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Jack London

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Perception

People make snap judgments based on their perception of a given situation. It's human nature. They use past experience, things they've been taught, and/or their beliefs to shape the picture of someone in their mind. The problem is that picture may be incomplete at best. Or it may be totally inaccurate.

I could make this easy and talk about an episode of Bones I recently watched. (It's "The Drama in the Queen", Season 9, Episode 23, if you want to check it out.)

Instead, I'm going a little harder and deeper. I'm going to talk about people's perceptions of me.

A few weeks ago, the subject of publishing net income came up on TPV. I didn't give specific numbers. I merely said I was saving for my son's tuition to MIT. At which point, another commenter became very irate about how I was flaunting my upper middle class-ness. The conversation degenerated rapidly. I bowed out when it became obvious that I was the scapegoat for this person's personal problems.

When I told DH about the incident, he laughed. Why? According to his mother, I'm the hillbilly who only married her son for his money.

Except at the time DH and I met, we had about the same amount in savings, but my salary was 50% more than his. He was looking to buy a house. I planned on going to law school.

So how did I get in this position of where I'm too uppity for either side of the money/class divide?

Once upon a time, I grew up in southeastern Uh-hi-uh (that's Ohio for the rest of you). It's Appalachian foothills country though some social scientists and geographers don't consider us part of the true Appalachian culture.

The majority of my extended family were green, blue or black-collar. In fact, my mother was the oddball for being the first person in her family to go to college. When I was seven, my immediate family moved to my paternal grandparents' farm while they moved in with my great-grandfather to take care of him.

It was a working farm, made more so when my dad lost his factory job in the mid-seventies recession. We raised and/or hunted our own food. My siblings and I wore hand-me-downs from the older cousins. And we worked out butts off. But then, so did most of the other people we knew.

But one thing Mom stressed was learning how to speak "educated". As in "wash" is not pronounced with an "R". She had been teased unmercifully at the private college she attended, and wanted to make sure we fit in.

And I knew the only way I would go to a decent college was through scholarships. I applied for everyone I could find that I qualified for. I was awarded a full ride at a private college, so I grabbed on with both hands. Since it was a academic scholarship, I had to maintain a 3.0, or I'd lose everything. I did keep up my GPA between the hard sciences and sorority parties. Somehow.

I also did everything I could to fit in with the ton of trust fund babies. Sure, I could have been jealous of the things they had that I didn't. But I felt more like Spock studying an alien culture.

That fit-in behavior carried over when I got my first IT job, which in the '80's was still pretty male dominated. I learned manspeak and football and cars. And I was told I was pretty cool for a chick.

Then I went to law school.

Talk about a whole different class strata. Wow! Again, I was judged by which school and where I clerked and a whole bunch of other crap that didn't make a damn bit of difference in a court room where I knew what I was doing and earned the judges' respect.

And none of my accomplishments makes a difference when I walk into a showroom to make a major purchase like an appliance or a car. Because I have boobs. Therefore I can't possibly have any money. Or if I do, then it's my husband's.

After some really bad experiences (yes, Newark, DE, Honda dealership, I'm referring to you), DH and I even have our comedy routine down. I scout out what I want. If the salesperson talks to me, and even more important, they are polite and professional to me, they'll get the sale then and there. If they don't, well...there's nothing more fun than DH stringing them along for a good hour on a Saturday before I step in and say no.

And none of that makes a goddess-damned bit of difference when complications from my pregnancy leave me in such poor health that I probably should be on disability. Or my son has to endure six surgeries to keep from totally losing his hearing.

The same son who is already looking at colleges. MIT was only one of the ones mentioned, but so far, it's the most expensive one he's looking at. But if he wants to go there, I'll to everything in my power to help him obtain that goal.

So who's the real me?

The woman in jeans, boots, and a sweatshirt slopping hogs? The sorority sister in her preppy clothes? The piss-poor physics student attending college on an earned academic scholarship? The far-older-than-usual law student in her shorts and t-shirt when everyone else in Texas is freezing their buns off? The head of a law firm's probate department in her black suit making opposing counsel look like a fool? The heart- and endocrine-damaged patient? The desperate mom praying to Aset to protect her son?

You tell me. Who's the real Suzan Harden?

7 comments:

  1. All of them, clearly. You're the person who can put on whatever persona you need to achieve your goals. Much more adaptive and functional than picking one persona and growing/freezing/rusting into it, and trying to make it fit everywhere. Props for that, seriously, because being that adaptable is both tough and functional like whoa.

    Angie

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  2. Screw them. You know who you are. You're a bad ass. No explanation needed. (But what is it with businesses thinking women don't have money? Maybe the boy money is printed with special testosterone based ink or something.)

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  3. Ah, thank you, ladies. As I get older, these type of things amuse me more than anything. People like to put me in boxes and are so surprised when I climb out. Or smash my way out. :)

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    1. Or vanish, because you were never in that box in the first place, because hey, those aren't your issues.

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    2. Oh, I admit I have a box. It's a blue, wibbley,-wobblwy, timey-wimey box that's bigger on the inside. *grin*

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    3. I'm watching that on Netflix even as I type.

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