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Offbeat – 09 November 2012

In terms of shallow, this behaviour has the depth of the thin film of spit that a dog leaves in its bowl after it has finished licking it clean. The whole thing of ‘first impressions count’ should not be put in the heads of people who believe that dumbing down is way to manage your life.

This is the 400th Offbeat column. For columns 100, 200 and 300 I wittered on about why I do this and what I have learned. I am not going there again because I think I have fairly convinced myself that it is one of my weekly rituals and I enjoy doing it and all of that. So what’s this column about then?
This column is about a moment which would have had me spitting my coffee back into my coffee cup if I had been drinking coffee. If I had, it might have been something about getting coffee stains out of light coloured shirts and why gothic dress styles are cool, even when you are older.
Instead this column is about someone I know but don’t talk to, and who made me surprised and angry enough to ask if she had decided to have a lobotomy, being the sort of person who would gladly join the queue, and have a good time in the line, if she heard that her buddies were all queuing to have lobotomies. This is a person who I don’t speak to as often as possible, which is a couple of years now, and hopefully a couple of years more.
The story goes like this. Once upon a time, a woman had to have brain surgery. Apparently, there is quite a common snip which damages nerves to the face. When this snip is made, one side of the face goes limp. You can guess the rest of the story.
The upshot was that the woman who gave the impression that she has had a lobotomy because it is the sort of thing her friends thinks is cool, doesn’t want to see the woman who had the surgery. She doesn’t want her children to see the woman either, because the woman’s appearance is not suited to her. The woman who had the surgery supported the other three in various ways.
Put down that chair. I know you are as angry as I am about this story. Destroying your immediate surroundings won’t make it right.
In terms of shallow, this behaviour has the depth of the thin film of spit that a dog leaves in its bowl after it has finished licking its bowl clean. The whole thing of ‘first impressions count’ should not be put in the heads of people who believe that dumbing down is way to manage your life. It should not be allowed into the minds of people too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time. And never, ever utter it near people who are so thick that they are willing to risk financial support on the basis of looks.
I’ll also put down the chair I am brandishing at this point.
Lets get to a different point. Actually, looks don’t count. People who believe that looks count can be swayed by snappy uniforms, pretty haircuts and women who look like the sort of dolls that give blondes a bad reputation. These are people who form associations and hire on that basis, blithely ignoring the idea that people who don’t look like Hollywood stars overcompensate to the point where they are even smart enough to make people who believe that first impressions count look competent and productive.
Here’s something interesting. Did you know that nerds stay away from attractive people because, aside from well-developed complexes about their own appearances, they hold the prejudice that people who look good are probably neurotic about their appearances, and because they suspect that these people believe that first appearances count.
A guy called Kahneman says that there are two ways to think. The first is fast and intuitive. The second is slow and reasoned. This tallies with what I have seen. I have also noticed that, quite often, the slow, reasoned thinking doesn’t enter into play at all, especially not if your main preoccupation in life is to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The truth is that first impressions count, but only till the person of whom the first impression counts opens his or her mouth a couple of times. This is equally true of attractive people and of people who do not measure up to the catwalk ideal.
Karma is savage, and so is aging. Sooner or later, first impressions are an old and wrinkly person. Only with words and matching behaviour is it possible to make a sound judgement. Nothing else.

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