My brother was getting his Ph.D in chemistry last week, and my mom and dad and my two brothers and I went to the dissertation defense. I would like to tell you what my brother talked about but I have no idea. Seriously. The topic was alcohol dehydrogenase.

I remember from the chemistry class I failed in high school that -ase is a suffix that means something. I just can’t remember what. And let me tell you, listening to my brother talk about whatever he was talking about cleared up nothing in the suffix department. Or in any other department.

1. Focus on others instead of yourself.
It’s so traumatic for me to be in the same room with my mom and my dad that I had to take a Xanax before the dissertation. In fact, I had to take a Xanax to sleep every night the whole week before the moment when I’d be in the same room as them. And even then I had such panicked yelling every night during dreams about my parents that Matthew would have needed a Xanax as well if it had been much longer.

But this is the part of my post about my brother’s Ph.D, and it is truly a huge achievement and also, when I was googling to see what other people wrote about making a good first impression, I read that people who shine their light on others are the most charismatic. And I want to be charismatic. So I’m not going to dwell on the shortcomings of my parents. Even though just saying shortcomings is a huge understatement. You can just read about it here. Or here.

2. Take the ten-second rule seriously.
So anyway, my brother got a fellowship at University of Wisconsin. The odds of him landing an hour away from me were so slim, so I feel really lucky. And while I was watching diagrams of particles or mico-things or whatever they are flash across the PowerPoint slides, I was thinking of that research about how money doesn’t make you happier but living closer to family makes you happier. And I believe it. And then I think really, I have never gone wrong living my life according to research. Or, if I have made bad decisions, positive psychology research says we should teach ourselves to bounce back fast from bad decisions, so I do. By forgetting I ever made them.

Except that I look down at my mom’s feet, and realize that she has the cutest shoes and cutest pedicure and I don’t. I wore closed-toe shoes because I haven’t gotten a pedicure in months. Which is upsetting because I want to be fun and cute. People make a decision about us in just seconds. We know this. But when we pretend it’s not true when we cancel appointments for pedicures.

3. You can’t cut corners on personal grooming.
So my mom is reading this and already freaking out that she’s on my blog. Because really, no one with good sense wants to show up on my blog, and my mom is smart. She was on Jeopardy. She can do the New York Times crossword puzzle on Sundays. With a pen. And she knows she destroyed my childhood with violent triangulation between me and my mom and dad, so she knows no good can come of her being in anything I write. (Note: She would agree with me about the destroyed childhood, but not the triangulation). So at this point in the post she is getting ready to call my brother who did not come to the dissertation defense because he was out of town. (And his absence makes it seem justified that it’s his job to field my mom’s calls about how it’s not fair that she’s on the blog.)

But in this blog post my mom is the star example of the one who makes a good first impression. It’s not just that she has adorable shoes and a hipster pedicure. She also has very white teeth. Not stupidly too-white, but good casual-white. A white that says, “I take care of myself and I am not retarded about making a good first impression.”

You need white teeth to make a good first impression. Don’t tell me exceptions to the rule, okay? They are exceptions so they are not useful. It’s like starting out teaching Chinese kids to write english by teaching them to spell said.

4. Get competent advice about your visual impression.
I got my teeth bleached when I first moved to Wisconsin and it was traumatic. They burned my lips. This is when I gave up on personal grooming stuff in small cities. It’s why I fly to LA for haircuts and it’s why I don’t have a pedicure, probably. Because I make too big a production of it.

So my mom has gorgeous white teeth and I don’t and you know what the killer is? Luster, a teeth whitening company, is paying me to be part of their career makeover contest. I should have told them to keep the money and just whiten my teeth. And I worry the only reason the teeth-whitening place thinks my teeth are okay for their contest is that Melissa made my teeth look white when she edited the photo they used.

I wish Melissa could edit my reality. All I want is to just blow people away with how charismatic I am. And please, don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. We are programmed to make excellent snap judgments based on appearance. We can decide with surprising accuracy who will win an election by looking at two photos for a microsecond.

5. Listen more than you talk.
I tell my brother (later, when I am popping a Xanax to prepare for family dinner), “great job” and rah rah rah, because charismatic people talk about other people instead of themselves. Also, charismatic people are good listeners, which I will never be, so I go to the bathroom to take a break from family banter. I google charisma. I think I’m losing mine. I find that I can get coached for charisma, and then I realize that I have already been coached for charisma. Which is maybe why I would have a lot if I could just loosen up.

Or be on time. I google “how to make a good first impression” and the first article I read says to be on time. I tell myself for sure I’m asking for free white teeth, because I’m at a stage in my life where I know my own first-impression limitations, and I’m going to have to focus on the stuff I can buy.

 

67 replies
  1. Modern Marketeur
    Modern Marketeur says:

    Love your writing and appreciate your tell-it-like-it-is approach.

    Quite possibly one of the only snap judgements you can make is on appearance and its vital to lead with that in mind! I’m working on my charisma one white strip at a time.

    • Cynthia
      Cynthia says:

      That is could be one of the most appropriate one liner of my month. . one strip at a time. . . it made me laugh it was so corny. Laughing is a great first impression.

  2. GingerR
    GingerR says:

    I thought you did yoga regularly?
    That’s as good a reason as any to learn to do your own toes. I hate looking at icky feet in yoga.
    It’s much easier than a manicure because nobody, except maybe the person on the mat behind you in yoga, really looks at your feet very closely. So if the polish is a little sloppy nobody will care.
    It’s a big time saver. Going for a pedicure will easily chew up an hour. You can do your own toes in 10-15 minutes and not even have to tip.

  3. Modern Marketeur
    Modern Marketeur says:

    Personally I also use something I call the 50% rule. If I can check off half of these on any given day I’m somewhat confident and allow myself to leave the house:

    Clean hair
    Pedicure
    Fresh eyebrow wax
    Manicure
    One designer item
    Mascara* (always)
    Shaved legs or armpits
    One clean article of clothing
    Teeth whitened once within the last week

    Its very hard to keep up with everything all the time but at least the 50% combo is enough for me. I find the women I want to look like go for the 100%. Oh well!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, I love a list. And I love rules. So I will memorize this comment. But I have to confess that most days the only thing I have on this list is the mascara.

      But I aim much higher when I have to leave the farm. So now I know what to shoot for.

      Penelope

      • Modern Marketeur
        Modern Marketeur says:

        My most used are: mascara, pedicure, designer item, the clean article of clothing, and clean “done” hair, in that order. The eyebrows is the thing I just never stay on top of. The fear of over plucking that I developed from looking at pictures of my high school self rules, I guess.

        • Crystal
          Crystal says:

          I like your list, too. Except now that I’m over 50, I find that the mascara actually works against me, and the eyebrow wax is replaced by chin wax. (I tell myself these are just misplaced eyebrows).
          Also, I have heard it said many, many times: If a woman is wearing good shoes (REALLY good) and carrying a great handbag (Prada or better?), she will look great no matter what else she is wearing. Do you agree?

          • Modern Marketeur
            Modern Marketeur says:

            I think I agree – and that’s probably the case for the 100% women that look so together to me. I personally have yet to spring for the super high end handbag or shoes, but maybe someday. I do, however, count my engagement ring/ wedding band combo as high end and sometimes when I’m really feeling lazy, I let that pass as my designer item.

          • Melissa
            Melissa says:

            Actually, yeah. Good shoes and a good handbag will do a for your look. They have to be noticeably good, though. Nothing too understated or that defeats the purpose.

  4. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    So true. I wonder how much smiling and nodding help. I use those after I break rule #1 or #5, usually both.

  5. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I have been on a lot of first dates lately, because I love dating. And on nearly every date I talk about how much I hate my job and how retarded I am at job hunting. And every guy says, but you’re so personable and social! I even had to argue my case for the ‘I’ in my Myers Brigg type once, but then again, I was drunk, and you can’t be drunk while applying for jobs. So I practice making a first impression on all these guys, and mine them for tips on how to be better so I can get to where I want to be in life. Then I go home and tell my mom I’m starting to believe in polygamy.

  6. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth.

    You can dilute hydrogen peroxide (sold at drugstores and grocery stores) with an equal amount of water and use it as a mouthwash.

    If you want flavor, add a drop of an organic, edible essential oil (peppermint, etc.).

  7. VoiceofReason
    VoiceofReason says:

    Did you have to use the word “retarded” in your post? I find if offensive and noticed that one of your commenters above used it as well. I don’t consider that okay

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Each of us is retarded in a different area. You can’t be great at everything, and in some things, each of us is not even average. I am retarded at social skills. If each of us admitted where we are really really below average than there would be no need to take offense at the word.

      The only way to take offense at the word is if you think only a small minority of people in the world are retarded. Which would, of course, be the result of a personal blind spot on your part.

      Penelope

      • Modern Marketeur
        Modern Marketeur says:

        I read this and want to respond as I always do when someone throws the PC flag on the field but all I can muster is a question – why are we all so hung up on name calling? I know we all consider ourselves to be these evolved millennium types here in the year 2013 but deep inside it doesn’t seem like anyone feels so hip. I think we feel scared on a primal, caveman level. That’s how I’m going rationalize why certain words bring out the suppressed baby in us all.

        The only way I can explain it is to consider that maybe we are all so freaked out by the shit we see everyday – on the news, on the front page in big bold type and right there sprawled on the sidewalk begging for change as we walk to work – is too much for us. It’s sensory overload of horrible shit. So we take these tiny little bullshit comments and inflate them up with the own hot air on our egos and turn them into something bigger than what they are, something that we can feel like we have control over and use it as some blurry pathetic way to keep some sense of being firmly grounded on this globe. Yes, some people don’t like to be called retarded…I’m sensitive, you’re not … and?

        • gary.sarratt@facebook.com
          gary.sarratt@facebook.com says:

          When they turned “retard” into a noun, before I was a kid (40+ yrs ago?), it was no big deal. When the older boomers started earning their law and sociology degrees, the market wasn’t that hot, the degrees were useless, almost across the board. When they started teaching school, authoring textbooks, infecting the news media, getting law experience and getting elected into political office, they created their own, self-perpetuating market to produce jobs for the increasing legions of their children earning these ridiculous degrees, and it will continue to grow exponentially. That’s why, with all the huge issues we’re facing, we can still find time to raise indignant hackles over the use of benign little words.

      • Karen
        Karen says:

        Totally agree. I think “retarded” should be able to be used in any situation where it means “held back” (you know, like music: ritardando). Example: Trying to stop gay marriage is retarded. I completely fail to see why this should be offensive. Your example for social skills sounds fine to me too.

  8. Kelly Exeter
    Kelly Exeter says:

    Do you know what is funny? I think I got my first impression of you from that podcast where Steve from ‘Ending the Grind’ interviewed you and your tore him to pieces. I cringed for him but became totally hooked on you and proceeded to read every single thing you’ve ever written.

    So I think it’s safe to say that you can abandon any quest for charisma because I don’t think that’s what the people who love you, love you for. We love you because you tell it like it is … not to be mean but because beyond your crazy persona you are a kind person and who can’t help but help people.

    • Leah McClellan
      Leah McClellan says:

      I remember that podcast! Yes, she ripped him a new one–I can still remember stuff she said and he said, and I just wanted him to stop talking because he was just making things worse! I could easily see why Penelope just kept at him, which was a good thing, and he said so in a later post. See how memorable you are Penelope! That’s 2-3 years ago if I have the right podcast.

      • NB
        NB says:

        Now I’m really interested in hearing this. Where can I find it? Just googled it and found analysis of the event but no podcast. It must have been very memorable and even the guy admitted it was a good wake up call.

  9. Annoyed autie
    Annoyed autie says:

    When I saw the picture of the foot, I thought “omigawd, she wasn’t lying about being an aspie” so of course I read it and then discovered it was your mom’s foot.

    So. Being that autism is genetic, one can safely assume you got some of it from mom (jury is out on your dad pending publication of his foot photo) but that you are probably not lying or routinely over dramatizing your “illness” (pox on you for having described it as such) for the sake of financial expediency. Maybe.

  10. Ann Marie Kodak
    Ann Marie Kodak says:

    I value your authenticity far more than your charisma. It’s often difficult to determine if charismatic people are genuine. The down side to charisma is that it is often used to manipulate others.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I wonder if authenticity is a part of charisma. So I googled the two terms and people write about how to get both, but people don’t write about them that they are the same.

      Which makes me think that only someone with Aspergers would think authenticity means charisma. Because people with Aspergers are so bad at being tricky. I guess you could be charismatic and tricky about authenticity.

      Penelope

  11. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    First Impressions: I gave up “trying” when I hit 40. Now I just try to be genuine. It’s hit or miss. I look forward to when I’m, say, 75, and I will no longer give a rat’s behind whether I give a good impression or not.

    Your marketing abilities: How do you DO that? Your picture is on their website! You got some sort of deal with the teeth whitening company! Do you know EVERYONE in New York or what? Way. To. Go.

    Luster: I have the same problem – severe tooth sensitivity, so mine look like crap. Luster has an awesome website and if their product can do half of what they say it can, I will be delighted! My order is already placed! Thanks for the link!

    I love to read your blog. Your mom sounds like a real peach….

  12. Ru
    Ru says:

    Hi p, i developed a reading habit that if im reading something interesting, i will always read the last paragraph first, the first second and middle third. Here, i almost think the zinger here is not the five pointers you listed, it’s the last part about knowing one self ‘s limitations when it comes to first impressions.

    Knowing one’s own limitation helps you hone down ur featured ‘special’ even more. I think charisma is the better version of one’s own praticed self day in day out. Worrying about good impressions is overrated unless the job requires you to appease people everyday.

  13. linda clark
    linda clark says:

    hi penelope
    i love your blog

    just thought id tell you about the pbs show i saw last week. it talked about helen of troy. seems the goddess aphrodite lost or almost lost the beauty contest for most beautiful in the world. aphrodite was wildly jealous, so she cursed helen (half god half human, like hercules and achilles) with the gift of charisma. thats why paris fell so hard for her–and she him–and they left helens husband behind and went to troy to live. of course, helens husband was disrespected, so he gathered his buddies to wage war on troy for 10 years. the illiad tells of the war. when troy is overtaken by the greeks who hid in the trojan horse, they killed everyone and sacked the city. the odyssey tells of the 10 year return of odysseus back home.
    its changed my thinking about charisma.

    linda clark
    retired english teacher

  14. Leah McClellan
    Leah McClellan says:

    Loved reading this, though I could help but think I could deal with my family too if I had xanax :) There’s just no way.

    I’m working on listening more than I talk. Although, even when I talk, I’m also listening and watching–very closely. And sometimes talking elicits reactions from people that are very interesting to listen to or watch (even though it seems like I’m doing all the talking). So in a sense I’m “listening” even while talking, and listening could be a lot of things (getting a sense of someone on all levels).

    I need to do a pedicure too! Working at home, even if not a farm, well, I don’t have a cute pedicure. I figure I’m ambitious if I at least do a pumice stone thing. Then when I want to go somewhere I don’t have time…have to change this. :)

  15. gary.sarratt@facebook.com
    gary.sarratt@facebook.com says:

    I have finally mastered the art of being genuinely glad to see/meet people. I know they can tell, because they loosen right up and turn off their force field. Being a guy, all I need to worry about are apparel, hair and teeth. The problem these days, though, is making it past the computer, which HR people now hide behind. Today, more so than ever thus far, networking is king; you must know the right people, or know people who do. Btw, retarded means impaired or slow. We are again witnessing the evilization of a word that most of the actual “sufferers” don’t give a rip about, but their well-meaning “advocates” need something for which to attack someone.

  16. Razwana
    Razwana says:

    So this post is about making a first impression, and not about that impression CAN be changed over time. When someone knows your personality, this is also factored into the equation of their opinion of you, etc …….

    In the online world, a first impression is sometimes that only chance you have of impacting someone, right? Someone comes to your blog, they read what you’re about, and then decide if your writing/brand/etc resonates with them.

    If the impression is negative, tough to change, unless you guest post for blogs they also read…..

  17. Anna V
    Anna V says:

    In my experience, a reasonable alternative to making a good first impression is laying low. Of course, this tactic is only available in certain situations, where there are people or activities to “cover” me. In such circumstance, if I determine “okay, this is a relationship I want to develop,” and my hair is wild, I may not take certain risks in conversation. As for whether or not this is an argument to always look my best so I can be fully self-expressed in any moment, probably.

  18. alan
    alan says:

    language, both literal and figurative, powerfully shapes how we derive meaning, and most of the people I know who live with autism spectrum issues would feel judged or criticized if their communication and social skills were described as retarded…because you seem to feel comfortable with it wouldn’t be sufficient cause for me to use it.

    I suppose all of us can feel offended about something if we pay attention to what is going on in the world around us. yes, “retarded” can simply mean delayed or behind or limited…yet it’s use seems too often to be in the stigmatizing category of the “N____” word or similar…same reasons the Washington R____s” may decide to change their name…

  19. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I love the 50% list above. I can probably manage 50% of these when I leave the house.

    First impressions are an issue that I struggle with constantly. I feel I am either too much of something or not enough of something else. I have been called a force of nature by my husband and friends. I’ve had trusted female collegues say I’m the kind of woman other women hate before a word comes out of my mouth. These are all things I don’t understand or don’t see about myself.

    I’m an almost 40, 5’10 aggressively graying redhead with what is left of a model’s figure after 4 children. Yes, I have white teeth, but they are vaneers.
    I find I spend time and energy sprinkling my self deprecating charisma around trying to change people’s knee-jerk first impressions. It’s exhausting, but making people feel comfortable and good about themselves is a professional goldmine.

    Funny observation, the people with real power are much more accepting of me upon first meetings than my peers.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s so interesting that people with power are more accepting. I think actually people with power care more about power than people so they judge people less – it’s a good thing and a bad thing I guess.

      Penelope

  20. Karen
    Karen says:

    My Mom is a fashion plate, so much so that if I was having a nervous breakdown, I sometimes think she’d be more concerned with lending me the right belt to “really pull that outfit together” she might not totally realize my insanity meltdown. Do you think authenticity/talent/intelligence a bit later can undo a bad first visual impression? Felt annoyed growing up by the emphasis on “looking cute.”

  21. sarah
    sarah says:

    Being charismatic is easy. I am very charismatic. If i had more money you would call me excentric. Here is what i do. I create a conversation list before i walk into a room. People feel best talking about themselves. I know if i dont have a list i will talk about me instead and then be called self focused. Or I will be incredibly board and talk about some intelligent thing that baffles people and laugh at their stupidity.

    Before I go I ask someone else about the person so I know what questions to ask. Even if they tell me repeat informaion I dont care, Im only half listening to them any way. That is the nice thing when someone talks about themselves you dont have to fully pay attention. Only enough to sound interested and to know what question to ask next.

    If I dont know what yo ask a head of time here are the standard questions:

    Where do you work
    Are you married
    Do you have kids
    Where did you gtow up. Did you like it
    Do you have brothers/sisters

    Normally I only ask two or three before they are rattling off on themselves. Everyone likes to talk about themself. Then, they think you aRe wonderful, even though they dont know your name. :)

    Now if you want to know a hard spot, try visiting two deaf women when you dont sign. Oh, did I mention on is an exmeth addict, and im raising her son while waiting for cps to take her 9th baby for me to raise? Maybe I need an xanax.

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      INTJ, here. Very guarded and hate talking about myself. But we’re only like, two or three percent of the population. So your list works most of the time.

      Although asking if someone has kids can be weird sometimes.

      • Bird
        Bird says:

        Also an INTJ. Why is it that we are better off as consultants than in jobs?

        Jobs terrify me, but I love consulting.

      • sarah
        sarah says:

        Yes, I know there is a small percentage that dont like talking about themselves. They tend to be well read and smart. I actually enoy talking to people like that because they are interesting. I tend to ask them about an interesting peice in the news, or try to find topic they are excited over. But some people I just cant get to talk. :)

  22. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    When we compare ourselves to other people, it’s a dangerous place to be. Comparing yourself to certain desirable attributes of other people (your mother in this case with her smarts, adorable shoes, hipster pedicure, and very white teeth) doesn’t really yield a fair assessment of yourself and it isn’t going to help your self-confidence, self-esteem, or happiness. If you do an Internet search on “compare yourself to other people”, you’ll find numerous articles to support what I’m saying here.

  23. Emily
    Emily says:

    I really wish you would do a post about your favorite books. Or an ongoing resource page for books. Or authors / poets.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Here’s one I am reading now, and I love it so much that I had to put it down and stalk the author on Wikipedia to see if he’s married and if he isn’t, do I think he would have liked me.

      Turns out he would not have liked me. But that’s how much I love his writing – I still want to read the rest of the book.

      The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
      http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594483299/?tag=ptrunk-20+diaz

  24. Kate
    Kate says:

    I am outgoing and very curious about people, so I enjoy socializing in big groups. Some of my very best friends are reserved and do best in small groups or one-on-one. I really appreciate my friends’ different observations and different viewpoint. Who’s to say that outgoing is better than reserved? I would NEVER say that. Nor would I ever try to be something that I’m not.

  25. Marie-INFP
    Marie-INFP says:

    What I find interesting is that while around your abusive mother this question of charisma came up. If anything, logically, this should have centered around your brother and his presentation, whether he was being charismatic enough to win the panel judging his work.

    Instead your mother dominants this post – her cute shoes and pedicure, white teeth and brains (She was on Jeopardy)! Oh, my! Which by the way, I may never watch the same again. It broke my heart wide open for you when you then compare yourself to her and found yourself lacking.

    White teeth or not, you are a thousand times the woman she could ever hope to be and a million times the better mother. And might I add, a better human being – cause how you have not put a bullet in this woman or at the very least cut her off is beyond me. I don’t know if there’s enough drugs or therapy in the world to overcome this violation of sacred trust between a mother and her child for me personally. I’m reminded of a Michael Jordan interview where he admits when offered to have his father’s killer murdered the awesome strength it took for him to say no.

    You are such a role model Penelope Truck and I thank you for sharing your life with us…And for what its worth, I think courage is far, way better than charisma any day!

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      Marie-INFP wins for best point and best comment. Penelope is a much, much better mother. There’s not enough toe nail polish in the world to prettify what Mama Green did.

  26. L
    L says:

    oh you must know that those shoes are actually terrible! and waaaayyy too much with the pedicure. ack …Cyndi Lauper called, she wants her feet back.

  27. Kristin Ohlson
    Kristin Ohlson says:

    Penelope, I love your columns including this one. But you’re wrong about retard. It’s a noun created strictly to be a pejorative. It’s like nigger or kike, and nothing can undo its genesis and history. Certainly, we all are slow and different in our ways. But as the mother of a low-IQ, autistic man, it’s a dagger to my heart every time someone says retard. And it’s also a dagger to my heart — although not as directly — when someone says nigger or kike. All hate speech.

    Kristin

    • Mary Beth
      Mary Beth says:

      Well, no one can change how you feel about something, except for you. We used the word “retarded” all the time when I was a kid, and it meant something silly or stupid. I still use the word that way, even though it annoys some people. I can’t help that you’re hurt by this word, but I’m not willing to change my use of a perfectly good, descriptive word because some people are offended/hurt by it.

      Personally, I hate the widepread use of the expression “that sucks!” Again, as a child, that word meant giving someone a blowjob. I think of it as a swear word, something you’d never use in public. I find that word extremely offensive, but I wouldn’t tell others they shouldn’t use it.

      • Diana
        Diana says:

        Saying you will not stop using the Retard word even though you know it is offensive to some, makes you sound insensitive. When you learned this wonderul word as a kid, was it used for bullying, or just making fun of others?
        We could debate this until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all your life, you know it is a fairly juvenile way to label a person. I’m certain you would not use it so if you had a little brother or sister who was actually mentally retarded. And using it in the workplace, or even at a cocktail party? Would you really want to risk alienating a current or potential client/boss/friend/lover/coworker just because you LIKE the word? Are there ANY other, perhaps more grown-up, sophisticated words, that might work instead? I do hope you will search. It could only make one a better person.

    • Gary
      Gary says:

      I looked it up. The verb and adjective forms of “retard” have been around hundreds of years, and are still extremely viable. The noun form, however, with the emphasis placed on the first syllable, entered the lexicon in about 1970, in the USA. That form began as a pejorative, and it has never changed. I don’t believe it is as strong as “nigger”, which came about via poor rural pronunciation of “negro”. One of my best friends came to the US from Poland (yes, with his family) when he was 15. He, I, and our whole circle of friends always call him “Polack”. My wife has MS, and she sometimes calls the dog and cat “retards”. I sometimes call them (you gotta know them) “idiots” or “doofuses”–would you believe autocorrect just fixed that from doofusses–, and I’m sure those words offend someone. Speak as you wish. Call me what you wish; I’m the only one who can give a name power, simply by choosing whether or not I’m going to let it bother me. You can thank Norman Lear for dividing this country by “names”, and a few more since for seeing a buck to be made in the Hate Speech business. Sincerely, Gary, the Mick Cracker Honkey (I’m so much more of a man than that; I don’t give a shit, real life awaits, and I must dive back in.)

      • Gary
        Gary says:

        PS. We love our animals, and never mistreat them. They just do goofy or disgusting things sometimes. They keep us rolling. Oops, now the animal people are gonna attack me (trembles). ☯

  28. Ann Marie
    Ann Marie says:

    Penelope, based upon what you have shared in previous writings, it appears that your father pair bonded with you inappropriately, as a child and he placed you in the role as the “the other woman”, in your family, which resulted in a rivalry between you and your mother and I imagine other family members too. I commend you for doing your part to publicly lift the lid off of emotional and physical incest. It is so much more wide spread, than many people care to admit. All to often families don’t get the help they need, because this subject is as taboo, as it gets. One of the many sad results is that the cycle often continues on through future generations. I imagine your parents may have witnessed similar patterns of behavior when they were children too. I wish you and your entire family all the best, as you and hopefully other family members work on the damaging consequences of emotional/physical incest. Your family is quite remarkable in so many ways, so here’s hoping that they become so in this area as well.

  29. Laura
    Laura says:

    I have an incredibly charismatic, extroverted son. He was born this way. He struggles academically, but has an innate ability to make other people feel good about themselves. Many times I’ve watched him pull all the kids in a room over to his corner. He also seems to have incredibly good luck, however I think in many cases his good fortune is a result of social connections. As an extreme introvert, I often find myself on the sidelines watching and wondering what it is like to be so at ease with people. Almost every day I think he is going to end up in the White House or I’ll be visiting him in jail. Possibly both.

  30. Anne Baxter
    Anne Baxter says:

    I really enjoy your blog and you’ve taught me a lot. I think quirkiness and eccentricity are very charismatic, And I think of you as very charismatic, particularly in that sense.

  31. Suzannah Raff
    Suzannah Raff says:

    Many years ago when I was a grad student I did research on charisma and authenticity was definitely a character trait. We called it ‘walk the talk’ like when Leo Iococa the head of Chrysler cut his salary to $1 to help turn around the company. All employees took salary cuts so he did too. He was known for his charisma and authenticity. So, Penelope, i’d say Aspergers has less to do with you making that correlation and more your logic and insight. You have a lot of love from readers here.

  32. Leo Croes
    Leo Croes says:

    Great post, Penelope in particular number 5. I’m grooming my son who is 19 right now to take over the family business and your grooming habit, hit the nail on the head. We work in a blue collar business, but I continue to tell him that his looks mean a lot when dealing with people.

  33. Chris M.
    Chris M. says:

    Who wants to make a good first impression when they can make a dramatic, unforgettable exit?

    “Have that man thrown out on his a$$ immediately!”

    “We’ve never thrown out anyone like THAT. I’ll never forget him!” (later becomes CEO of a fortune 100 and hires that man to demonstrate exciting exits)

    Thank you, I’ll be here all week. (lol)

  34. Jak
    Jak says:

    A famous saying is “First impression is the last impression” but I don’t agree with it. You can be suffering from an emotional disorder or just feeling odd at a place so your first impression on ay one will be like of a retarded person. In my opinion, just be yourself and don’t act like a Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt.

  35. Abigail
    Abigail says:

    First impressions are something that are drilled into our heads when it comes to being a successful interviewer, employee, networker, etc. However, this post brings a fresh and humorous approach to the idea of making a good first impression. It’s the little things that are important, for example grooming yourself and being a good listener, and this real life experience gives readers an idea of just how important.

Comments are closed.