He sits on the barstool next to my husband. He is half my age. He is sporting a full beard and a ponytail. He is dressed all in black with a band t-shirt that I will later learn via an internet search is for a death metal group.
We could not be more different. We appear to have nothing in common. Well, aside from the fact that I am an aging 80s headbanger, though mine was more power ballad hair bands instead of thrash music.
He orders a draft beer and strikes up a conversation with us. It turns out we have a mutual affection for craft beers, in particular the Octoberfest varieties soon to hit the shelves (thank you beer gods). Soon he is describing the foodie scene in his hometown of Portland, Maine. He shows us pictures from his recent camping trip to the gorgeous Vermont mountains. He tells us about his college days and his plans to attend a custom guitar building school after graduation.
He is smart, witty, and engaging. The three of us talk for hours about a myriad of subjects. He is an attentive listener and an interesting storyteller. I find that I want to get to know him better. By the end of the night we feel like fast friends.
The scene I just described played itself out one evening earlier this week. The young man is our nephew on my husband’s side, and he was in town to visit family. While he is not a stranger to me, he is someone who I had met only a handful of times. It had been years since I had last seen him, so in some ways I was now “meeting” him as an adult.
I relay this story to you because it got me thinking about appearances and how we react to them. I found myself wondering how often we miss out on meeting amazing people because we have knee-jerk reactions to the way they look. If I had to guess I would say this automatic dismissal of people based on their outward representation of themselves happens far more often than we might care to admit.
As a people-watcher and an avid observer of human nature I see this sort of thing happen time and again. We tend to gravitate toward people who are in our age range, dress like we do, and enjoy the same things that we do. Imagine, though, if we all broadened our horizons and reached out to those who we might initially pass by. I do not believe we do this with any malice or animosity, rather it is from a sense of hesitancy and apprehension of the unknown.
I would like to think that if the young man in the story had not been my nephew I would have engaged in that same conversation. That I would have set aside my initial thoughts that I would have nothing in common with him, or that we would not be able to relate to one another. However, I have been guilty of judging someone by appearance or by presumption, my own self-created version of a person based on a first glance or a brief meeting. I almost missed out on a wonderful friendship with a woman I pre-judged, but thankfully life presented us with a second opportunity to connect.
I am learning to look beneath the surface. I am open to finding out what it is that constitutes the “more than meets the eye” in people. I want others to offer the same courtesy to me, and so I will gladly extend myself to them.
There are people who are unable to see past outward appearances. If someone does not fit the homogeneous grouping they belong to then they are not willing to extend themselves. I find that I feel sorry for these misguided souls, for with their reflexive actions they are depriving themselves of some great company. They are missing out on possibly making cool new lifetime friends, like the one I made this week.
Do you have your own similar experience to share? Do you step out of your “box” to meet others? As always I welcome your comments and feedback. Just for fun, and to prove I was an 80s headbanger girl, I am including a photo from my long ago high school days. Try not to fall over laughing… Cheers! Karen
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