Tuesday, March 9, 2010


There's a man who, off and on for the past decade, has been attending one of my noon recovery meetings. He's an average guy in his mid to late 60s, retired I think but perhaps simply unemployed, and after talking to him a minute or two,  most people would agree: he's dumb as a post. Or, says a friend who enjoys mixed metaphors, "he's one burrito short of a Happy Meal."

I recount this with all the due charity and kindness I can muster for a fellow 12-stepper. I am not trying to be mean, snobby, superior, or even cynical, but when this man shares at meetings, a great and silent sigh arises. Heads droop, eyes close, people nod off as if on Valium. Simply put, the cheese slid off this poor guy's cracker a long time ago.

But here's the thing--he looks rocket-scientist-smart. As a matter of fact, he could be one of those white-coated guys whose photo you see in books about the Manhattan Project or DNA research. He could have discovered tachyons, judging from his high Einstein brow, and his piercing blue eyes would have you believe he's doing calculus in his head. But the fact of the matter is, he isn't. Despite his Nobel Prize physiognomy, I suspect he's challenged opening refrigerator doors or shoveling snow.

So appearances are deceiving. A couple of days ago a friend told me a blond joke and I realized that all the blond women I know are super-smart, or at least way smarter than I am. They're self-sufficient, successfully juggling homes, families and business; they make it look easy though most of them work very hard at it. I know (blond and other) women in recovery who have had to start over multiple times and shown both brilliancy and a toughness of spirit few males could claim. Pound for pound, I'd wager, women are smarter than da men in every way (Harry Belafonte said it, not me.)

And so, I wonder, where do we get our talent for making instant assumptions based on appearances? From our parents? From our geography? From gender?

I remember reading a book--title long forgotten--stating that each wave of immigrants to the US would look down upon the following wave. Irish denigrated Italians, Italians returned the favor with Poles, Poles with Latinos, Latinos with Asians, Asians with Eastern Europeans. I've always thought such behavior was based on fear--of losing work, money, neighborhoods, national identity. It was assumed that the next wave was less literate, lazier, more dishonest, untrustworthy and crime prone, in a word, threatening.  We assume the worst. Which, of course, leads me to a  favorite saying, that to assume makes an ass out of you and me.

Get it? No? You must be a recent arrival...

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