THE OTHER DAY I heard someone refer to me as the bald guy. I was disappointed this was the very first thing the person said. Mind you, I am disappointed that I lost my hair, too, but the idea that this is what distinguishes me was frustrating. The word bald is not a bad word, but it does not connote something good either. Certainly someone can describe me without having to state obvious physical flaws. Or can you? Is this simply how we see each other? Do the ends justify the means. The person's audience did know who they were talking about. Considering it more, I can see how the description primarily reflects the speaker, and secondary, the audience before it falls to the subject.
consideration : careful thought
This conversation is not just about referring to people as a negative. Think about the type of person who describes a guy having very short crop hair and the type who calls him bald. They are two very different people. Would you refer to someone as bald to another bald guy? Just asking. My co-conversationalist was quick to say being bald is in style these days. She seemed to miss the point. I ask her if she minded being described as the big girl. I believe my point was taken. Shortly after this discussion ended, I was caught describing the actor Elijah Wood as the little guy in The Hobbit, which is a prime example of bad language. It is certainly not appropriate to refer to the extremely talented actor as simply the little guy, but as I am a towering 5’7”, I can refer to him, 5’6”, as the little guy. It is flippant, shallow, and, pardon the pun, a shortcoming in character. I had a friend who was fed up with being referred to as his religion. He was a very complicated witty intellectual who became a respected doctor. Even so, I often heard him described as the Jew. I don’t know enough about it to be sure, but this strikes me as being wrong.
Listen to yourself describe someone, consider how your audience shapes the description, and what the words say about you. Then consider how the person would like to be represented. If your immediate classification is gay, short, Muslim, or black, are you giving a true description? It demands that we think deeply, see more clearly and be a more thoughtful person. It ain’t easy, but instead of saying “the fat Asian guy”, a better description might be “the insightful designer with an infectious smile”. I’m not talking about being politically correct. I am simply considering consideration and how bad language exposes our own deficiencies. I don’t think that person describing me thought very highly of me. That’s okay. But, in the meantime, if you see me, say hello, I’m the short bald lumpy guy with the big nose. JOE