Dont’ Judge a Book by Its Cover

John Wu - Chesapeake, Virginia
Entered on November 5, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance
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I believe people shouldn’t be quick to judge. Any kind of judgment made based on first impressions will be made prematurely. A person can’t determine another person’s ethnicity, hobbies, character, or even gender after meeting someone for the first time. Even gender, which seems like a simple A or B question, can be indistinguishable at times. Regrettably, this was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

I was sixteen and in my junior year of high school. On the first day of a new semester, my psychology teacher announced that we would be answering questions about ourselves and then have the person sitting next to us read it aloud. They were simple questions about what we did for fun, who were our heroes, etc, etc. Once everyone was done writing, we took turns standing up with our partner and reading what they had written.

My partner was wearing a cap, baggy jeans, and a loose fitting T-shirt, spoke in a fairly low tone, and had the facial features of a male. “He” did have a name that was very feminine; we’ll use Candace as an example, but I didn’t think much about it. When it was my turn to read “his” paper, this is what happened. I started out the paper by saying Candace likes this and that, but as “his” paper went on, I replaced “Candace” with “he” and “his.” As I read on, many of the students started laughing to themselves. One would think that one of the students would have corrected me, and they eventually did. The sad thing is that when they corrected me by telling me I was saying he instead of she, I misinterpreted them and thought they said I was saying she, not he. I was so certain that she was a “he” that I missed my only chance to save face.

Even after reading Candace’s paper, I was completely unaware of what I had done. It wasn’t until later in that class when my friend turned to me and said “You know he is a she, right?” that I realized what I had done. It all came together in a flood of obviousness: the laughing, Candace’s negativity, and the fact that her name was Candace. I immediately turned to her and apologized. She accepted my apology, but how can you tell a girl “I’m sorry; I thought you were a guy” without offending her.

For the remainder of that semester, I was overcome with shame just by the mentioning of her name. I felt that it was the most offensive thing I had ever said, and yet, I knew there wasn’t really a way to make it up to her. I would be known as the guy that mistook Candace’s gender, and becoming friends with the people that already knew her would be awkward, to say the least. I’m sure most of those students remember what I said, and that may be the only thing they remember me by. The moral of this embarrassing story is to never be quick to judge, because it may haunt you for the rest of your days. Additionally, you could hurt someone in a way that would be irreversible.