Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Friends Help Friends With Invisible Aesthetics

Invisible Man Living Statue by Georges "JoJan" JansooneA long while ago I complained about having "Factor X," which was a set of some kind of attributes that I thought had an unfortunate impact on my life, and that I needed to resolve in order to get moving on ahead.

Factor X turned out to be two things: An accent and angry "resting face." I have an accent because my hearing-impairment causes me to interpret phonetics differently, which affects my speech, and for whatever physical reasons I also have an unintentionally mean and intense looking face (or, at least, a lot of people interpret it that way).

Factor X made me fret since I thought that it would be far more a struggle than necessary to maintain good human relationships since a lot of people tend to notice these features and misinterpret them wildly every which way. Some may interpret my accent as a sign of mental disability and underestimate me, or another may interpret it as a sign of intelligence . . . ironically . . . and then get offended, thereon displaying their vocabulary and foreign languages to "get" at me. The intense face, on the other hand, can frighten people into thinking they're about to get into a confrontation, and I've been surprised by all sorts of defensive mannerisms, such as instantaneous yelling, when trying to engage in friendly conversation.

I've come to terms that while I can do some things to treat Factor X, I ought to make peace with it by and large, for the misinterpretations of these features are mistakes belonging to other people, and it's worrying too much about what other people think to dedicate so much attention to solving these. A good life with great friends is still possible regardless, so I oughtn't fret so much.

Anyhow, the one thing I figured out is that Factor X has a much better term available: I would call these Invisible Aesthetics. 

 The reason why Factor X pestered me so much is because, essentially, the aesthetic features responsible -- the style of my voice and the look of my face -- are features I'm so accustomed to that it's hard to perceive them the ways other people do, so for a long time it absolutely perplexed me as to what people were reacting to, because on my side it's almost random.

For instance, when people noted my accent and asked me where I'm from accordingly, it never clicked that my voice was different from theirs; I thought it was just a nicetie. When a gas station clerk snapped at me or a parking attendant outright yelled at me, I don't comprehend that they're interpreting me as confrontational; I instead think that they must have severe emotional problems to conduct themselves that way.

The means through which I found out about these features was totally accidental. Late into my teens, about 17 or 18 years old, my friend just casually stated -- believing I already knew -- that people must judge me differently -- as I was bullied a lot -- because I "talk differently" -- and from then on I knew about the accent. When I saw a random comedy video online poking fun at the grief people with angry resting faces have to go through, it then clicked that's probably why people urge me to smile so much, inquire about my well-being, get frightened, and so on when I'm actually feeling okay. The accent and angry face were totally invisible to me until these accidental Newton's Apples fell.

That brings the thought to mind that a multitude of people may be suffering Invisible Aesthetics, something that people react strongly to or else alter their interactions with these people upon, and because the wearer of the Aesthetics cannot perceive it, he cannot purposefully alter it, and wonders why people act the way they do. There is, after all, no apparent evidence to them.

In my case, pre-accent knowledge, I was perplexed as to why teachers treated me differently, I was bullied with a certain subset of names, why people continually asked where I was from, and so on. There was nothing tangible to my eyes, so the nature of these people, these names, these questions were totally inexplicable. Randomness, absurdity, unknowability.

It would have been great if someone, anyone, had told me about my speaking difference so much earlier in life, then I could have taken steps to correct it, and I wouldn't have had to go through the unpleasant interactions and experiences I had to go through. Just that one sliver of knowledge would have done so much for me, for I would have been further enabled to change myself and take control over my nature.

But alas! For those who thought I already knew, or were too afraid to tell me the truth, I walked on in obliviousness until that one lucky admission in a conversation with my friend.

Now that I know my Invisible Aesthetics, I can understand them, control them, inform people, and so on. They're no longer uncontrollable aspects of my life, uncontrollable once because of total ignorance.

One thing we could all do to help people out in this world, even if just in the tiniest way, is to be more explicit in way we interpret someone's mannerisms and interactions a certain way, for all we know the uncomfortable image they could be portraying is due to their lack of knowledge.

For instance, some people have really loud voices without having a hearing-impairment, and after growing so accustomed to it, fail to notice how loud it is. This will, of course, disturb many people, likely angering them by believing it to be an affront to them, an intentional yelling to rile them. If you should meet a person, it might do them well to outright ask why they're yelling, and perhaps so simple a statement will help them know their speaking habits, and see why so many people are offended in their wake.

Or if a person seem to be expressing an emotion such as anger, and if one should want to talk to such a person (such as a coworker), it may do well to explicitly note that their casting a facial expression that you're interpreting, for it could be their resting or "default" face and are not actually expressing an emotion. Such a statement could empower them to understand why people react to them the way they do.

And on and on. Overall, Invisible Aesthetics is a bane to have in one's life, for so many people can alter the way they relate to you on the basis of an appearance, like a style of speaking, that your a totally unaware of and are unable to introspect on. People shouldn't have to deal with big life-influencing factors that they're totally ignorant of, for it's unfair for people to judge other people on the basis of something a person may not intentionally be doing and may not yet be aware of.

A simple change of conversational habit, of explicitly noting we're asking where a person is from because he has a visible accent, or that we inquire about his well-being since he has an angry facial expression, could be a welcomed epiphany, a springboard for thinking on an issue they never existed.

Wouldn't you want people to tell you about your Invisible Aesthetics? It just renders such much more control over your life to know!

Friends don't let friends maintain Invisible Aesthetics.

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