Not long ago, when my husband and I were in a stage of life where we were changing wards every few years, I kept getting called into the Primary Presidency of each new ward. I thought it was strange. My kids were either newborn or just barely in Nursery. I didn’t have much experience in teaching kids, my background was in the sciences—not in elementary ed.
After the third time this happened I asked the bishopric counselor who was extending the call why he thought I kept getting called into Primary. He replied:
“Well, you just have a Primary face.”
I was rather dumbfounded by his remark. I sat there trying to figure out what that meant. Certainly I didn’t have “I heart Primary” tattooed across my forehead.
As I pondered what genes I’d inherited that that made me look so ready to serve schoolchildren, I wondered just how many callings have been extended to women (and men, too), based solely on their looks. [Note: in subsequent moves I’ve pre-empted Primary callings by telling the Bishop of my previous service and asking for something a ‘little different.’ So far so good.]
In the meantime, though, I seem to have lost my Primary look (maybe I left it at the DI with all of my denim jumpers about 10 years ago?). Though now I seem to have acquired the “I’m new here” look. Granted, we have a large ward so it’s really hard to be acquainted with everyone, but at least once per Sunday I’m greeted by someone as if I just moved into the ward. I haven’t yet figured out why this is. So I’m now weary of the polite small talk, the “So, I haven’t seen you here before” sorts of comments. And it’s hard to figure out the best way to reply. I don’t want to say, “Well, actually, I’ve lived in this ward off-and-on for 15 years,” or “No, I’m not new, I just look that way,” because I hate to squelch the friendliness of the person asking such questions. I just assume that if I know who someone is, then they know who I am. But I guess facial recognition isn’t necessarily a two-way street.
Perhaps my larger concern in writing this missive, is to muse about the types of judgments that I’ve made about other people just by assessing their outward physical appearance. Often I’ve misjudged a perky young married woman to be young and naïve, only to find later that she is an accomplished artist, or has great insight into the gospel, or some such talent that was camouflaged by my own prejudice. Also, I think that I am more likely to make assumptions based on looks about other women than I am about men. I hate that I do that, because I want to foster the empowerment of women and create a supportive sisterhood at church. But I think it’s my own insecurity that causes me to do this. For example, I met a woman recently who’s from the wealthy end of my stake. Her hair is blonde and cut in the latest style, her makeup is flawless, and her body (and plump lips) looks as if she’s had more than a few surgical enhancements. As we were introduced I immediately felt inadequate. Was she looking down on me because I had cat hair on my jacket, my shirttail was askew, and my hair was limp from having been hastily styled as I was on my way out the door taking the kids to school about ten hours earlier?
I honestly don’t know what she thought of me, as our interaction was fairly cursory as we discussed some Stake business. Yet, as I talked with her I realized that I shouldn’t judge this woman any more than I should be judging myself. I knew that we were both trying our best to fulfill our callings, and to do so despite the fact that we’d just met. I decided that I would, in the future when we had to work together, try to learn more about her. Does she have children? How long has she lived in the area? What types of callings has she had before? Does she like to read? I’m sure I will be delighted and surprised as I get to know her–and perhaps she will feel the same way about getting to know me.
Jana lives in Southern California with John, their 2 children, 2 cats, and two thousand books. She’s a PhD student in U.S. History and serves as a freecycle moderator, community garden treasurer, and in LDS public affairs. Jana’s alter ego is pilgrimgirl. She’s looking forward to being a regular contributor to exponentblog.