PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS

I went to a party last night and someone said I was scary. The fact that I am perceived as being scary did not come as a surprise to me. It has been said before. But what is strange is that people have that perception. And it made me think about how often what we think about people and what is the reality don’t match.

It’s nothing new of course. Austen wrote all about it almost 200 years ago. Based on things said by others, smatterings of misinformation and her own prejudices, Elizabeth Bennet manages to misjudge almost everyone that she meets. And I am the same. I regularly have to reassess my view either favourably or otherwise as some comment or action makes me think that my judgement is skewed. My husband always gets the measure of people quickly and rarely needs to revisit his decision. It is a valuable skill that I do not share.

But clearly I am not alone. I am not good in large groups. I find it hard to hold any kind of discussion with a man – a result of years at a girls’ school and I would rather stand on my own than introduce myself into a conversation. I consider this to be social ineptitude. But perhaps it comes across as rude or distant or aloof. I do not suffer fools and am happy to make my opinions known if asked but scary? I would beg to differ.

But if I am misjudged in this way then how many others am I not troubling to get to know because of some fleeting impression acquired with very little basis in truth? Because I have lived in this town for the greater part of my life, some of the preconceived ideas I have about what makes people tick are based on actions taken more than 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong. Some of those judgements are spot on. I don’t always get it wrong. But I am sure that there are some people that I would never dream of talking to because they looked at me in a funny way in the pub when I was 17.

Things start anew in September. Many of the mothers that I knew when my children first started school have moved on as our children change schools. I will need to try to forge new friendships with the parents of peers of my younger two who have just started on their progression through primary. Challenging times – particularly if I am scary! Or maybe I will reinforce those perceptions of me by standing on my own looking calm, composed, controlled and controlling and see who talks to me. I suspect that would lead to a lonely six years! As usual I will take the middle ground and confound people’s expectations by being perfectly pleasant. I take comfort from the fact that it was the view of those around me at the party that whilst I was scary, I was way too girly for physical violence and would never win in a fight! And on that point at least I suspect they are right.

What do you think? I'd love to know...