Been thinking about first impressions. How casual so many of us are during first impressions. We have them every minute of every day. First impressions on the street as we walk past people. First impressions when we meet someone. First impressions as we turn a corner, hear something new, see something or taste something or do something for the first time.
It’s always there, and we slough it off.
I’m thinking of my first impression of Mr. Bitch in the theater group. Not his real name, naturally, but very apropos. My first impression of him is very low (thus the moniker ‘Mr. Bitch’). He didn’t think. Didn’t think about what came out of his mouth. Didn’t think how someone who wasn’t enamored by theatrical abilities might see/hear that. He was too in love with himself, too puffed up by his ego to think (or care). And while he was no slouch on the stage, he was also no Olivier. I mean, how much credit should one take if one is only asked to portray a slightly larger version of one’s self? Not much.
And I’m turning my first impression eyes on myself. There are some things I like about my first impression and some things I don’t like. Most of what I don’t like relate to simple economics: I don’t have unlimited funds to keep my hair picture perfect and my wardrobe looking it’s absolute best. Honestly not sure how I feel about my lack of make-up. Inside, I walk around thinking I have these HUGE under-eye puffs and deep, dark circles under my eyes. Some lights show me that way, some lights don’t. I never know what other people see. I only know that lately every time I look in the mirror I see the puffiness, the dark circles, and the wrinkles first. Do other people look at me and think ‘gee she could be so much prettier if she only put a little make up on and dressed better and did something with her hair’? Or is that my problem, my judgment? And do I change it?
In eight to nine days (depending on how you measure it) it’s my 51st birthday. I was great with 30. Loved it. Reveled in 40. Breezed past 50. But 51! Now I’m choking. As I said to a friend this morning, suddenly this shit got real. I ain’t 20 anymore. The wrinkles don’t go away with some rehydration and facial lotion. Every day I get up and watch my face slide off my skeleton a little further. That’s what it feels like. Like everything is melting, losing it’s shape and slipping down your bones from the simple gravitational pull of the planet. It’s a hell of a thing.
One thing is certain: I may wish to look better, dress better, even wear make-up so I’m shown in the most flattering way possible, but I know the cost of that (for a woman) increases with age. At 20, you can wear cheap make-up and cheap clothes and pull it all off with a fresh-faced smile. At 50 you just look ridiculous. Amazing how much make-up ends up looking like clown face as you get older. And the good stuff! The good stuff is out of my price range. Same with clothes. I’d love to have all color coordinated, comfortable to wear, classic lines and flattering cuts clothes. Ye gods! Buying one item that would fit all that would gobble up any money I have for several months. I practically live in my sweat pants.
There are things I can work on.
I understand how my social unease may seem like stand-offishness. Like I’m not sure I want to participate or make friends. That needs to be addressed. Tho I must confess, I seem to often find myself standing alone in a room full of people who are clustered together in small groups. That’s a very difficult place to be. It demands me assessing all the groups, looking for a quick welcoming gaze or smile from someone that may indicate I could approach and participate. Those rarely happen. When people break into small groups, it happens for a reason. They know each other, they have something to communicate to each other. Those reasons do not generally include an outsider. So I find myself standing in the middle of a crowd, gazing around with a small smile on my face to show that I am friendly and willing to talk to anyone. Sometimes I feel forced to approach a group. Then I must wait outside the circle, hoping someone will look up and catch my eye so I may speak, say hello, try to be social. That’s so awkward. I feel like an intruder. I AM an intruder. I smile, apologize for the interruption, state my praise or comment or whatever, look around and smile at everyone in the small group, nod, and if no one says anything to continue my line of conversation, move on. I don’t know how else to do it. Or what else to do. Standing there, in those small groups, hoping to be accepted – those are the most difficult performances of my life. And I feel like I tank it, every time.
It’s been so bad I’ve been thinking about social bribing. I learned about that a long time ago. Bring treats. Sugar. Preferably home-made because MY treats are out of this world. Oh, you’d be surprised how many walls that will bring down. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I believe that’s one of those sayings that got generalized to ‘man’ like ‘mankind’ rather than ‘man and womankind’. Because everybody responds to food. Well…maybe not an anorexic, but I haven’t caught any of those in the group. So I’ve been thinking about baking. What the hell; I could use the practice, Friday is the last performance, and why not bake a cake or something for everyone to share? It may not be my first impression with the group, but I can still make a good one.