When I was young in my early twenties and first began to work in my then chosen career as a social worker, I resented my youthful appearance. I wanted to look older so that people might take me seriously.
‘I would never go to see someone as young as you,’ my mother said repeatedly. She was then not far from the age I am now, and I can understand her point of view better now than I did then.
Then I thought that my youth should not matter at all. Straight out of university and full of good ideas about what might be helpful for other people, I was determined to make my mark on the world.
From where I stand now, I can look back on this young woman and snigger, but I refuse to do so. My heart was in the right place. It still is for the most part, at least I like to think it is, but I have grown wiser, as most of us do with age, and now I know there’s more to a person than their age, despite an almost universal tendency to judge ourselves on the basis of age, among other obvious things, like beauty, race and gender.
Whenever I meet a person I size them up for age almost instantly. I size them up for age almost as soon as I size them up for aspects, such as kindness or cruelty. Is it the look in the eyes, that comes first perhaps, the curve of the mouth, the set of the jaw, subtle hints of how that person might be feeling towards me, and no accounting for how I might be feeling towards them?
I’m often less clear of the vibes I send out. I tend to think they are invisible and that only I know about my internal world, but I know I am wrong in this. At least to some extent.
We all give off vibes to one anther and they travel in both directions. ‘Projections’ is the technical term and of course it all goes back to Freud and his followers, as most of these terms do, though people often want to discount Freud’s work these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a strict Freudian, and there are many things Freud said that have long troubled me, like the suppression of the seduction theory, and his patronising attitudes towards women. But he was a man of his times, Sigmund Freud, and we must not judge the past by present standards, though I often wonder, how else are we to judge them?