I love when people say they are not judgmental. As-freaking-if. I find that those people tend to be the most egregious judgers of all. The thing is, we all do it whether we like it or not… it is a built in survival mechanism I imagine. Back in the days just beyond primordial soup, there had to be some filters to identify who was going to eat you up and who you could eat. That assessment was a judgment.
Today it has less to do with consumables (usually) but, let’s face it, there are not entire businesses built on projecting the best first impression possible in a non-judgmental society. Everyone has their own little things… I’ll stick with calling them filters. For lots of people, I am going to go with the majority here, the first judgment comes on sight. Now, this may seem extremely shallow, but let’s not forget, this first judgment may not be equally important to all people. On the other hand, some looks-associated issues are deal-breakers for people (height, teeth, Aloha shirts are some that have come up in recent conversations I have had.) Some people, I call them culture-snobs, (because, yes, I am judgmental) judge people on the types of movies/books/music they like. Common in conversations with these types are dialogs like this:
“Did you see —–?”
“No, I didn’t, was it good?”
“Oh my god, you haven’t seen it? Was it good? It was only, like, the most significant —— of the genre in, like, forever.”
“Oh. Well, did you see —–?”
“Uh, no. That is so pedestrian, I mean really low brow, formulaic and predictable, you know?”
“Uh, well, I thought it was – ”
“What? You liked that? You are kidding…”
It carries on like that for books, music, you get the idea. Again, for some this may not actually be a deal-breaker. In fact, I find that culture snobs actually like to maintain close ties with those whose tastes they despise so they can always have someone to patronize.
Some people judge others on intelligence [cough, cough.]. Perhaps it is more fair to say that they judge on ignorance, but either way, we are talking judgment, right? Whether or not someone got a joke, a subtle innuendo, a political quip, a sly reference to some obscure cultural point. Or, more simplistically, where you went to school, your GPA, your degree, your career choice. I know adults who are still talking about their SAT scores. I heard one guy bragging a few years back about his 1580. Too bad he didn’t realize that the test is now out of 2400 and the people he was trying to impress were confused, but not by his brilliance.
Through a lifetime of judging, or assessing, or filtering, [call it what you like] I thought I had really honed my skills. In fact, I really did think I was a good judge of people. While appreciative of looks, I have never been all that wrapped up in them. And again, though I appreciate being able to talk books and movies and music with someone, it not necessarily something that requires a connoisseur’s discernment (to be fair, I have to admit that when a man I knew played Celine Dion – on purpose – and waxed poetically about the music I knew I was dealing with a temporary situation.) Regarding brainz… well, yeah, I’ll admit, I place a little more weight there… Still, I have long considered myself a pretty solid judge of people in terms of their character… and more to the point their character in relation to me. (Because obviously some characters may be great – far, far away from my life.)
But then something happened.
I lost my mojo.
Had I become non-judgmental? Was I now, what, sentimental? Or worse – was I suddenly, gullible?
After years of successfully trusting my judgment (bearing in mind, this does not include the men I chose to date – questionable judgment there on many, nay, most occasions) I began to totally lose my sense of reality when it came to assessing people and situations. People I thought of one way turned out somehow totally different. Professional scenarios I thought of in one way turned out completely different. My filter had gone wonky. This was depressing to me, because I like to believe that I know what I am getting into with people and other commitments. I can deal with all sorts of people and situations as long as I know what I am dealing with, and I also like to be fairly upfront so people know what they are dealing with when they have to deal with me. This was not good.
I have some ideas how this happened. First, I live in Asia where up front is not only NOT the way things are done, it is like some sort of cultural game to work out what people are really thinking and feeling. People here are always saying what you want to hear and smiling. I should have known something was up after a year or so. But it is hard to retrain your brain that when someone looks you in the eye, smiles and says, “Of course,” that they may actually mean, “Ha! Are you fucking kidding?!” This is a cultural shift I am not sure I have the equipment to integrate.
Secondly, an innate sense of optimism can be a real handicap. I assume that people really mean the best because, well, why wouldn’t they? I should have taken another page out of the local culture here which says, “Everyone is always doing what is best for them regardless of what they say or indicate.” Actually, that is not Chinese, that is Adam Smith, you know, from the laws of capitalism, that people are guided by self-interest. This is just one more reason I would be an epic failure in business and why the private sector is such a challenge for me, and ironically or not, the Chinese are the most adept capitalists I have ever come across.
Finally, and possibly most significantly, I lived with a junkie for over a year. You have no idea what this might do to your character barometer and the kinds of shit you might start to believe and/or ignore. The monkey on his back grabbed a wrench and jumped right into my machine.
Now, I realize that this might look like a big old list of excuses for my own poor judgment. And it may be. But actually I have been trying to work out why it is that I am so constantly surprised by people these days. I feel like I used to really have a handle on that. I know I am not going to to stop being judgmental, it is a way of life and I like it. I also know that the superficial ways in which I judge people are pretty meaningless at the end of the day in terms of my overall opinion of them. The things that count… well, that is a different story, but until I work out what is wrong with my judgmento-tron I guess I am just going to have to be a whole lot more open-minded. But for the time being it would really help if you did not wear a Hawaiian shirt unless you are in Hawaii (and even then, ask yourself if you really have to), don’t play Celine Dion anywhere in my vicinity (and especially don’t tell me how ‘My Heart Will Go On’ moves you…), and if you say you are going to do something or indicate that something is true – seriously true… let it be that. We can work out the details later.