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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guys like Dan

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where an individual enters a room and based on their dress, hygiene, and appearance, you begin evaluating, judging them, and drawing conclusions?

Have you ever found yourself involved in a conversation with someone that you disagreed with, or perhaps didn't like their verbal delivery method, and thus decided that this person had no value? Or made some decision that they were superior or inferior to you intellectually?

I cannot speak for anyone reading here so let me raise my hand and say, "Yes, I have done all of that ridiculous judging and thus assuming. That I intuitively think I know who you are based on some of the slightest information, a brief snapshot or moment in time, or your appearance."

Do you know how insane that is? How incredibly stupid, childish, and ego driven that is?

I do.

Let me furnish an excellent, albeit extreme, example.

About 6 months ago, I saw Dan for the first time. He is young and kind of short. He dresses poorly because he in fact- is poor. For now. But what separated Dan from us, is that he has piercings everywhere. I am not sure how many exactly, but he has huge gauges in his ears, piercings through his cheeks, lips, nose, eyebrows...metal sticking up everywhere. All of these piercings draw attention to him. I found myself sneaking glances at him when I thought he wasn't looking.

And what do you suppose I was thinking as I viewed him initially? I was thinking how stupid that looked, how a kid like this ever thought he was going to get a job looking like that, and to be honest... he kind of scared me a little bit.

Now all of that thinking of mine was validated as I listened to others talk about him. In fact, they made a lot of cruel and disparaging remarks about Dan. They judged him on his appearance. Just as I did.

Over the intervening months I have had an opportunity to listen to Dan many times. He is reasonably smart and emotionally aware and intelligent. I was baffled. I didn't get who he was. Smart people just don't do what Dan does. That is my faulty belief system in action. Until one day, we talked for a few hours. When I say "talk" what that really means is that Dan talked and I listened intently. I wanted to understand.

I queried Dan at great length about his childhood and listened. And what do you suppose he told me? Go ahead and think about this for a minute. *play Jeopardy tune in head

In broadstrokes, Dan may have been emotionally abandoned as a child. He did not feel connected or loved. He felt marginalized and unimportant. Not worthy of attention. And as he grew and acquired those belief systems that we acquire, he began to believe he wasn't as good as other kids, he didn't measure up to the other people in his life. And the only attention he received, was negative attention. And that was better than no attention at all.

And because those are his perceptions that then becomes his truth. It is true.

And you see, those piercings give him an identity. They say "Hey, look at me!" "I exist, I am nuts, and I do things like this!" And in that way, Dan's ego has claimed an identity. A sort of fearless, crazy, middle finger to the world identity, which for now has satisfied his emotional needs.

At the surface, he celebrates what he has done to his body. Deep down, the real Dan may be scared and unsure whether or not he has value or has used the appropriate tactics. I want to hug him every time I see him. Why? Because I got a glimpse of what it is or what is was... to be Dan. Not some assumption or judgment based on a superficial view after a brief or casual glance as he entered a room. All Dan craves is to be loved, to be needed, to be listened to. The same things we all want. To have value, to be understood.

He just tries harder than most of us.

Guys like Dan have forced me to examine myself and these ridiculous belief systems that I have. This unconscious ego of mine that says that it's ok to draw assumptions about people based on scant evidence. It is ridiculous and insane.

Last year, I pierced both ears. My ego demanded that I do it. I wear Fleur de Lis earrings for my beloved rebirth and love of New Orleans and the Saints. The reviews? Not so good. For a macho guy that spent all of his life confronting, overcoming, and wrestling bad guys... this is just too inconceivable to the people that know me. They think I am stupid or just plains nuts. It doesn't fit that neo conservative hard knocker assumption they had of me. You see, they make the same assumptions that I always have. We all got raised in the same classroom. I can't wait until my father sees them. Probably carve me out of the will.

In the end, I find that Dan is not much different than all of us. That Dan fears an invisible existence based on what he has perceived so far. Dan has learned that society bases it's opinions on superficial assumptions. That's too bad. That he has learned not to do the same based on that experience, gives him a leg up on a lot of folks.

You can learn a lot about yourself courtesy of guys like dan. Or not. It's all up to you.