Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I like to think that I’m a pretty straightforward person. I’m honest about what I want (to a fault, sometimes), I’m honest about who I care about, I’m honest about who I am. I don’t like to pretend, I don’t like to play games, and I don’t like trying to remember what I’ve said. So I just say what I think. It’s easier that way.

But somehow, people get confused about me. They meet me and think I’m a certain way, get talking to me, and find things to validate those assumptions. And then, somewhere along the line, I say something and they do a double take. A triple take.

For example: Once upon a time, I had bright purple hair. I mean, bright purple hair. I have always been a little bit of a punk deep down inside; I love loud, angry music and piercings and tattoos more than my mother would like me to. Guys with tattoos make me stop and stare far longer than is strictly socially acceptable. If I had to draw my dream guy, he’d be tall with tattoos and a labret piercing and maybe an eyebrow piercing, just for good measure.

And so, when I finally quit my corporate job, I got the chance to really embrace that part of myself. The day after I left the office, I sat in my hair stylist’s chair and went from dark brown hair to purple. But I’d forgotten the assumptions new people make about things like purple hair. So it was a bit of a shock to me when, after a month or two of being friends, a guy I knew came back to my flat to have a couple beers and complain about school and noticed my icon of Mary and Jesus.

“Wait, is that really a picture of Jesus?”

“Yeah, it’s my icon.”

“But you don’t like…believe in that whole thing, do you?”

“Yeah. I do.”

He stopped and looked at me. “Huh. You just look like an atheist to me.”

I didn’t realize a person could look like an atheist. I didn’t realize people would draw this conclusion about me. In my head, I was clear. I had purple hair, I like things with skulls on them, I want to be a writer, I go to church every Sunday. All of these things are genuinely me, but the combination is apparently surprising.

It goes the other way, too. I’ve been told that I need to be “corrupted”, whatever that means. At 27 I am very comfortable saying I’ve done my time being wild, I’m quite content to stick with lamb dinners with port and truffles for dessert. But people (guys especially, for whatever reason) think that I’ve been like this my whole life. It wasn’t always ballet and poetry and port, I promise. There was a time when it was cheap vodka, bad beer, and stamps on my hand from seven different clubs in a night. But apparently I give off the “stick up her butt, but she’d be fun to party with if she let her hair down” vibe. My friend calls this “The Librarian Effect” which is accurate, if creepy.

What I’m realizing is that no matter how straightforward I think I am, I don’t actually have a clue who people think I am. I don’t know what assumptions they’re making about me, or what they think I really need. I just know that I like things the way they are, and whatever people think of me, it’s probably not any of my business anyways.

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