The other day, I was in Walgreen’s picking up a prescription for my husband. While it was being filled I was wasting time roaming the merchandise. And although there were some mediocre sales to be had, and a few gaudy new Valentine’s decorations, nothing captured my attention quite so raptly as the six-foot-something, burly man muttering to himself aisle after aisle.
My woman brain started flashing “stranger danger” in neon colors, so I steered my left-wheel-dragging cart (as non-obviously as I could squeal) in the opposite direction of the guy. But the thing about aisles is, they have more than one entrance point, and as I turned down another, randomly, there he was … still muttering, and looking more flustered than before.
I flashed a small, polite, nervous smile as I turned to see just how much room I had to squeak past crazy. Then I saw it, the source of his surly attitude, and I smiled in earnest. Shaking my head at my preconceived judgement, he reminded me that looks really aren’t always what they seem.
Scratching his head in true bewilderment, looking at the wall of nightmares (also known as feminine-products) my heart melted as I asked, “Can I help you?”
“Would you?” he asked hope-filled as he noticed me standing there for the first time.
“Of course,” I smiled assuringly.
He turned twenty-shades of purple when he said, “It’s her first day.”
“Got it,” I said knowingly, then handed him the appropriate box.
“Gosh, thanks,” he said, letting out the breath he must’ve been holding all that time.
“You just tell her you won husband- of-the-year from me.”
“Will do,” he said blushing again.
The philosopher Socrates advised,
“Be as you wish to seem.” It’s a noble thought, but I’d venture to say that who we appear to be is decided by whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at any given time. Someone once told me I walk like a snob because I kept my head and neck up. I told them I was a dancer and posture was just a habit at this point. They told me that made sense, and I didn’t know how to reply. “Thanks for not thinking I’m rude now that you’ve taken the time to talk to me?”
The thing is, I couldn’t take offense … because we do that. We look at face value, we generalize, and we judge books by covers (I was at Barnes and Noble last night literally doing just that). But often, we’re wrong.
I have a student in my class I’ve nicknamed Romeo. I did this because the boy is a flirt. He has a girlfriend (also in my class) but that doesn’t stop him from passing compliments around like candy hearts in Valentine’s Day. Even I, twenty-years his senior receive some. A few days ago he “liked my haircut,” then “I had cool eyes.” So you’ll understand my wary smile when he approached me in the hallway and said, “Mrs. H., can I come home with you?”
“Well, why would you want to do that buddy?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate when he said, “I just really want to know what it’s like to be a part of your family.”
Again, proving … things aren’t always as they seem. Because suddenly, they weren’t. He was no longer “Romeo;” he was a vulnerable little boy who wanted to be, well – wanted.
A few days later, I told my students I wasn’t going to be there because my daughter was sick. And Romeo asked if he could write her a note. It said, “Hey, I am sorry you’re not feeling well and hope you feel better soon. I am sad that Mrs. H., your mom won’t be here with us today because I’ll miss her, but I’m really glad she’ll be there to take care of you.”
Coming home to my baby girl that day, I saw tired eyes, and a smile she’d saved just for me. Because once in awhile, things are exactly what they seem.
The greatest fashion statement in the world is love, and how it always wears its heart on its sleeve. Maybe if we followed the trend, there’d be a few less passing judgements. And we would realize that face-values and generalizations don’t matter so much after all … people do.
Go love someone past their cover,