If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my forty-three years on this planet, it’s that you cannot judge a book by its cover…especially when the proverbial book is a human being. The biggest, burliest, scariest dudes often have the softest hearts and most tender souls. The roughest, rugged, tattooed-from-head-to-toe women often have the sweetest, gentlest spirits. The person that you sit next to in a classroom or on the bus, the one you secretly judge based solely on their appearance, could become your best friend…if only you could lay the pre-judgments aside and look beyond the exterior.
It isn’t easy to do. Our culture is so exterior driven that judging people on first appearance has become an acceptable reflex; but just because something is acceptable doesn’t make it wise or right.
I was sitting in a Starbucks the other day with my laptop and coffee, and I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two ladies at a table adjacent to mine. A man and a woman had entered the coffee shop at the same time and these ladies were trying to figure out if they were a couple or entered simultaneously as a mere coincidence. The man was tall, handsome, dressed in a business suit and had gray hair. I would guess him to be in his mid-fifties. The woman had brown hair that was dyed blonde, was thin and attractive and wore a flowered skirt, light blue spaghetti strap top and white sandals. I would guess her to be in her late twenties. In a matter of moments it was obvious that the two had arrived together, as the woman looped her arm in his while standing at the counter.
This is the conversation I overheard:
“Look at them,” Lady one scoffed. “That’s disgusting. She’s too young for him.”
Lady two casually glanced over her shoulder and gave an eye roll. “How do you know they’re together?”
“He’s holding her hand!” Lady one appeared very upset, to the point that I began to wonder if perhaps she knew this man and knew the story behind he and the younger woman. “It makes me sick!” She barked. She went on to tell Lady two that the man was wearing a wedding ring and the younger woman was not.
“What can you do?” Lady two shrugged. “She’s obviously with him for his money and you can see why he’s with her.” She cupped her hands near her own breasts to indicate the young woman was well endowed, which instinctively made me dart my eyes to the young woman’s chest and analyze the size of her boobs. They were nice, as far as breasts go, not overly large, not overly small. They were perky but didn’t look fake and she certainly wasn’t flaunting them. I found it intriguing that sexual motive was being assigned simply based on the woman’s breasts.
The older man and younger woman carried their coffee and sat in the table directly in front of mine. This would make it difficult for the other women to gossip about them, as they were clearly within earshot.
“Let’s go,” Lady one sighed and stood up. Lady two followed suit. “I’ve seen enough.”
The two women paraded out of the front door and I watched as they walked toward a black Mercedes Benz, got in and drove away. I wondered where they might be headed and rolled my eyes, thinking that Lady one, in particular, was rich, snobby and clearly judged people from only a high-horse view. I didn’t realize in that moment that I was just as guilty of judging her as she was of judging the man and younger woman. I had deemed her rich and snobby simply based on the type of car she was driving.
As I sat there, now eavesdropping on the man and younger woman’s conversation, I learned that he was recently widowed and she was his step-daughter from his wife’s previous marriage. She wasn’t a gold digger, he wasn't sneaking around, involved in some illicit affair and their relationship had absolutely nothing to do with the size or perkiness of her breasts. They were sharing stories about her mother, his wife, who had lost a long battle to cancer. Talk about life perspective knocking you upside the head. It hit me so hard I'm surprised I didn't fall right out of my seat.
Leaving the coffee shop and climbing into my car, I wondered what people thought about me. Was I judged on my appearance? On the car I drove? On the perkiness of my breasts or the size of my ass? I pondered how many times I had made pre-judgments based on similar things…exterior things. How many times had I applied my own life experiences, fears, doubts, etc. to others, assigning them motive that probably had never even entered their mind? How many times had I judged a book by its cover and was dead wrong?
I didn’t get a lot of writing done while in the coffee shop, but I walked out a better person. I walked out with an awareness I didn’t possess when I entered. I walked out with my eyes opened just a little bit more and a personal challenge to not pre-judge other people.
Because…everybody has a story and it should never be judged without ever being heard. ~