Could you describe yourself accurately over the phone to someone you’re going to meet for the first time in a crowded restaurant? Many years ago I spent a frustrating hour waiting for a blind date who was supposed to be, according to her description, a slim, young flaxen-haired girl of average height.
I eventually spotted her wandering around the tables, searching for me. She was a thirty-something, pudgy, peroxide blond, about 5 feet nothing in her stilletos who was looking for a guy, according to my description, who could have been Clint Eastwood’s stand-in.
Who knows, she might have been an avid Mets fan who also shared my addiction to crossword puzzles, freshwater fishing and pepperoni pizza. By sneaking out I may have lost potential a good buddy.
Mother seals in the nature documentaries can pick out their pups on enormous beaches, packed flipper to flipper with crying infants. We seem to have lost that ability. A typical family gathered around a newborn will have a serious debate about the inherited looks of the baby. “Anyone can see he’s the spitting image of his father.”……….”I don’t see Oscar in him at all. He favors his mother.”…….”He definitely has Aunt Martha’s nose. See how it turns up and then down again?”…….”You’re all wrong. He’s an Uncle Billy look-alike, but with modern plastic surgery there’s no cause for alarm.”
This identity problem is often manifested on a grand scale. Many will confess that, to them, all Asians look alike . That could mean they can’t tell the difference between Jackie Chan and Madam Butterfly.
And why do we have imperfect ideas about our own appearance? Why are we sometimes willing to dismiss all the visual evidence and believe, for the moment, that we resemble someone else?
Watch closely the next time you’re exiting a Brad Pitt or Liam Neeson movie. Some of the men will be swaggering, acting like six footers, lean and very athletic. This only lasts for about 20 yards. Swaggering while sucking in one’s gut can be exhausting.
We also manage to misinterpret photos and drawings of ourselves, believing they’re inaccurate because of poor lighting or an artist’s style. The talented artist Deb Polston illustrated my humor columns years ago. “Deb really creates great cartoons of me,” I said to my son back then.
“I never thought they were cartoons, Dad.”
“Well, caricatures then, with exaggerated features.”
“Dad, I’ve always considered them accurate portraits.”