Arundhati Menon: Outward appearance never tells all

Motormouth Menon

During my first week at Case Western Reserve University, we played a game where each of us were made to pick a card, keep it turned away from us and walk around the room interacting with people. Additionally we were instructed to talk to people who had a higher valued card, and to not spend too much time talking to people who had a lower card.

Nobody else paid much attention to the game and what it stood for, but for some reason I found it extremely difficult to forget that game, as proven by the fact that I still remember it clearly. What struck me the most about the game was how shallow and insulting it was. Then I thought about how relevant the game was in real life; how we generally tend to judge people just by looking at their outer appearance.

It’s actually extremely intriguing how we think we can know a person’s character just by looking at what color their skin is, the kind of clothes they wear or their general physical appearance. Phrases such as “first impressions last the longest” often encourage nonsensical judgments like this. It often goes without saying, of course, that people like this did have a little bit of help from popular culture. Out of a clichéd love for romantic comedies and lighter genres of movies and TV shows—the ones colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”—I often wonder about the much-utilized concept of love at first sight. I find it thought provoking how someone could get so attached to another person and trust him or her so wholly after just knowing how he or she looks.

Using this skewed logic, can you blame people for judging other people based on how they look, when they’re being told that you can fall in love with someone with the same insufficient amount of information? This is in the same field that tells us that people who look a way that could be perceived as attractive are brainless, superficial and the ones who aren’t worth talking to.

It might be easier to look at somebody and decide which little category they could be boxed into by following societally imposed stereotypes, but it’s an extremely narrow minded perspective from which to view people, who are so complicated and who hide so much beyond their appearances.

There are so many idioms that address this seemingly irrelevant issue: appearances are deceiving and the evergreen can’t judge a book by its cover. And when we hear phrases like this, we might roll our eyes because they’ve been used often over such a long time, but somehow we never really bother applying them to our lives. You might scoff when I write that a stitch in time saves nine, but that doesn’t stop you from procrastinating. Consciously or subconsciously we constantly do things that we are aware are wrong. Being judgmental seems to be something that we inevitably do.

I on many occasions have been quick to draw up conclusions on people I know nothing about, but being judged alike on many such occasions has prompted me to write about this.

There’s nothing more annoying than having people look at you and talk to you in a completely hypocritical manner, especially when you know that they’re thinking perhaps the complete opposite of what they’re saying. I understand that this article might seem like a personal agenda, but this is an issue that I feel is important and extremely relevant to other students at CWRU. Forming a biased opinion of someone without knowing them thoroughly can only cause a festival of pain and guilt, where one person is sad for being misjudged and the other is worse off for missing out on getting to know someone who could have turned out to be really special.

Arundhati Menon is a first-year majoring in computer science and economics.