Friday, April 27, 2012

Judging Me By My Appearance

A very good friend of mine, Gemini Girl, is back at school (online that is) pursuing her degree in business management. One of the classes she has to take for the current semester is business writing, and last month, she had to write an essay based on an article written by Brent Staples called, "Just Walk On By: A Black Man Ponders His Ability To Alter Public Space".

When she had finished the first draft, she thought enough of me to ask my opinion on it. I said I would be more than happy to offer my two cents worth, which I did. I offered some light critique and thoughtful suggestions, and I asked her once she had gotten a grade on it, could I post it on my blog.

She said yes, and so my friends, here is the finished product, of which it garnered a solid B.

Since 1998, I have been dressing in jeans and sneakers to work. No one ever said anything about any dress code, so I never changed into business attire. My job as a Payroll Associate does have a pretty right to it, right? You would think I did dress business attire, right? Nope, not at all. Most of my co-workers do dress up, but not me. I was never the girly type, or into clothes as much as my friends growing up. I didn't realize how on my job, people thought I was unable to ever wear proper business attire.

One day, our unit received an invitation to have lunch with the Commissioner the following day. And everyone was so excited about how they were going to dress. Then the excitement stopped and everyone started looking at me. I guess they were starting to wonder if I had proper dress apparel for the luncheon. I received so many offers to take me shopping to find a suit, or offers of someone telling me that they had something for me to wear. I declined by saying, "No thank you, I can find something.", only for them to come back and say, "You sure?"

You see, I do dress up for church, for weddings and most of the time I am dressed up for any night occasion. I never felt the need to dress at work, since I don't interact with many employees or customers on my job. Most of my work is done over the phone or the computer.

People are surprised when they come to my desk and the first thing they say is, "Oh Gemini, I passed you in the hall all the time." Now if I was in business attire, I wonder if they would know it was me on the phone they pass by every day. I had one lady just come out and say, "I thought you worked in the mail room the way you're dressed." Wow, I laughed so hard on the inside but just responded with, "Really?" and walked away. I am used to the stares or people trying to figure out what section I belong to.

So now the luncheon was the next day and the close of a business day for us all. I still never mentioned what I was wearing. I could hear the whispers and the giggles while I was sitting at my desk. Which really didn't shock me, but hey, these people were supposed to be my friends. I laughed with a few friends that knew I wouldn't just walk in with jeans and sneakers, because they had invited me out before and my attire was for the occasion.

Now it's time for the luncheon, and I felt really excited to surprise my co-workers and as my children call them, "haters". It's funny how people say good morning when you're dressed in a suit. I guess they think you're important and don't want to be rude. Even the security guard was caught off, as he asked me for my ID 'cause he acted like he never seen me before. When I showed him my ID, he laughed, then said, "Wow, you look so different when you clean up." What was that suppose to mean? I looked a certain way with jeans and sneakers; I felt I was the same person.

As I got closer to my desk, my co-workers were all coming in one by one. Each walked by my desk just to look and see how I was dressed. Of course I had on my sneakers, as wearing heels all day was not going to happen. But I did have them under my desk.

There were so many different reactions and comments coming my way all day. Some I laughed at and some I didn't even address, because those comments made me angry, and for them to judge me by my choice of clothes was their hang up, not mines.

By the way, I rocked the suit and heels, but right after the luncheon, I removed those clothes and put back on my sneakers and jeans. I wanted to be comfortable for me, not them. I just learned that people really do judge others on their appearance. No matter suit or jeans, the person in them is still the same person.


  1. Excellent! And very true, we all judged on our appearance and how we dress, whether we like it or not. I love to play with that notion myself.

  2. You should have worn the jeans and gym shoes BEFORE the luncheon and then sneaked off to change right before it. That would have freaked everyone out.

  3. Joe: Thanks. My friend is a pretty good writer as I believe she writes from the heart, although sometimes she thinks otherwise.

    The notion that we are judged by our appearance is very true and once we get a particular idea about someone, it's very hard to change it.

    For instance, because people dress in business casual in my office every day, the running joke is that whenever someone dresses what we call "sharp" (tie, dress shirt, etc,) we immediately say "Got an interview today?" whether they have one or not.

    Bearman: I believe she has done that from time to time, as I've seen my friend dressed casually and dressed formally/to kill.

    She is an incredibly independent and intelligent individual and as such, I've learned never to judge her on what she wears.

  4. I like her essay very much. People can be so annoying, can't they? They need to leave her alone.

  5. Lynn: Thanks.

    I absolutely agree. Judging someone strictly on their appearance often is the fastest way to get off on the wrong foot with someone.

    I sometimes have that problem myself, because I often do not match up visually with what people think I should be after either talking to me on the phone or via the e-mail.

  6. Awesome. That last line is so true.

  7. Of course, i am queen of knowing that we judge on appearances! i did a whole post on it ages ago, called, "shallow thoughts for company," and this post brought back memories of it.

    we do judge by appearances, which is pretty sad, since there are some very disadvantaged people who are beautiful on the inside.

  8. M: Absolutely.

    No matter what you wear, you're still the same person. The clothes doen't make the person, the person makes the clothes.

    Catherine: People do make snap judgements and more often than not, those on the receiving end usually pay a bad price for those snap judgements.

    Granny Annie: She and her unit were invited to a luncheon with the commissioner of her agency, so any get together with the proverbial big shots of an agency, you really want to dress to impress.

    I normally dress in very casual businesswear when I'm at work. The only time I was dressed up (except for job inteviews), was during a two year stint elsewhere where the supervisor required her staff to dress professional.

  9. I wear boots and jeans every day for work. I look like a construction worker. And I don't think I'd have it any other way.

    "I just learned that people really do judge others on their appearance." So sadly true. Top post!

  10. David: If there isn't a dress code for your job, then wearing what you feel most comfortable in is an absolute necessity.

    Sadly, the same thing happens at my job.

    We have people who can dress in such a way that will instantly generate the infamous clothing memo at my job, and yet, these people are definitely not like the image they project with their choice of apparel.

  11. That is so very true, we are judged in so many ways and this is just another, one should wear attire that fits them not everyone else. Pathetic how people think everyone should go with the flow and wear what everyone else does.

  12. Pat: Spot on.

    I think the height of over-reaction to clothing apparel is the phenomenon of baggy/saggy pants.

    Stating that someone must be an unintelligent member of society because they were baggy/saggy jeans is the ultimate in crass hypocracy.

    Not all people who were baggy/saggy jeans are dopey. Some are exceptionally intelligent. Just because they were a certain type of jeans that makes them comfortable doesn't automatically make them dopey.


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