First impressions for better or worse

Clare, London, England

Right I’ve been a bit of an anti-social hermit this week, busy creating way too many words to fit into a chapter, and wondering what alternatives I might use for words like ‘reveal’, ‘demonstrate’, ‘likewise’, and ‘indeed’. There are a lot of ‘indeed’s in this chapter. So when I got this email around first impressions my initial thought was ‘shit, the only people I am going to see between now and Friday are the boyfriend and the cashier in Tesco’s. This vision has now been accomplished. Then I considered texting my sister to find out her first impressions of her boyfriend and vice versa (in a total rejection of technology they sent letters to one another by post to sort out whether they ‘liked’ each other. As much as I am a fan of the epistolary art, Royal Mail could cause a massive hitch, if you need proof just watch ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, post can delay relationships by DECADES). But then I failed on that too and just sent her pictures of deformed German Percy Pigs (sweets), which are called ‘Fred Ferkel’, or as I like to term them given the on-going Eurozone talks, ‘Mother Merkel’.

But back to first impressions. Last week there was a mini Bordeaux-exchange reunion in London when Chloe came to stay from the USA. Ella came up from Wales and in the hours that passed in Lush on Oxford Street it was literally as if 2011-2012 was yesterday. We chatted, danced, shopped, and drank round London and, for my part, it was as if no time had passed at all. The following day Dan, who I know Martin loves more than me in secret, came up and got mauled by Chloe and Martin in the middle of a hung-over Liverpool Street Station. We high-jacked him and rebooked his travel, spent the entire afternoon drinking beer and Ahoj vodka in a beer cellar, returned home, forced Aminah to cross London, swing danced in the local pub, and managed to put everyone up in our flat. There were so many wonderful memories, from all night house parties to hours in the pub, from logobitombo to the fact Hannah and I spent seven months only speaking in French despite both having English as our mother tongue. At which point, first impressions? They’re just part of the fantastic memories.


Lindsay, Bordeaux, France

My boyfriendʼs brother met his wife long long before he had any idea that they would end up getting married, building a house, and having a baby (and probably more to come). When I asked how they met, Jeremey said to me, “I lucked out, I didnʼt have to search very far.” They met in middle school, and she was his best friendʼs little sister. At this point in their lives, their time together was mainly spent simply in the same house; Jeremey and his buddy watching Star Wars while Emilie and her friends sang karaoke and danced in her room. They got along, sure, but the sparks werenʼt immediate (to be fair, five years age difference in middle school is a pretty big gap). Apparently they never thought much about each other until they were both in college and living in separate cities. Jeremey came down from Paris to Bordeaux to see his friend, and Emilie was at the house, visiting her parents the same weekend. And somehow it was like seeing a whole new person. Obviously, people change a lot between middle school and college (thankfully), and so they felt they had new things to discover about each other even if they had known each other for so long. And now, theyʼve been married for two years and have a super cute little baby, a lovely house that they had built, and many happy years of life together ahead of them.

While Jeremey didnʼt have to look very far to find his life partner, his little brother sure did. I suppose technically I was the one doing the looking-very-far, as we met in France, but still. Although we come from opposite ends of the world, we somehow managed to find each other amongst the best friendʼs siblings and the girls/boys-next-door.  I even had to go halfway across the globe to meet Hannah (the lovely creator of this blog) despite the fact that we both went to/worked at UC Berkeley at the same time AND had been in France the same year, but had never crossed paths.

Two people very dear to me ended up being a bit complicated to come by, but I am so glad that I did. Just goes to show you never know where/when youʼll meet someone you connect with – 5,000 miles from home, after 5 years of seeing her as just his “best friendʼs little sister”, or anywhere in between.


 Hannah, Modesto, California

It seems to me that people try to put a lot of social stock in being able to claim that they are “not shallow.” Sometimes I like to think that is true about myself, and then, inevitably, I see two bulging, biceps walk past me and my thoughts are as follows:

  1. *drool*
  2. Stop it Hannah, those biceps are connected to a HUMAN!
  3. The term “panty-dropper” is really fitting in certain situations.

At this point, I feel obligated to re-examine my entire character. Biceps do not a good person make! But, the truth is, I want both the biceps and the excellent personality; so – and this is just logic – I figure I should hunt down the biceps and try and match up the character later. Or, wait, maybe I’ve got this all wrong. So last Friday, I decided to interrogate one of the most real and loving couples that I know to try and figure out how to do this whole business.

 

About a month ago, John and Carla renewed their wedding vows after 30 years of marriage. Voluntarily. I consider that pretty solid evidence that this union has worked. So after the three of us finished our Togo’s sandwiches on Friday evening, I asked them both to talk about their first impressions of each other. This should put me on the road to success.

Everyone has had a skeezy landlord before – and at age 22, John was renting a room from a man who enjoyed surveying his young, across-the-street neighbor through his binoculars. She was 19, “HOT”, “had great legs” and had a Daisy Duke-clad derriere.

That would be Carla. And although John was not the peeping Tom, those are his first memories of his future wife. Carla had perhaps a more well-rounded first opinion of her beau-to-be: funny, cute and amazing brown eyes. And speaking of well-rounded, she distinctly remembers that he also had a “good butt.”

Hearing all of this, I feel my knot of internal guilt loosen. They continued to tell me how their feelings deepened for each other – a tale that involves bedroom-Bible reading, porch ponderings, and literally falling in love – and that initial, physical attraction becomes less of a plot-driver in their relationship. BUT – and this is me clearly not willing to give up the eye candy – it was part of the story, a part that still has not faded in memory.

First impressions are important (and the biceps certainly worked for my mec!) but they are not all-important. The truly drool-worthy stuff is a little more delicate to suss out. However, I’ve got to stick with my girl Carla on this one, a good butt is never a bad place to start…


Hannah F., Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Living like a bit of a nomad has its problems – the main one being that it’s very hard to organise meeting up with friends, even harder to organise meeting up with family (as they all live the other side of the world) and when you often work the hours during which normal people back home are usually asleep, it can even be difficult to organise catching up on Skype. Due to us all working different days and hours, I rarely even get chance to speak to my flat mates, and can barely remember the last time all three of us were awake in the flat at the same time. All of this has made it very difficult to pin down two people and interview them. Instead, this week’s topic has just got me thinking about just how important first impressions are.
In my current job, the majority of people that I meet at work are people I will never see again in my life after that flight is over, and if I do see them again, the chances are that I’ve forgotten their face completely, let alone their name. The uniform we all have to wear as cabin crew doesn’t help matters either – most of the time other crew don’t recognise me if I join them in my own clothes for food in the hotel, and one captain didn’t believe I was me until I showed him my work ID cards.
First impressions are often all that I have to go off with the other people I meet, and unfortunately, that is all they have to go off for me too (I say unfortunately because personally I don’t think the whole slicked back hair and red lipstick thing suits me very well). Since moving to Dubai, I have made a concerted effort to not let my first impressions of people mar my opinion of them in any negative way – moving to a new city where you know absolutely nobody leaves you in a position where it’s only detrimental to do this. However, it is extremely difficult to shake deep rooted stereotypes, and I have found that as soon as some other crew see that I’m from Britain, they often presume that I am going to be a) stupid b) a slag and c) very lazy; three things of which I am actually none. Having realised just how judgemental people are, and been frustrated by it, I thought it might be interesting just to note down another few stereotypes that I have noticed people have:
***just please note that again, they do not necessarily hold any truth, and are merely observations of others’ stereotypical views, not my own opinions or meant to offend anyone in any way
Lebanese men – sleep with lots of different women (or at least try to), often have several different girlfriends at the same time, love and defend their mothers and sisters to the end of the Earth, usually answer to either Ahmed, Mo or Mohammed
Egyptian men – same as Lebanese, but slightly more religious, and slightly less successful with the ladies
Male flight attendants – must be gay (funnily disproved by above two points)
British women – uneducated, sleep around, have boyfriends called Mohammed
Chinese people – drink nothing but “hot tea” and “hot water”
Indian people – “Give me Whiskey!”
I could go on, but touching on stereotypes often causes someone to take offence, even if none was meant. Instead, I shall end with what my boyfriend has just told me were his first impressions of me, and mine of him:
Hannah – “slutty, needy, lovely… The only one for me”
Rich – absolute gent

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