Drive into a neighborhood you have never been to. One that you know nothing about. Now pick a house. Doesn’t matter which one. Look at the size, and shape, and how it is kept up. Is the yard mowed or the grass long? Is it orderly, or is there things left all over? Does it look clean or dirty?
Based on your observations, now imagine who the people are that live in that house. I would guess that by the appearance of what kind of house it is, the neighborhood, whether it’s kept up or not, you have a pretty good idea of what they might look like.
Now keep driving around until you see a couple of houses that are similar, but different colors. One might be a neutral beige, and the other a hot pink, or maybe many different colors. What do you think of the people who might be living in them? The houses are pretty much the same, but does the color make you think that the people are different?
Based on our past experiences, influences (such as parents, TV, friends), and observations, we all have opinions and visual expectations of who we might perceive coming out of those houses to greet us if we went up and rang the doorbell. And a lot of time, we might be pretty close. But in reality, we have absolutely no idea of who would come to the door. We don’t know one thing about them, their dreams, desires, their past, their future. Whether they are good people or bad. The only thing we will know for sure is our desire to justify our preconceived notions about them.
Why is this? Why do we want to place everything we see in a category? I think it might come from our past, when we had to decide instantly whether something is going to harm us, help us, or at the least, educate us for next time. I’m talking millions of years of trying to keep from getting eaten.
Moving to a completely unknown area has made me more observant. Of houses, the cars people drive, their yards, clothing, but mostly….faces.
Our face is how the world sees us. Our face doesn’t change (except getting more wrinkles), but the perception of us does by who is looking at us. Every face is as unique as us, but for some reason, we want to pigeon-hole and categorize the person behind the face based on our lifelong study of faces. Just like houses, we base our opinions on the shape, the care, the detail and the color of the face. How we get that opinion is based on our never-ending bombardment of information about similar faces. And just like houses, we make our assumptions before we ever ring the doorbell.
And just like houses, we really don’t know one thing about the person behind that face just by looking at them.
Living in Hawaii, I see lots of unfamiliar faces. Just like in the old Doors song, “People are strange when you’re a stranger.” Because I was raised and lived mostly in a one race town, growing up I did not have a tremendous amount of contact with other cultures, other faces. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions about them. It’s just that I realize they are mostly wrong. Even my decade’s long career in retail sales taught me little about the real person behind the face I was dealing with.
My kids make comments about faces. They categorize them by what they call their resting face. Like a resting sad face, or a resting happy face. Or mad face. It’s mostly about people we know, and it makes us laugh because usually, it’s nothing like the person we know behind the face. I know they are forming their own opinions about the faces they see. By the way, I supposedly have a resting happy face, according to them.
Images of faces and the story behind them are everywhere. Every time someone is arrested, or act inappropriately, they get their face plastered all over the media. That face then becomes associated with that act. I’m glad I don’t look like Charles Manson or Donald Trump. Even people who look normal (whatever that may be) commit horrendous crimes or should be avoided. Should everyone then become suspect? That would be a horrible way to live.
I saw the new movie, Wonder, and this is a perfect example of judging a face and not the person behind it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s a great movie. Bring lots of tissue.
Our face is the front door to the home in which our soul resides. Once in awhile, I get an unbiased glimpse of my face. Before the delusion begins. Before I dismiss the wrinkles and sagging skin, the darkened circles, the graying hair. Before I mask my face the way I think the world should see me. But by doing that, I am depriving the world and myself of connection. The connection of the real me. Almost everyone does. That’s what faces do, protect those inside the house. Doors are meant to protect, I guess it’s the same with faces.
I get judged a lot. By the color of my skin, the age of my skin. My sex, my gray hair, my crooked bottom teeth. I understand it. That’s what humans do. When I was younger, I used to get looks from the opposite sex, checking me out I would assume. I did the same. Now I get looks from the opposite sex. I wonder what in the world they are thinking about.
I know that our skill of judging a person has to do with our past survival. And in many ways, it still serves us. Who hasn’t seen a scary person who should be avoided? Obviously, we must use our brains. But take away the shape and color of the face, and there is one thing that we all have that is pretty much the same, the eyes. Our pupils are all round, the sclera white, with the iris only changing with different colors. This then might be the person behind the face. The old saying you only get to know someone by looking in their eyes might be the truest way.
I know when my kids are happy or sad. I know when a friend is glad to see me. I know when someone I love feels the same about me. It’s because I know who they are behind their face.
I look at everyone’s face, sometimes openly but usually try to be discreet. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one doing that. I can look at everyone around me, and they all seem to be oblivious or absorbed in what they are doing, they hardly notice anyone’s face. Maybe we all feel this way, or maybe it is just me. I bought a pair of those hard to see my eyes sunglasses so I can look more, but I might just be fooling myself because everyone thinks that whoever is wearing glasses like that is looking, so don’t look back at them.
My comfort zone says to keep to myself, my curiosity says to reach out. This new life in Maui has given me a great opportunity to expand myself. To expand myself, I need to connect with others who are not like me. I need to get to know more of others than just what I think their face is telling me. I need to get to know them.
I’m guessing the only way to get to know who someone is, is to ring the doorbell.