It was brought to my attention the other day that some people might only talk to me because of the way I look. Which is funny on many levels to me, but it did remind me that, gasp, some people still judge others based on looks. This being said in spite of Lucy Liu’s claim of “judging people based on how they look, that’s not American.”

This was in the aftermath of the twin towers coming down and there were mass prejudices towards anyone who looked or sounded Arabic. Could it be true that human beings still follow that ancient silly practice of judging people based on how they look or have we realized Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of judging people based on the content of their character? A famous writer once said “it is only the shallow who do not judge by appearances.” Which seems to imply that all those of us who do judge on such supposedly superficial things, are really not as superficial as others think.

What does it mean to judge someone in this way anyways? Are we decreeing that they are somehow officially aesthetically pleasing (AP)? Do we arrange for them to receive a medal or stamped and crested document or something? What does it mean to be AP anyways? Who decides what is AP? Are there guidelines to follow? And if we do see someone who we consider AP, are we really more inclined to engage in a conversation with that person more so that with the person over in the other comer who is not AP? If so, why? Do we think that the AP person is somehow better, more interesting or more worthy of being spoken with than someone who we do not consider AP? Why is it so important anyways!?

Truth be told, we do judge by appearances. Maybe not always in the simple way that comes to mind, not only on AP attributes such as the face and body, but also based on clothes, cars, homes and electronic toys. Name brands have long been associated with images and lifestyles in the media that many people believe in and strive for. Some people do tend to think that they can best associate with those who purchase the same things as they do, they are likely to have more in common, which may be true in some cases. Thus in a crowded room, perhaps someone will talk to you because you are wearing the same brand of high class jeans that they are wearing or have at home.

But it’s not all bad though. One of our most important relationships is determined in some part by looks. We end up choosing our mates not exclusively because they are AP to us, but lets face it, they do have to be AP to us if we plan on spending the rest of our lives with them.

There are some cases where people are, and should expect to be, judged in some way based on the way they look, as with models. The whole world of modeling is based exclusively on the way one looks aesthetically. There are some models that make it in the biz because they are a little different looking and do not possess the more classic look of beauty, but in general they have the right bodily proportions and they are AP. In the general world, appearances have become important. It’s no secret that one can get ahead in the world by being well dressed and well groomed. It’s not the only reason for getting ahead, but it certainly helps more than hinders advancement. There are even stories out there where by people have gone into stores dressed shabbily in unwashed clothes and were not served or were dealt with rather rudely. The same person would then change into a clean set of clothes, all primped up and go back to the same store. Upon entering they would be very warmly received and treated with much respect, kind of like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

It reminds me of a story I once read about a Japanese emperor who went to a restaurant dressed in regular clothes. He was refused entry by the maitre d’ and pushed out of the restaurant. The emperor went home, changed into his royal robes and went back to the restaurant. The maitre d’ welcomed him, treated him with much respect and showed him to the best table. The emperor proceeded to remove the royal robes and place them on a chair, much to the shock of the maitre d’. He then left saying that it was apparent the robes were what the maitre d’ really wanted at the restaurant since he had been there only minutes ago and was refused entry.

The reason that I thought the comment was so funny is that while I am vain to the point that I do think the song is about me and sometimes I sing the song from West Side Story about being “pretty and witty and gay,” I don’t consider myself that AP by any standards. I don’t consider myself particularly un-pleasing to the eye either. I am pretty much accustomed to my physical attributes. I have been staring back at my reflection in the minor long enough now to not really care so much about that stuff. I personally would rather be judged if it must be that way, on the content of my character than anything else, and I like to think that is how I judge people too.