Another Look

Two men and two women at a restaurant.

I took this picture at a restaurant in my neighborhood. I’d like you to take a moment and mull the scene over in your head; have a look at the larger view for more nuance. How would you describe the relationships portrayed here, if you had to guess? What might you say about this scene other than “It’s a photo of four ridiculously good-looking young people?” (Trust me, the woman facing away was gorgeous too.)

Here’s one tidbit of information: the redhead with her back to us is about four months pregnant.

Now, what do you make of it?

Here’s a another data point: about five minutes after I took this picture, a fifth preposterously lovely young person appeared, pulled up a chair to the table, sat down and exchanged a more-than-casual kiss on the mouth with the guy in the blue shirt at left.

Oh, did I mention? The new arrival was a man.

As I ate my own meal, I eventually decided that the two women were a couple. That the man facing me was the brother of the woman at right, and that the man in the blue shirt was her friend. The two blonds had highly theatrical conversational styles, and I wondered whether they might both be performers of some sort.

This, of course, could be just as wrong as my default impression—which was that I was seeing two heterosexual couples on a double date, every qualifier of which was incorrect.

First impressions are a powerfully useful tool, but they can also lead you seriously astray unless you remain open to new information. (For what it’s worth, watching the man-in-blue’s behavior before the arrival of his lover, I was already questioning my first take.) Quick and broad characterization of people and relationships is only productive when your window for decision-making is extremely narrow and urgent. In other circumstances, it is simply lazy stereotyping and may even lead to harmful prejudice.

People are more complicated and interesting and beautiful than a first impression can convey. Give them a chance to unfold their story to you.

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3 Responses to Another Look
  1. Dale
    June 24, 2011 | 2:08 pm

    :-) It’s so fun to be wrong. I wish I could remember that more often: it might help me hold less tight to being right!

  2. angel
    June 25, 2011 | 2:56 pm

    so true c’:

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