“Who is that obnoxious woman?” In an unguarded (beer-fuelled) moment, an acquaintance of about a fortnight revealed that this was their first impression of me. Ouch. Obviously I chuckled and pretended that I was able to take the comment in the spirit of friendship in which it was given, but man, that smarted.
We all know that first impressions count; I check my teeth for greenery before a job interview and generally try not to leave the house with food down my front. These physical things are fairly easily managed, but is it possible to control the impression our personality makes quite as closely? Should we?
In first encounters with new people it is impossible, and probably undesirable, to reveal the full complexity of one’s character; we present a two-dimensional caricature which will be fleshed out as and if the relationship continues. What you see will depend on the context of our meeting and what we both want from it. If we’re meeting as professionals, I’ll want you to think I’m competent, fairly serious and reliable – at this point it’s not necessary for you to know about my bacon addiction and propensity to down Sambuca like it’s the end of the world. If I fancy you, I’ll be striving (probably unsuccessfully) to come across as witty, intelligent and slightly frisky so I’ll try not to bore you with my views on our education system. If I’m drunk, I’ll think I’m hilarious and you’ll think I’m an idiot. The fact remains, however, that I AM all these things; competent, fairly serious about my job, reliable, witty, intelligent, slightly frisky and often an idiot. There’s no acting or fakery going on here, just different facets of Karen being allowed to sneak through the armour first.
One of the many joys of growing older is realising that we cannot, and should not, be all things to all people. Chances are that if you think I’m obnoxious I probably have a similar opinion of you, and on a planet of 7 billion people that’s absolutely fine, there are others for us both to get along with.
Am I a bitch because I won’t pretend to be something I’m not? Because I won’t pretend to agree with you or find your offensive views funny? Because I speak as I find and tell it how it is? Fine. Woof. But the thing about bitches is that they may be scary when they snarl and are handled incorrectly but when you understand them fully they are rewarding, affectionate and fun to be around. Just don’t try to tickle my tummy until we’re fully acquainted.