Miss Under Stood

A green complexion can make life tough. Just look at the Wicked Witch of the West. Noticing a new pimple makes me wince, so how do you think she feels waking up to a green reflection in the mirror every morning? Maybe you’d act like a mean witch, too. I learned the real story behind the Wicked Witch from the musical Wicked. She is a liberal and caring soul and truly the most misunderstood character out there. Brainwashed from childhood, I bought into Dorothy’s take on her and never even bothered to think there was a bigger picture. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is typical for me. I tend to prejudge people before knowing a whole story. It’s not one of my better qualities.

The reality is that if someone judged me on who my close friends were, I may have a very barren social calendar.

If a woman is thin, attractive and has a good sense of style, but she’s a quiet type, it’s easy to assume she’s aloof and a bitch. If another woman is quiet but is instead overweight and sports a pooka bead necklace, we would chalk it up to her simply having a less social nature. I know some women who are actually shy. I used to think, “Grow up already for God’s sake. You’re 45, not three.” But, then I learned they had some kind of social anxiety. I knew a woman like this in college, who got stomachaches before she’d go to a party. Sometimes she’d even stay home altogether. When you look at it from an angle of why, rather than an angle of an immediate eye roll, it’s surprising how sympathy develops.

For example, if someone shows up to a workout class wearing a sleeve of gold and diamond bracelets and has a Mr. T neckline, that definitely might make me stop and say, “Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll be asking her to coffee anytime soon.” But, what if the story behind the jewels was that the minerals contained in gold tempered some kind of extreme skin irritation? Then there is that mom who smothers her kids and lives her life vicariously through them. Before I label her pathetic, I have to think that maybe she was a very lonely child, who was the last pick for kickball and never went to a prom. Who am I kidding, though? I’d still think she was pathetic, but, at least I’d have some compassion behind my judgment.  

Then there’s the guilty-by-association prejudgment. You know, like, “How could I be friends with Betty, because Betty is friends with that social climber Louise?” The reality is that if someone judged me on who my close friends were, I may have a very barren social calendar. I have friends who social climb, too. They also lie on their taxes; let their underage kids drink; talk behind people’s backs; double book plans; curse at their kids; fight with their mothers; and on and on and on. Who elected me chief of the moral police, when I’m guilty of some of this stuff myself? 

A very wise and beloved cousin of mine once told me that people who are mean are usually unhappy inside. When I encounter rude people, I’m grateful when I remember that before a slight rage builds inside me. I’ll never forget a NYC bus driver I had once. I didn’t have my token ready, and she barked at me with a real nastiness. She was heavy, highly unattractive and seemed tired. A possible out-loud “fuck off” turned into an under-my-breath one. She was clearly sad inside and was lashing out to soothe herself somehow. I think she just needed to get home to her couch and wrap her crocheted blanket around herself. 

There’s always more to a story. There’s always someone just having a shitty day. There’s always the possibility that even the most perfect of us could simply be misunderstood. And, if you’re not buying any of that, there’s always pizza. It’s cheesy, crusty and not sweet, but you still like it anyway. 

I dedicate this to the next-door neighbors of my son’s apartment, as he parties, I mean studies, abroad. May they have patience and earplugs. Or, may they file complaints ever so softly. 

*Names have been changed.

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This entry was posted in friendship, improvement, Judgment, sentimental, shame and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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