People look at other people every day, sometimes all day, and snap judgements are made at a maddening rate. If you believe that you go through your day without judging others based on simple appearances stop reading (and, for the record, I don't believe you). I'm not saying all of these judgments are negative. Many are probably quite positive. They just happen. I'm not judging you for doing it either. In fact, I'm trying to embrace it...to some degree.
This is going to start off sounding really obnoxious if it doesn't already. But, I have been wanting to spell this out for myself for a while. Just follow me here. My first recollection of being judged based on appearance was in high school. Or, it could be that I don't really remember anything before high school. Anyway, I remember early in high school feeling like people saw me as pretty. Knowing nothing about me, I would say that's what they thought off the bat. They may have also thought I seemed snobby. I was quiet and not really very involved. That means what people saw initially is often what they knew of me. To be clear, when I say people I am referring to strangers and the very surfacy acquaintance.
College judging had a completely different feel. People went to class in their pajamas for God's sake. Some were obviously walking in shame. Others went to football games as if it was a modeling competition. I remember thinking I could feel superficially judged, but really what was the point?
Fast forward to now. Honestly, the whole reason for this post is that I have realized something. Never in my life have I felt more judged than I have since having children. I'm not talking about your run of the mill absurd judgments like I am poisoning my child with formula. I'm purely speaking of the snap judgements made in public. If you are a parent of very young children you know that "public" can be a daunting place. Target, the grocery store, and every restaurant in town seem to send subliminal messages to toddlers that nows the time to make the world believe your mommy is completely incapable. But, in my experience it's not always based on the child.
The other day I went to the Big Green Egg store to get starters for our grill. Lila has a recent fear of giant blown up things with faces. This particular location has a giant blown up Big Green Egg with a face. I began to prepare myself for the disaster I was forcing upon our day. She panicked as we walked in, but once we were looking for the starters she was good to go. I decided to hold Evie instead of wear her because this was meant to be an in and out kind of stop. I found the starters, grabbed two boxes, and let Lila hold them to keep her occupied. I turned around and in a matter of seconds there were four other people in this smallish place. In an effort to be quick I rushed us to the counter to pay. In front of me was an elderly man who worked for The Make A Wish Foundation. He was trying to get the teenager behind the counter to get someone important to help him get a donation. Thankfully, the important person was not there and the conversation ended quickly. My kids are being more than well behaved as I fumble to get my wallet and pay. I turn around to see a rather attractive forty something guy in scrubs, another man a bit older in a very nice suit, and woman who could have been a grandmother. All were staring at me. Not at my children. But directly at me. The guy in scrubs actually looked me up and down. The guy in the suit noticed that I noticed that he was staring and quickly looked away. The grandmotherly woman gave me a big, fat, sympathetic smile.
When we got in the car I started to dissect the situation. Both of my children were very well behaved. Why were they staring? My body has clearly had two children. So Mr. Doctor was not checking me out. In fact, I felt an air of disgust. When we got home and got settled I went to the bathroom to check myself out. I had showered, but my hair was pulled up in not the most graceful fashion. I had on a UGA T-shirt that may or may not have had something food related on the sleeve. The rest of my ensemble consisted of jeans with flip flops. I had makeup on, but no mascara because I'm out. I looked very tired and bordered on disheveled.
This isn't an out of the ordinary situation. Would they have stared if I looked really put together? Maybe. What is it about a mom with multiple small children that draws stares and judgments so quickly. I don't know what they were thinking. It's just intriguing to me for some reason. Were they waiting for the meltdown? Were they thinking, "bless her heart"? I try to think about life before kids and what I would have thought. Knowing me I would have been looking at the kids and secretly gushing over how cute they were. Maybe I would have even been fantasizing about the day when I would be that mom.
Now, let's take this from a different angle. After checking myself out and thinking more about it I realized I had judged them too. It's highly possible they were looking at me because I had just turned around, they were all facing the counter waiting in line, and it just happened to be me they saw next. I judged the doctor thinking that because he was attractive and in scrubs (and wasn't looking at me so nicely) that he was arrogant and wealthy. For all I know he's a nurse or a tech and he has five kids of his own.
Either way, I'm curious if anyone else with kids feels more snap judgements from strangers just based on how they look at you. As I said, I believe things like this are just human nature. We all try to be so politically correct, but at the end of the day a tired mom of two crazy little girls probably warrants some stares ;-)