Why you should never judge a book by its cover…

In preparation for my first writing workshop this week over at Sleep is for the Weak, I am writing on the theme of false assumptions – those funny things that people think about you that seem to come from nowhere.

This is an interesting topic for me, as I’m pretty sure people are quite often not sure what to make of me. For a start, I’ve been told I look younger than I am – 32 this April – and the perception of youth can often effect the way people interact with you. A couple of years ago for example, a salesman came to the door, trying to flog gas and electricity. I answered, and he asked me if my mum or dad was home…

Age gives a woman a certain gravitas and I do often worry about not being taken seriously. Sometimes when I meet people for the first time I want to come right out and explain – “I may look young and have the voice of a child, but really I am a proper grown up who knows how to do stuff. Honest.”

Add to this the fact that I was pregnant at 16, when I looked about 12, and I’m fairly sure I must have attracted some curious glances in my time. Not that I have ever really been aware of it. I’m just me inside, and I forget sometimes that other people can see my face when they are talking to me.

Another occasion I remember well was when I got my GCSE results. I was particularly geeky at school, a straight A student and prize winner, and everyone I went to school with knew it. (I made sure of that – hence not having many friends at school…). My boyfriend at the time however went to a different school and when his friends – whom I had known for some months – found out my results they were stunned to say the least. “Blimey,” they said, “we’d thought you were pretty stupid!” Charming.

A couple of times in the last week people have made reference to me being terribly organised and orderly, an assumption which I challenged, not least because it made me feel terribly dull. Who wants to be thought of as ‘the woman whose files are arranged nicely’?

It’s true that I am fussy about some things – I do like my books to sit flush which the edge of the shelf, and have been known to arrange them in colour order – but I don’t think this makes me hugely organised. In fact, a quick glance around my study or bedroom would show quite the opposite. Piles of magazines, newspapers, unread letters and mountains of clean and dirty washing, merging together in one giant heap – hardly the hallmark of a neat freak.

And then of course there are the friends who see me scoffing sweets and quaffing wine like the grape is about to become extinct and assume I am some kind gluttonous lush with no self control. Oh hang on a minute…

12 Comments

  1. 26 January, 2010 / 8:14 pm

    Your writing is such delight. I agree that Dean is a very talented photographer. I feel like you are already a brilliant writer. I would be interested to hear about what you learn in the workshop.

    • 27 January, 2010 / 5:26 pm

      He IS great isn’t he? I shall tell him you said that :-)

  2. 26 January, 2010 / 9:14 pm

    Oh, I think you sound lovely, sweets. And you’re a darned good writer. Keep at it!

    Jill

  3. 26 January, 2010 / 11:21 pm

    Lovely writing, so great to see you are doing so well at this blogging malarkey :) I was asked if I was 18 up unti I was 26ish, I think, my the time I was 35, I was being mistaken for my children’s nan at the school gate. yeah thanks. :)

    • 27 January, 2010 / 5:27 pm

      Thanks Linda, I’m really enjoying being a blogger :-) I do worry sometimes that I’ll look young for ages, turn 40 and suddenly look like a pensioner. Ah well, best make the most of it. Your book arrived by the way – thank you! x

  4. 27 January, 2010 / 3:56 pm

    Great writing, you have inspired me to join the writing prompts group. You should be grateful to look so young.

    I don’t look particularly old for my age but my husband is 8 years younger and when we got to the USA I was 29 he was 21 and we went to a party and a woman said to him “Hey you have a really cool mum.” And he didn’t miss a beat and said “I didn’t know you’d met my mother.” (his mum is in ireland)
    well of course the woman thought I was his mother….ha ha….good I have a sense of humour. The woman was a drug addled hippy ….still it hurt at the time!

    • 27 January, 2010 / 5:30 pm

      That’s HARSH! But funny :-) Sure it wasn’t for you at the time though!

  5. 27 January, 2010 / 10:20 pm

    ‘Quaffing wine’. What a great phrase ! Sounds like my kind of evening that; quaffing and scoffing.

  6. Lucy
    29 January, 2010 / 8:01 am

    I’m still scarred from the time we told a mutural friend that there was 11 years age difference between me and my husband. They said: “Oh I didn’t realise! Who is the oldest?”

    WHO. IS. THE. OLDEST? I can’t think about it without wanting to punch someone.

  7. 31 January, 2010 / 11:35 pm

    I got this too. I’m 5 foot nothing and talk (and dress) like a child (so I’m kindly told!) so when people see me with my 13 yr old son they aren’t quite sure of the set up! x

    • 1 February, 2010 / 6:46 pm

      Ha ha! At least with girls we only get mistaken for sisters!!

  8. 26 January, 2018 / 1:16 pm

    I can totally relate to your experience of being thought of as stupid by people who don’t know you very well. I have a specific learning disability called dyspraxia, which affects my ability to concentrate and articulate myself verbally (part of the reason I enjoy writing so much.) I’ve encountered many people who on first encountering my clumsiness and muddleheadedness have assumed that I’m stupid and given up on listening to anything that I have to say thereafter. Very frustrating!

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