Seven seconds with sleeves rolled

Visual subtlety is lost on us these days, while wearing and seeing strangers wearing masks.  I’ve commented while in grocery stores to people ahead of me, “maybe you can’t tell that I’m kidding.”  I’ve also had those same strangers tell me,  “I can see that you are smiling seeing just your eyes”.  What mysterious clues we use and what do we rely upon for “first impressions?”

It has been said we form our idea of a person within the first 7 seconds of meeting them.  I don’t know where or how such measurements are gauged, but don’t dispute them.  We do form opinions and impressions at the drop of a hat.  (When I drop a hat, it often takes less than 7 seconds.) Some would also chalk these first impressions up to auras or vibes nor do I dispute them. 

My daughter tells me that she saw her chef-husband to be long before they were dating with his tattooed sleeves rolled up in a kitchen, and thought:  wow he’s  handsome!  When she found that he was no longer “taken,” she reached out to him.  (They were married last summer after a courtship that crossed beyond years and thousands of miles).

I saw my wife decades ago in a scene shop.  She was sleeves rolled up, too,  in wheat paste.  Noticed her maybe, but I really didn’t give any romantic thought.  I later helped her obtain an internship, but didn’t expect to ever see her again.  However, after I had redefined myself as single, she stopped in my town for a visit.  I absolutely saw her then in a totally new seven seconds, now that she was no longer up to her elbows in scene shop work, and my eyesight was back to bachelor mode.  Seven seconds.  A new first impression.

I remember seeing a loved mentor of mine for the first time too.  He was  dressed in weathered jeans, wearing a well trimmed beard, with a turquoise watch band, smoking a cigarette, hammer in hand.   Another scene shop view.  My other college professors at the time were wearing suits and ties, carried books, and if they smoked it was likely to be a pipe.  I saw “Mr. K” exotic and cool.  His life of the mind proved to be a life in art, which like that scene shop view of my future wife was both grubbier and more appealing than any other academic I knew.  Oh yes there was a college coach with whom I shot baskets,  who also wore no tie, and I thought him quite fine, too.  But this “Mr K” become someone whom I long modeled my own style and life’s work.  My first impression of him became funded by his idiosyncratic style, passionate work ethic, and an art based in: language, character, and music.   Can 7 seconds can lead toward a whole life?   In retrospect, both my daughter and I would say they can.

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