You gotta love SuBo right? She’s a good singer, not my cup of tea personally, but you can’t deny the shock on everyone’s face when she walked onto the stage and began to sing. The judges were surprised to say the least. What had they expected? What we all expected. She was ‘different,’ we weren’t quite sure what to make of her but when she began to sing, our first thought was, “Well I never!”
Last year on a warm summer’s day, I had a SuBo moment. I had gone to my local pub to read one of the copious books on my Uni reading list in the beer garden before I had to attend a lecture. After I had been there for about ten minutes, a frail, old man asked if he could join me. Seeing no spare tables in the garden, I agreed.
We began talking. He was funny, quite entertaining and I found myself listening to his life story. It transpired that he had lost his wife to cancer at the same time that my mum had died and knowing what it’s like when people pretend the deceased never even existed, I asked him a few questions about Rosie. He began crying, I felt awful and apologised profusely for upsetting him. I explained that I hate it when people pretend a loved one never existed just because they might feel uncomfortable and thought he might have liked to talk about her.
He said he was crying because I had been so thoughtful and that I was right, he had missed talking about her. He thanked me.
After a while, I decided to change the subject. We talked about his past work life and that’s when he said this:
“I can’t get on with those blacks. I’m just old fashioned I suppose. I know it’s my problem, but that’s just how I am.”
Whoa, right? I had gone from feeling sorry for this old man to wanting to cut my right arm off just so I’d have something to throw at him.
I debated whether to get into a conversation about what a racist pig he was but when he saw the look on my face he downed his pint, made some excuse about having to go to the Bookies and left. In the circumstances, it was for the best. Now, whether he knew my family background or not was irrelevant. He was out of order, end of. He could have been talking about any minority group and I’d have felt exactly the same way.
The reason I’m talking about this today is not to get into a big discussion about racism but to just bring judging a book by its cover into the forum. That day was a reminder to me that you never, ever really know what someone is like just by looking at them. I looked at this sweet old man and initially spoke to him with an open mind. Until I’m proved otherwise, I always look for the good in people. I could tell this man was a little lost. When I found out about his late wife I connected with the pain I could see in his eyes.
There is a flip side, as I found out. All was not what it seemed at first. Whether that can be ‘blamed’ on the ‘Oh, it’s a generational thing,’ doesn’t wash with me. Ignorance is ignorance, whatever age you are. When I found out … had he not left first, I would have done.
My point is this, I felt let down that day and that bad taste in my mouth was hard to get rid of. But it has never, nor will it ever, stop me from giving people a chance. I can only ever truly know what someone is like by taking the time to find that out for myself. It would be unfair for me just to trust someone else’s opinion. I’m old enough and smart enough to work it out for myself and the truth will always out. People will always show their true colours eventually and sometimes you can be well and truly surprised to find that someone wasn’t who you thought they were.
Sometimes you get a nice surprise, sometimes you don’t. THAT’S JUST LIFE.
As much as that old man disappointed me that day, there is always, ALWAYS a flip side to everything. As innocent and sweet as he looked, he had a darker side. He’s not unusual in that, but if a Hell’s Angel/hoodied teenager/man clad in black walking with a limp had asked to share my table that day, I’d have said the same thing to them.
There’s always a Yin to the Yang. Sometimes, if you choose to take the time to find out for yourself, you may just be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
I have more information about people in my database now after meeting that man but I remain positive. It would be unfair of me to say that all old men were like him because it would be totally untrue. They’re not.
I know that when interviewers see my bright red hair, there are certain jobs I won’t be put forward for. They have said as much. Crazy right? Surely, if I can do the job, and do it well, that’s more important than my hair colour. Being a red head doesn’t make me feisty – I was like that when I was blonde!
Being fat doesn’t mean you’re lazy or greedy. Having a degree doesn’t make you better than anyone else … and being in a mixed race relationship doesn’t mean it’s any different to anyone else’s.
We are who we are … it’s always a good idea to take the time to find out what people are about.
I’m just sayin’ …