Judge Me, Judge Me Not

Most children are raised to have a conscience. To grow into upstanding citizens who care about the Earth, their neighbors, the less-privileged, and those in need. We’re encouraged to expand our horizons and test our boundaries. To seek a higher education and to join the work force in an effort to contribute to the goodness of mankind. We’re told to develop our own perspectives, opinions, and tastes, and to have the strength to stand by them when faced with adversity. We should be kind and giving, humble, and forgiving, but also tough and independent, intelligent, and curious.

And when our tongue feels like dancing or our hands raise to whisper, we’re reminded secrets don’t make friends and we can’t judge someone because we’re not them. You can’t understand a stranger and at times, you can’t even understand the person you think you know the best  -so judge them not.

Right?

Like all of the lessons that are important to learn, being completely non-judgmental is a not so easy task. As much as I pride myself on being an open-minded, understanding, and rather gracious person – I know I’m guilty of thinking less of others. I’ve walked on the opposite side of the street because I felt unsafe due to a person dancing wildly and it made me uncomfortable. Was he threatening? No. Was he sober? Probably not. Did he say anything to me? Nope. But still, I felt the need to distance myself.

When a young woman in the laundry mat with a wide-eyed baby talks to me about how she hates the food stamps she’s on and how she wishes she could go to NYU like some of the other 18-year-olds she knows, I have to make an effort not to wonder about her parent’s influence or cursing them if they don’t help her. Do I know her background or will I ask? No, but I still find myself blaming her upbringing for her current circumstance. Maybe its nature vs. nurture or debating the idea that we are where we come from or we make our way as we go. Nevertheless, the judge in me I wish I didn’t have, always seems to find its way out.

Or at the bar when I rounded the dating circles, I was quick to rule out any guy who I wasn’t instantly attracted to, who wasn’t over 6’0″, who didn’t strike me as engaging or funny, or who was obviously and sloppily intoxicated. I’d judge them by characteristics they can’t change, like their height, and for being shy or difficult to talk to, when their reasons for being reserved may be due to something that happened or just the result of an off-day. How many men have I passed up because I just didn’t meet them at the right time on the right night? Or because I was only noticing their wrongs, instead of their opportunities to be right.

I’ve had to remind myself I don’t know the life of every person who walks this city or this planet, and without having a scope into their life, I can’t make an assumption or develop an opinion on who they are or why they do the things they do.

But then again, do I even know why I do the things I do? If I stop looking outside to see where I’m being judgmental and beating myself up for being even the slightest pigheaded, and look inside, I see that the person I’m the most critical of is myself.

Yesterday morning, going through my weekend errands of laundry, running, grocery shopping, and making a pit stop to measure my new room in my soon-to-be apartment, I caught myself breathing an air of negativity. Not only was I down on myself for a random breakout cluster that I don’t find attractive, but I was disappointed at my running time, crunching the numbers of my checking account, and realizing how unprepared I am to move and for Mr. Possibility‘s return this week. While I had accomplished many of the tasks I needed to this weekend, it somehow still didn’t feel like it was enough.  There is always more I can do, more effort I can put in, more money I could save, more people I could meet, more care I could take, and more life I could have lived.

Why am I so careful not to judge anyone else and yet so easily judge myself continuously?

Is it because I compare myself to others? To the girls with the legs and the clear skin, with the fancy job titles and the bank accounts I can’t imagine yet. The ones who wear designer clothes and have countless men waiting in line to be their soulmate. The ones who have it all, though all I know is very surface-level and based on first impressions, not conversations. Or is it because I know I’m judged by others? Because I can feel when someone is sizing me up in the subway, in jealously or because they don’t like what I wear or where I decide to stand. Or because I hear or I can read those who judge me by what I write about – who consider me less intelligent or immature because of the content of my blog. Though they forget (and maybe at times, I do too) a blog or a job do not define a person. Or those who make assumptions based on things they don’t know or things they don’t ask.

But judge me, judge me not – it doesn’t matter. The only critic I should be concerned with is the one I see staring back at me. And maybe that’s why being our own greatest fan is a lifetime task, a journey that will never end. Because while we walk past people on the street, developing conclusions we can’t support, and wondering if they are making calls about us we’d never claim, when the public is gone, the private begins.

And it is there, in those private moments, standing carelessly on one-leg, hair tossed messily on top of my head, applying mascara carefully while wearing a make-up stained towel, that I come face-to-face with the judge I am. The person who sees the flaws daily, who makes an effort to be a better person or be better looking with each service paid or mile ran. The person who notices the signs of stress and result of nights with too little sleep, wearing on my face that’s far too young to be wrinkled.

The person looking into the mirror, mirror on the wall, has to decide that it is me who is the fairest of all. Because without justice for myself, how can I be just to anyone else?

PS: Want to guest blog with Love Addict? Read how you can here.

I Could Have Been Cinderella

Once upon a Tuesday morning in Manhattan, I was greeted by the angry call of my alarm clock, demanding I rise earlier than any darling cares to do. Irritated that my sweet dreams in slumber town had been interrupted, I groggily tiptoed across the wood floor of my studio, and submerged in a steady stream of almost-too-hot water.

A stubbed toe and curse word later, I found myself riding the downtown train to the Southern part of the island I hardly visit. But when your job demands you arrive on Fulton Street in the wee hours of the A.M. to listen to bloggers and agents discuss the healthcare reform, you have no choice but to oblige. Maybe free coffee and breakfast help make the trip worth the long haul and the bright-and-early start time.

Like anyone who lives anywhere, I’ve found myself set into a routine of taking the same trains to the same places during the same hours of the day – with a few crazy weeks, here and there. And even if I don’t recognize the reoccurring faces, there is some sort of energy that remains static with repetition, or maybe I just get used to the route. Nevertheless, the trip to the business threshold of New York had far different inhabitants than the subway I usually take.

Mainly, there was a fresh plethora of beautiful men. And not just attractive, but ones without wedding bands. (A single gal has to look out for the married ladies, in case their man is tempted by her fruit, and she must remind him the only place his low-hangers are welcome.)

Though I noticed their Armani suits, Cartier watches, and Burberry briefcases, I was busily preparing for the event I was heading toward and had little-to-no-time to pull out The Look or place energy into smiling cleverly. And truth be told, since the start of this journey, I’ve relaxed a bit on the ogling and let the gentlemen (and the jerks) come my way, all by themselves. I mean, they are big boys, grown men, with jobs that triple (or more) my salary – surely they can approach a lady in a black mini blazer and pencil skirt. Right?

Yep, they sure can. Kind of anyways.

As I’m sitting, writing away, looking at notes, and planning what I could suggest to my publisher to add to the conversation, a guy of my type shifted in front of me. With a packed train, I watched his bag go right above my notebook and since it disturbed my flow, I quickly looked up to give the glare I never had until I moved to the city. But when I met his eyes, I let go of a little of the sleepiness-induced temper, and grinned. He did too. And he had dimples.

With only a few stops to go, I began to pack up, and kindly asked him to move over if he could at all in the crowded tiny cart. He obliged and replied, “Anything for you.” Catching on to his sarcasm, I thanked him and threw my bag over my shoulder. Not willing to put a move on him (as I would have six months ago), I waited for him to say something, since he obviously had an easy-in to a conversation with me.

“So where do you work?” He finally asked matter-of-factly. A little thrown off by his harshness, I let him know my position at the magazine, and the moment “editor” can out of my mouth – his face went from concerned and nervous, to smugly assured. “A writer, eh?” He said with a smirk as he cut his eyes across the train before looking back down at me. I nodded and shortly defended my job title – though I wasn’t sure why it was in question. “Well, I’m a senior vice president, at 30, at Blah Blah Blah Bank. When is your event over?” Confused by what my morning committment had anything to do with his job, I blankly said, “It ends at 11.”

Out of some sort of misguided and overly arrogant sense of self, he offered, “If you’re interested, I can have my secretary buzz you up and I can show you a good time you’d love to write about. ” Stunned he would have the nerve to make such a proposition to a woman he’s known a measly three minutes – not to mention, he didn’t even know I was a dating blogger, or my name, I dropped my jaw without even moving. Then the train stopped. I excused myself to get around him and confidently hurried away from him and up the stairway.

A few steps away from daylight and complete freedom from the businessman who thought he was more bad ass than what he really is  – I literally stepped right out of my high heel. I was in such a rush that it took three steps for me to stop, turn around, and realize I had actually lost one of my Jimmy’s. Flustered and fearing I would be late because I was so irritated with the dude – I went to reach for it and there he was.

Both of us seeing the undeniable irony of the moment, he smirked that annoying little smirk that for a split-second, seconds ago, I had been blinded by the accessorized dimples. As he was leaning to retrieve my shoe and probably go back to the office calling himself a prince, I snatched it up before he had a second to think. Placing it back on my hosed-foot, I sharply looked into his eyes and said, “No, really. That’s okay.”

Maybe I’ve stopped looking for happily ever after and perhaps I’m not even sure what “after’ indicates, anyways. But when given the opportunity to be banker’s princess, instead of being crowned worthy for an afternoon of delight, I would have rather talked healthcare for the rest of my career than dignify anything he said, jokingly or not, with any sort of recognition.

Walking to meet my boss and dive into a discussion that was surprisingly engaging, I thought about how many times I had imagined that exact moment. How many times during college I had been criticized (in the newsroom, go figure) for believing in fairytales. How at one point, my ringtone was sadly and embarrassingly “Someday My Prince Would Come.” How much I had wondered if, with my love for high heels, and a dreamy population of men who look like my image of a prince, I would indeed, have a completely idealistic interaction just like that.

And then when it happened, when I could have been Cinderella, I didn’t want this so-called Charming to come in on his white ride, or with his bulky bank account and sweep me away to a penthouse on Wall Street looking over the river. Instead, I’d rather steal his horse and make a run for it – once I made sure he gave my shoe back, that is.