There’s a saying that we all know about, but we never follow. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”. We are human beings, we ALWAYS judge a book by its cover. If we are good people, we stay open minded to changing our assessment once we read the book. We also don’t act on our original judgment and we don’t ignore new information.
The first half of my life my book was judged by its cover negatively. In the second half of my life my book is judged by its cover in a positive way. Both scenarios are interesting and bizarre at the same time.
Early in life I experienced this a lot. It sometimes made me angry and most times I morphed that anger into motivation. Let’s skip the younger years of my life so I don’t bring you to tears and/or outrage against my 4th grade teacher and people you’ve never met. But I’ll share one very vivid memory from elementary school about lunch time and the free lunch program.
You may be familiar with the program where children who can’t afford lunch are given free lunch. Almost every day I would go through the lunch line, and the cashier would say “free” when I walked up with my tray. I had my money ready to pay for lunch, but she assumed I was in the “free” category. I would insist on paying, at which time she would look at me with a scrunchy forehead and say something like “Hun it’s ok, free, go ahead”. I wasn’t on the free lunch program and this was confusing and a bit humiliating. To this day I don’t know if this lunch lady was being helpful or if she was a complete bitch. Judging a 7 year old based on appearance, real nice lunch lady. The free lunch program is amazing, but that lunch lady can go fuck herself, amirite?
Dear lunch lady…
Let’s get real. Skip ahead to age 16 for Marie Christine in Small town USA. I’m in a working class family and am very motivated. I watch the news every day. I work after school. I get great grades. I get my junior year class schedule and it says that I am assigned to level 2 classes. Level 1 is for college bound students. Level 3 is for people who can’t keep up. Level 2 is for average students. If you’ve met me, you guessed it, I flipped my shit.
I go into my guidance counselor’s office to discuss this. At this age with very little resources, the one place you have to go for help is your guidance counselor. I was very excited for this meeting. I would explain my situation, he would move me to the level 1 classes so I could get into college, we would resolve this obvious misunderstanding. So… it didn’t quite go that way.
I walk into the appointment determined and hopeful. I sit across from Mr. Judgmental assuming he would be understanding and helpful. I present my case to him, discuss my aspirational goals, discuss the proof of my work ethic and references from my other teachers and my employers. He smirks and shakes his head. I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. Wait for it… I will reveal his actual identity in this blog.
He proceeds to tell me that I should consider one of two options based on my “obvious situation” that I’m “Clearly not ready to accept”. My first option, according to Bloated Face McGee, was to forget about college because this was a “ridiculous pipe dream” and accept that I need to learn a trade. He suggested hair dressing school. This is a perfect fit for some people, but those of you who know me, this is not a fit for me.
My second option was to yellow slip. Yellow slip meant that you ask your parents to sign a form saying that you don’t need to continue high school and you basically leave and join the workforce immediately. Hey Mr. Inflated Ego, I will spend the rest of my life proving that you are a classist, biased asshole who has no business counseling children. But I digress. I left his office in shock, disappointed, and more motivated to succeed than I ever had been. I moved myself into level 1 classes without permission. #FTW
Me waiting patiently for the universe to catch up with this guy … payback.
His assessment was based solely on factors that had nothing to do with who I really am. He was, and likely still is, a class A douche bag. Do you want to punch this jack ass in the face? Don’t worry, you don’t need to. His life did not turn out well. As it turns out, his judgment wasn’t just bad when it came to my future, it was bad in general. He lost his job after changing the grades of his daughter, and changing the grades of a student who was better than his daughter, in order to make his daughter valedictorian. Here are links to the stories if you want to see how his life turned out. Who’s laughing now, Charlie? I am, and my blog readers are. Sweet sweet revenge. I had always planned on sending him a copy of my masters degree diploma, but I didn’t need to. Living well is the best revenge.
Hey buddy, remember me? I’m gainfully employed. How’s your stuff going?
Fast forward to college at UMASS Amherst. I loved that place. It was a difficult journey. I worked a lot and it was hard to keep up with my studies but I persevered. While I was in college my cousin was in prison for a non-violent crime. When I was back in my hometown on various breaks from college, I would visit him. He is, and was, a good person. He made a mistake. Period. I digress… One time I was in the waiting room, where you sign in and they search your bags and body before you can enter the visitation room. I was happy to go through this process in order to see him and remind him that he would be ok, that I was thinking about him, and that he could get through this.
As I sat there waiting to enter, one of the prison guards approached me and pulled me aside. He said “Good luck with your life. Wasting your time visiting your boyfriend in jail, you’re nothing but a drain on society and a useless waste of space.” First, this was not my boyfriend it was my cousin. Second, this is absolutely none of this guys business. Third, he obviously has not had sex in a loooooooong time, just saying. Dude needs to get some, or something. I digress, again.
At the time I was studying Sociology and was considering getting an MBA so I could run either a social program or a probation program. Rather than telling him off I just let it go, knowing that he was clearly a sad person with a sad life. I secretly wondered if I should work toward running that prison so I could be his boss, and fire him in a humiliating way. That was the actual moment I decided not to work in the prison or probation system. I knew that I didn’t want to be in a constant state of judgment from the likes of this un-self-aware neanderthal. If it makes you feel better, as he walked away from me after he insulted me I laughed and gave him my serious look, which confused and concerned him. #winningALittleBit I can only assume he lived a lonely life disappointing himself and everyone around him. Judge not lest ye be judged. Remember that.
There are SO many instances like this, I would list them all but you’d get exhausted with the length of the blog…. ha! This one time when I lived in Virginia Beach around age 21, I pulled out in front of someone in traffic. Plenty of room. My car was ok but not impressive. The guy I pulled out in front of ran me off he road. He forced me out of the car and berated me telling me I was white trash and threatened to call my parents and tell them that their daughter was a disappointment who couldn’t drive for shit. Road rage much? I’m not good at everything but comebacks are my specialty. I told him that my parents died in a car accident when I was a baby (sorry guys, not true!) but that if he has a direct connection to god he was more than welcome to call them. He apologized and started backpedaling. I got in my car, flipped him off out the window and drove away. Parents are alive and well 23 years later. I’m not white trash, and you have anger management issues.
Now the script has flipped. People assume the opposite of me, which is both bizarre and hilarious. If I go to a restaurant with a group of people, the hostess will always ask me “How many? Where would you like to sit?” I don’t know lady ask one of the other 10 people here I’m just along for the ride. People assume I know what to do in a myriad of situations ranging from post-car accident management to deciding where to have a baby shower. I’m the same person I was in the prison waiting room and in the guidance counselors office, yet I get a different response from the world because of a change in clothing quality and demeanor.
A friend and I witnessed a major car accident about 7 years ago. The driver two cars behind us was texting and driving and didn’t see that traffic was stopped in front of her. She hit the car behind us and her car propelled over our car and flipped onto its roof. This was in the city so there were at least 30 people there. I swear all 30 were looking at me for guidance. I went into the car, realized the driver was likely paralyzed. I called her father on her cell and beckoned him to the scene. I held her hand and kept her calm until the fire fighters came. Meanwhile everyone else stood around in shock.
When you’re a 45 year old woman and the fictional character you relate to most is Don Draper. #NotNormal
When did I cross the line from assumed yellow slip jailhouse girlfriend to crisis manager? I didn’t. I’ve been the same person this entire time. It’s ok to judge a book by it’s cover at first, but keep it to yourself and STFU until you figure out who the person really is. The person you think is a jailhouse girlfriend might just be holding your newly paralyzed daughters hand while she waits for you to arrive.