Sunday, November 2, 2008

Try Seeing Yourself As Others Do

Growing up I was always warned about judging books by their covers. My mother constantly chastised me about making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, an writing people off. I appreciated that guidance but over the years have had to make adjustments. As naturally skeptical as I am, I get lied to a lot. Not outright lies, but those subtle misrepresentations. Those "I lied because I wanted you to like me," kind of lies.

I've learned in my old age that often the cover is a pretty good representation of what you'll find inside. Publishers often devote more time and resources to the art direction of a cover than to the editing of the actual content of books. They realize that the cover is what draws people in or in other cases cases them away. At any rate, it gives a pretty apt representation of what's to come.

Many of you know I've returned to the retail world [briefly.] I was at work the night before Halloween kinda counting down until it was time for me to go when this "young lady" walked into my store. I immediately, internally, drew several conclusions. After less then a minute, i deduced that she couldn't be older than 20, that she was from somewhere in North Georgia, that she was "country ghetto," and that she was as somehow in the sex industry.

She entered the store on her cell phone (which is not abnormal) talking unnecessarily loud. She was yelling at someone with this unmistakably "Georgia Mountains" twang of an accent but there was this Shaniqua attitude attached to it. As she spoke, her hand was going in every direction as though that somehow helped to get her point across to the party on the other end of her phone. She ended each phrase with, "or whatever,' or 'and what not." I didn't know whether to be offended, annoyed, or just laugh.

This went on for about :15. After :5 or so she'd abruptly end the call by slamming her flip phone shut and yelling some expletive like this person was putting her out in some way. Finally she addressed me. She explained that, "[she] had never been in my store, or what not, but that she'd wanted to get her husband something nice for Christmas." As any good sales person would, I began to ask questions and show her what options we had. She volunteered that she and her husband would be celebrating their first Christmas together and that she wanted to get him something nice. "He's an older gentleman... he's 33 or what not, so I want to get him something old school that he would like."

Apparently 33 is now old. I couldn't hold back my laughter, but I figured she's used to being laughed at as she was unscathed and never broke her "Chiquita meets Shania Twain" persona. After aimless wondering around my store for nearly :30 I offered her a catalog to take with her. She thanked me and then began to flip through it. She would turn to and decided on a $3400 shaving set. When I told her the price, I expected the usual, "that's too expensive" response. She casually offered that she was a stripper and that money was no object. My nonchalant, "okay," even surprised me.

As I continued to try and usher her out the door, she turned to me and asked, "how much is the book?" All I could say was baby, it's a catalog and it's free.

I told that little story to illustrate how important it is to see ourselves as others may. As soon as that girl walked in my store I said to myself, she's either a stripper or a prostitute. I don't know of a single woman who wants to come off like a stripper... even the ones who are. People often see us for exactly who and what we are, even when we choose not to. Be sure that your cover is a true representation of your content.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In reading through this it is greatly true. I am a late 20s guy who has always dress in a more mature way. I am a buttoned down shirt and clean jeans kind of guy. I went out with a friend one day in a familiar brand name tshirt jeans and a hoodie. For that friend I was now in style. I was hip. I looked more my age. I respect his style, yet as you get older you mature. As you said I too did not know 33 was old nor did I know dressing outside of tshirts was dressing old. When I enter a room I want people to know that I am educated and well versed in the news of the time. I don't want to be " stereotyped as the young naive uneducated hip hop kid. We as a people need to move past what's in style and carry ourselves in a better manner. We also need to know how to judge the audience and atmosphere we are in. There is a time and place for everything. Speech included. - Kevin R.