Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions – all can be embarrassing. We all do it to some extent I am sure.
The other morning I was in a well-known Chemist’s in town with a colleague who is also a good friend. Paying for a small number of items I then waited for my friend to pay for hers. This particular well-known store has a points card system. My friend had lost hers and suggested she put the points on mine. (I was happy to oblige).
The young sales girl smiled and took my card, saying to my friend,
“You are going to put it on your mum’s card yeah?”
My response was automatic,
“Oh, I’m not her mother,” I laughed and my friend endorsed this as though the thought was absurd. This was hardly fair of us since there is an age gap and who knows how old anyone is these days?
The sales girl was mortified and we were at pains to put her at her ease.
“I am so sorry, I just assumed – honestly, I am terrible with ages!” she blurted.
“Well, you could have been a teenage mum I suppose though fourteen is rather young,” my friend observed, grinning at me.
“Oh dear, I feel awful now!” the girl pleaded, obviously feeling exactly as she sounded.
“Really, don’t worry, I do have a 30-year-old daughter,” I said, as though this made a difference.
“It’s probably because you don’t look your age,” the girl told my friend, “I mean, the way you dress and your hair style…you look much younger than you are,”
As she slowly dug herself a new hole, into which she clearly wished to sink, we deemed it only kind to leave.
My friend and I can only wonder if she will ever dare to voice such an assumption again.
It did make me think about the passing of time though because about nine or ten years ago we were on a business trip and had stopped for lunch at a pub on the way home. There were several people in the restaurant but only one took any notice of us as we walked in.
This person was an elderly lady who was possibly both a little senile and a little deaf. Her companion (without making assumptions I could not say whether she was friend, daughter, sister or carer) spoke to her gently and helped her decipher the menu.
I could hear the elderly woman talking very loudly about the food and the staff and I could see from where I sat that she kept glancing across at us and frowning but both my friend and I paid little attention.
“Do you see those two girls?” demanded the woman suddenly in an extra loud voice, pointing directly at us. Her voice rose an octave.
“They are obviously sisters. One is very attractive and – the other one is quite nice too,” she conceded.
I wont get into an argument about who was ‘very attractive’ and who was, “quite nice too,” (I would have to make assumptions to do so!) but the lady had assumed we were sisters. That alone was flattering to me, being the elder of the two.
We are both quite slim and we both have short dark hair so the assumption was not altogether an odd one though I don’t think we look at all alike really. Still, she had made her mind up. Sisters we definitely were.
Now, faced with the girl in the chemist who had taken me for my friend’s mother, I must mourn the passing of that time for something must have changed. Or, could it be that age changes our perception of youth so much that the young subconsciously categorise anyone over 30 as ‘old’ and the elderly, anyone under fifty as ‘young’?
The fact that I have a teenage son as well as a 30 year old daughter (with three others in between) makes it hard for me to picture myself as any older than I have ever been but of course, the passage of time affects us all in the end.
My husband is four months younger than me but for the early part of our married life, new acquaintances assumed that I was married to a much older man. This, was for no other reason than that his hair was greying early. (He was totally white in his thirties). This assumption amused us it has to be said.
We can’t help making assumptions. It is part of human nature just as is curiosity – discussed in my last blog. (Anyone might be forgiven for thinking that this week I am carrying out a study of human behaviour!)
I probably make assumptions that later prove to be wrong as many times as I make those that are right. I have just learnt to be careful about voicing them. The women who peered into my barn had probably assumed that the barn was empty. I daresay they learned something from the result.
I bet that sales girl will now think twice before voicing that particular assumption again. As for me, I know that if one presumes to assume then one must be prepared for the consequences.
Thank heavens for a sense of humour!