicly. It's only now, at nearly 43, that I'm starting to reach beyond that, to try to view new people as potential friends as opposed to potential purveyors of cruelty.
Despite all that, I have to at least have met/talked to someone to decide whether I like or dislike them. I go on my gut. And, to be perfectly honest, I trust my gut a LOT more than I trust other people's assessments of folks.
Hmm, I'm thinking I really need to work on this trust thing, huh?
"Not Born to Beauty (Born to Rock)" The Bacon Brothers
Labels: growing up, life, rejection, trust