Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Second Hand Embarrassment and First Impressions

Second Hand Embarrassment - This is a term I stole from a much more clever and witty friend of mine, who often uses this phrase in reference to the stories I tell her about my life, because, well, I'm kind of a walking punch line 98 percent of the time. (It was recently revived during a catch up phone call the other day, and it made me laugh at our secret language of words we have developed during the course of our friendship. There are so many, I've actually started keeping a dictionary). Anyway, I tend to think of myself as that girl in the movie, you know the one you have to cover your eyes to watch, if you can bear to watch at all, because the things that happen to her are just so mortifying, that you actually feel like they are happening to you...THIS is second hand embarrassment. I'm also the type of person who makes situations, that would otherwise not be awkward, awkward, by questioning their awkwardness. (I know, try to keep up). Welcome to my life/brain. BUT. At least I can laugh at myself...as Kurt Vonnegut once said about this Apocalyptic time in which we live..."And how should we behave during this Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot." I would have to agree with Mr. Vonnegut on this one...

So. I got to thinking about this persona I've created for myself and it made me think about character development, a subject that Anne Lamott spends a lot of time with in her book on writing (and life). In it there is a chapter titled False Starts, this is a term she uses to describe a literary mistake in your writing, but it reminded me a lot of first impressions in life. First impressions can be false starts in that you don't always see the person for who they really are. I often wonder about my first impressions - I've gotten mixed reviews - but what I've tended to find is that more often than not first impressions are usually wrong, or at least not entirely accurate. In fact, I'd say most of the time my first impressions of people have really just been a false start to the story I've begun about them in my head. What they are like, what they think, how they feel about me, are usually things I've imagined. Things I have willed into existence within the first hour of knowing someone. And really - how can we be expected to show who we really are in the beginning? I mean, that's the good stuff, isn't it? You have to leave a little to the imagination right? I tend to feel like those people who make the best first impressions to the masses, very rarely hold true to them in the long run. And I'd just really rather not mess with superficial relationships. I don't have time for them, and they don't really bring anything to the table. So what's the point? 

I guess what I'm saying is that I am actively trying to ignore first impressions - to look beyond the acting that occurs in the initial interactions. I want to learn from people and for them to learn from me. It's easy to stay in a comfort zone where I know exactly which role to play to be "liked" or "noticed", but, how boring is that? Basically, I am finding myself more and more intrigued with this world, and the people in it. 

Well...until next time.