We all make judgments and assumptions about others. But what exactly is the difference? And I'm not talking about legal judgments, either.
To me, a judgment carries an emotional connection/reaction whereas an assumption is based on supposed evidence or experiences in the life of the one making the assumption. I think of it as a heart vs. mind matter; judgments are made from the heart, assumptions from the mind.
In thinking about this blog, I am reminded of a story arc in an episode of one of my favorite shows, Friends. One of the characters, Phoebe, is dating two men; Vince is a firefighter while Jason is a kindergarten teacher. Through the development of the arc, we get all the traditional comments about hunky firemen and their lack of sensitivity. We also see the sensitive side of the teacher as he comments on how wonderful it is to make an impact on a child’s life. Phoebe decides that a sensitive man is better in the long run, and chooses to break up with Vince. He doesn’t take it well, says he has more to share and sulks off to write in his journal. Phoebe then decides to break up with Jason, as she has just discovered Vince’s sensitive side which is now an added bonus to his “burliness.” She then goes to break up with Jason, who is working shirtless in his apartment when she walks in. He turns around revealing washboard abs and a nicely developed chest.
Assumptions usually lead us to making difficult and often regrettable decisions. And we all know what happens when we assume.
I remember a judgment I’d made as a teacher. One day, a new student was brought to my second-grade classroom. She had long, brown unkempt hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, and a torn skirt. My heart went out to her because of her appearance. Her sense of unease suggested a lack of schooling, and my teacher-heart told me I’d probably retain her. Yes, I judged her based on her appearance and behavior, all in the first five minutes of meeting her.
She entered the room and I found a place for her to sit. In the diagnostic tests I administered to all new students, she did indeed test very low for a second grade student. Throughout the remainder of the year, she continued to struggle with basic concepts she should have mastered in Kindergarten or first grade. It seems my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it was also based on experience, plus I did feel a sadness for her at my first impression. So, I began the procedures for retaining her.
I also recently made an assumption while out grabbing a bite for lunch.
I entered the establishment and, while waiting in line to order, I quickly scanned the crowded dining room. This was a ‘fast-casual’ place where you order at the counter, they give you a number and then bring your order to your table. As I scanned for a place to sit, preferably inside as it was a very warm afternoon, I rested my eyes on a very handsome man. He had a full, dark brown, neatly trimmed beard, very broad shoulders and chest which stretched the t-shirt he was wearing. He also had cantaloupe sized biceps. So, he obviously worked out. A baseball cap rested on his head and he appeared to be in his mid- to late-30s. He was seated with a group of men, so it appeared they were on their lunch break.
I feel that some of the assumptions I made were justified-the size of his chest, shoulders and biceps were clear indications he worked out. The time of day, approximately 12:30, and the busyness of the restaurant clearly indicated a lunch rush was on. He wasn’t alone, so he was probably on a lunch break with his co-workers who seemed more involved in their conversation than he was.
However, I also made some assumptions about him that were not necessarily justifiable. Yes, I was drawn to him based on his appearance, but I also came to the conclusion that 1) he probably wasn’t gay, and 2) if he were, he probably wasn’t the sensitive type.
Let me explain. First, I can’t be completely sure he wasn’t gay. My gaydar has been so broken lately, it’s not funny. But, it was just a feeling I had. Just because a man works out doesn’t make him one way or the other. There are plenty of straight men who are bodybuilders, too. But, very few of my gay friends wear baseball caps. His being rather withdrawn from the conversation with his co-workers doesn't define his orientation, but gay men are usually a bit more animated than he appeared to be. Plus, my experience with muscle men has been that they aren’t as sensitive as I like my men to be and they seem to be after just one thing.
I'll never be sure about Muscle Man, as I’ll probably never run into him again because I rarely head down to where that restaurant is. So, I’ll just let it all go for now.
As for Phoebe, both guys ended up dumping her.