Deal or no deal?

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Someone I met recently shared some potentially deal-breaking information with me. The kind of information that makes you think you jumped in too fast. It was personal, but necessary, information. This made me realize how much I judge, shape an opinion, decide the worthiness of someone,  and how much of it is based on appearances.

In this case: my opinion was very high because this man is always very well-dressed,  mild-mannered, eloquent, and impossibly polite by today’s standards. It’s as if he just stepped down from a Victorian-era hansom with top hat and walking stick in hand. I mean this in the most complimentary way. He always appears to be the epitome of the true gentle man.

Then, because we are considering working on a project together, we began talking via e-mail. There came a turning point, when he had to bare a small part of his soul, something only those who need to know know,  in order for me to gauge whether I could take on the project.  I didn’t see it coming. I’ll admit I had to take a deep breath and process.  I was thankful this happened virtually rather than face-to-face because my expression may have betrayed my feelings.

The man he is today is the result of a painful process involving grievous mistakes and inescapable consequences. There’s probably a lot more that I don’t know — but might if I sign on to this one. So, what now? Walk away? Proceed with caution but draw clear boundaries? Forge ahead without prejudice?

Would I have been less shocked if he was a slovenly, ill-mannered sort of person? Why did appearances play so heavily in this matter? How well do we know anyone in our lives?

This got me thinking about my life and how I seem to others. If you don’t know my back story, you could come up with any number of conclusions about me. I’ve heard them all. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. I could go to the same store dressed two different  ways and receive very different treatment. If I go in a skirt, makeup applied and hair styled, I get attention. If I go in paint-splattered pants, bare-faced, hair twisted in a clip, I’m ignored. I’m treated one way when I’m with my children at the park, quite another when I’m at a concert venue in high heels. Is this fair? Is this right? I don’t know but it’s the way of things.

Recently I gave up trying to be friends with someone. I thought we clicked, that we would be fast friends. At first I think we were, then something changed. I don’t know what I did; I can only assume I committed a deal breaker. Slowly it occurred to me that she was dumping me.

She started saying things like: I thought you hated (insert name of my favorite band/food/wine/restaurant.) so I didn’t ask/invite you.  She started recalling details about me that were not my story: that I had carpal tunnel syndrome, that I was a homebody who never liked to go out, that I contradicted myself.

It hit me then: She didn’t know me at all and really didn’t want to. She just reached a hand into the junk drawer of her brain and pulled out scraps to form her idea of me. She had already made up her mind.

Deal breaker.


15 thoughts on “Deal or no deal?

  1. This is an issue that I have been mulling over for sometime now. I recently had to let go of what I considered a friend (albeit a new one). As I mature, I am more aware of what I am looking for in relationships, and I am no longer interested in spending time with people who don’t fill me up inside. So I guess that is my deal breaker.

    Great to hear from you.

    • Molly: Nice to hear from you, too. When I was younger I had a habit of taking on “project” friends, you know, the kind that need some adjustment and repair, with me serving as the hardware store. I am over that.

  2. “Would I have been less shocked if he was a slovenly, ill-mannered sort of person? Why did appearances play so heavily in this matter? How well do we know anyone in our lives?”

    Wow. You’ve given me A LOT to think about.

  3. People are so complicated. We shouldn’t wonder at all the killing in the world. The miracle is that there’s not more — that we can manage to get along at all. The older I get, the less judgmental I become. I have a greater acceptance of others, warts and all. We all carry around our own bag of hammers, so to speak. Some are heavier than others, but no one walks about burden free. I’ve learned to be more patient and accepting of myself and, my extension, those around me.

    I’ve also accepted that not everyone is meant to be in our lives forever, but everyone does have something to teach us.

    Very thought-provoking piece, my friend.

    • Jayne: It’s a delicate dance, that is for certain. While I’m certain I’ve evolved in the judgment and acceptance department, I do believe it is impossible to be totally judgment-free, at least upon first impression. I suppose it’s what we do after the first meeting, how we react, and treat the other person once we know more, that is the measure of our evolution.

  4. Pingback: Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce » Blog Archive » Mature Love?

  5. I’ve let go of friends who were there when they needed me, but not otherwise. It’s still painful, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I just need to go out and cultivate better friends. As if it were that easy.

    • Suniverse: I watch my girls meet and make friends so easily. It’s easy in childhood. What happens in adulthood that real friendship is so elusive, like some golden ticket issued in limited quantity?

  6. I have learned not to make snap judgements about individuals if I can help it. Some of the most wonderful people I have had a chance to get to know might have scared me away at first. Most people however don’t stop and think about things like that….I know some are scared by a lot of tattoos – I have found those individuals are usually the first to come to your help, with a smile and positive attitude!

    I found your blog through the blogger comment club- thanks for letting me visit.

    • Kerry: Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I’m always reminded of the news stories of the serial killers who had everyone fooled they were so neatly dressed, so mild mannered and average.

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