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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Look Below the Surface

I've been reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I mainly love Steinbeck for the beautiful way that he uses words, but his plots are extremely compelling also. On the bus this morning, I read a passage that took me by surprise, and also dovetailed with a lot of the things that have been on my mind lately also. The passage I read was about a Chinese servant who acts like he doesn't really speak or understand much English, but the truth is that he is well-educated and can speak as well or better than most American natives. And actually, he was born in the US. He opens up with one of the other characters and has a straight conversation about the fact that he hides his real intelligence and knowledge of American culture, because people want to see what they expect. They don't, and won't, see what they don't expect to see. Because they see a Chinese man, they want someone who can't speak English or know about American culture. (FYI - The book was written and set quite a few years ago, I think that American culture has moved beyond this particular stereotype at this point.) It made me think about all the expectations we have of people based on external things. Because someone is blond, we expect them to be ditzy. Because someone dresses a certain way, we expect them to behave accordingly, whether bad or good. And often in life, we play up to these expectations, never letting our real selves through because it is too hard to fight against and break through all these expectations. We also don't completely reveal ourselves. A friend of mine was telling me about a guy that people were trying to set her up with. She knew the guy and wasn't particularly impressed with him. But he has a blog, and she read it. And apparently he revealed a lot of his real self on his blog that he didn't in person. And she liked him more through his blog than she did in person. I wonder if I am like that also. If I am more real, or less real, on my blog than I am in person. If it reflects my real self. I know that in person, it sometimes takes time to get to know me, but I think it should. People are complex and shouldn't be "gotten" in a few minutes. It makes me wonder what is lying below the surface of those I interact with, what I am missing out on. What I am seeing because it is a reflection of my expectations. And what others are missing about me.

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