Sometimes I make snap judgments about a person – judgments based on really trivial things. Like a boss I had once. Let’s call her Suzie. The first actual conversation I had with Suzie, she was eating her lunch. Why she called in me in for an introductory meeting while she was eating her lunch, I’ll never know.
Now, although there’s a long-standing rule of etiquette that says you should never talk with food in your mouth, many, many people do it quite successfully every day. They take small bites and move their food over to one side while they’re talking or wait until they’ve swallowed or put their hand over their mouth if they’ve just taken a bite and they absolutely must say something and feel there might be some shrapnel.
Not Suzie. Suzie talked, loaded up her mouth with food and kept right on talking. And chewing. It was fascinating to me that she could chew and talk at the same time. I was able to witness, close up and personal, the entire first step in her digestive process – masticating the food and mixing it with saliva. I had ring-side seats and like all ring-side seating I had a good view, but I was also getting covered by debris.
When she was finally done eating, there was a whole bunch of food stuck in her teeth and around her mouth which mesmerized me for the rest of the meeting.
Call me petty, but my entire opinion of this woman henceforth was based on that initial meeting with her mouth.
Come to think of it, I judge people a lot by their mouths. The mouth is usually the first thing I notice about a person – it will cause a visceral reaction which rightly or wrongly, informs everything else I see or hear or discover about that person. For instance:
- I am always leery of people who have no lips. They look mean and like it would hurt to kiss them.
- When I see women with lip liner and a lot of lipstick, I always want to laugh because they remind me of clowns.
- People whose mouths contain severely backwards slanting teeth remind me of reptiles. I don’t understand how they can bite things. I have this picture of them just swallowing everything whole. It’s as confusing to me as if their nose was on upside down.
- People whose teeth are absolutely perfect and dazzlingly white. They are pretty, but also confusing. How is it possible to have real teeth that look like they were manufactured in a Perfect Teeth Factory? More and more young people have teeth like this. Do they ever use them or do they consume nothing but white liquids through a straw?
- When men have hair around their lips, especially when they have small mouths, their mouths remind me of sphincters.
- People who don’t take care of their teeth and gums kind of freak me out. Sure, I know it’s not always possible to see your dentist twice a year, but toothpaste and floss aren’t that expensive or difficult to use.
- I’m right put off with people who always seem to have to have something in their mouths; whether it’s a cigarette or gum or their fingers. Seriously, I think the oral cavity needs rest during the day just like the rest of you.
- And finally, of course there’s the stuff that comes spewing out of the mouth. That’s probably the most important one of all. Sometimes a person can entrance you or utterly repel you within the first few sentences.
Probably some of you recognize yourselves or other great, wonderful people in one or more of the aforementioned. So, obviously there are serious flaws in my judging-a-person-by-their-mouth theory.
I’m not saying I will reject a person out of hand because I don’t like something about their mouth, but it will always be there and I’ll always be thinking, “if only this person wouldn’t always eat while they’re talking to me I might be able to take what they’re saying seriously.” Or, “this person is so pretty and kind and intelligent, I wonder why they never brush their teeth?” Or, “I wonder if she knows that her lipstick has worn off and now there’s just a dark red ring encircling the outside of her mouth?”
By the same token, I’ve been taken in by a pair of luscious full lips, clean teeth and a brilliant line of chatter more than once, much to my chagrin.
Perhaps the mouth is not the window to the soul after all? Maybe it’s more of a gateway or portico to the soul — which you have to go through in order to get to a window? Or maybe it’s a vestibule or atrium of the soul where you can sit a spell and look around before deciding to carry on into the main part of the building? Or maybe it’s more like a ….
… I think I’ve lost the thread of this analogy.