"You can't judge a book by its cover," the old adage goes. But we do, all the time. He's a player. She's a slut. He's uptight. She's frigid. Each of these titles comes from a different outward appearance and each suggests traits of the people behind the face, or inside the clothes. And it's not just personalities that people assume. It's also relationship styles.
Don't get me wrong, I'm as guilty as the next girl when it comes to this. I see someone and off goes my brain, making decisions about who that person might be; whether or not I'm interested in engaging with them; and, more germane to this conversation, what type of relationships that person might be involved in or want to be involved in.
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And that's the part that has me befuddled right now. I don't want anyone telling me what to wear or how to look and I certainly don't expect to make those decisions for other people. But I am becoming more and more conscious of how other people's presentations affect me.
The most visible members of a group end up defining the look of the group. Despite the fact that this is an inaccurate and unfair, it's also inevitable. If I had a magic wand, it would be one of the first things I'd change (after getting rid of world hunger and professional wrestling.) But I'm not waiting around for fairy dust any longer.
This has been on my mind for a very specific reason. I have chosen to write about my life and when I'm asked to speak publicly about that writing people are often surprised when they see what has been described as my "conservative look." It's disappointing, quite frankly. People in open relationships don't all look the same.
And therein lies the issue that compelled me to write about this—stereotypes: judgments that originate in truth but are exaggerated until they become ridiculous. Stereotypes come from what we see most frequently, and they are limiting to everyone.
The only way to eliminate stereotypes, of course, is to expose the truth. And what I've discovered is the value of presenting the image I want to portray, regardless of how incongruent it might seem at first glance. I want to compel others to feel comfortable being who they are.
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Allow me to elaborate. If you walk into a room and no one looks like you, you might assume—wrongly most likely—that you don't belong in that room. But if you enter that same room and you see yourself in someone there, you will likely feel better about the room and the people in it.
We all have the opportunity to be that familiar face. I won't bother suggesting that we stop judging one another. Sadly, I don't think will ever happen. And I wouldn't want people to change the way they look to satisfy someone else. Nope. I'm suggesting that we start outing ourselves.