Last night I did something that scared me. I went to an acting studio, got given a theme and had just under 2 hours to write a monologue, which I then performed. The writers in residence advised us to go with our gut and get out whatever needed to come out before editing, and apparently what I needed to get out was a rant:
First impressions are funny things. According to scientific research, we form a first impression in seconds, but it can take hours, days and even years to undo a negative first impression, whether accurate or not. And then there are complications, like your current mood, thoughts at the time, who that person reminds you of; I once felt physically revolted at the sight of a complete stranger just because they had the same approximate face shape and hairstyle as my abusive ex. And this was from seeing them at a distance, let alone interacting with them!
Maybe that person was working on a cure for cancer or helping to resettle asylum seekers. What if they were a nobel prize winner or the kindest, most devoted parent? What a jerk I am, to recoil because of a passing resemblance to a man I once knew. In an instant I had already unconsciously decided that I wanted nothing more than to get away from this stranger, with the full potential of the very best of humanity within them…of course, they might also have been a dick, in which case I wouldn’t have felt so bad.
But aren’t they funny, first impressions? Quite often they’re bang on, too. I have close friends now whom I instantly adored the second I met them. I’ve felt unnerved at the presence of a stranger only to find out later that, true to my spidey senses tingling, they’re a total arsehole. But it’s the in-betweeners that are difficult. You know, those people who are quite alright and even commendable on the surface, but have something a bit off about them, like a banana that looks only very slightly green, but when you bite into it the floury taste of betrayal soils your tastebuds. So too these people can often confuse our first impression radar and later prove to be disappointingly starchy and flavourless.
And then there’s the fact that human beings by nature are always growing and changing, and those poor sods who give you a bad first impression and then change for the better have to spend all their time overcoming your own instantly internalised false bias. So many beautiful humans are overlooked in this way, especially if they don’t automatically fit the cookie cutter of social ideals perpetuated by the media and society in general. In fact, could I just say that when it comes to judging people our society is absolute shit. And I mean the worst kind of stinking, festering, slightly liquid shit. Not the dried up fairly odourless shit that isn’t too complicated to clean up.
Take me, for instance. I’m non-binary and every single day I am compelled to combat peoples’ incorrect first (and second and third) impressions of me due to their own engrained bullshit. And even though I know my own identity- and this is technically independent of any external validation – it still fucking hurts when people treat me like a fragile little girl because that is what they have decided I am based on my size, my shape, my voice…it especially hurts because to our society there is no other option: you’re either a boy or a girl and to be anything else in-between, to want anything other that what the gender they have assigned you should want is declared to be mental illness. So, I have to make the decision whether to fight that assumption and adapt myself to exist and be ‘read’ the way I want and need to be read, or not to bother and try to simply brush it all off and survive, because it is so much harder to challenge the system than to suppress who you are. Having said that, I’m a stubborn little human and I am prepared to fight for my happiness.
Funnily enough, despite the inevitable suffering and hardship, I am actually finding that when I’m true to myself and my identity, people can usually see that and it even affects their impression of me, to the point of sometimes overriding that programmed crap I was ranting about just now. So, at the end of the day, yes first impressions are funny things, but being absolutely and authentically true to who you are tends to mean things will work out okay.