I am thoroughly convinced that people think I live a far more interesting life than I do. For example, one recent Sabbath I remember listening to some dark comments from a speaker concerning people whose wild and crazy dating life supposedly prevents them from settling down with a nice girl. Being one of the few single people listening to that particular comment, I wondered if it was directed at me, since it would be singularly inappropriate to consider that part of my life to be particularly wild and crazy in the least. Even those times I enjoy something approaching a date, which are sadly all too few and far between, they have been with decent and honorable women and nothing particularly wild or crazy has happened. If I return home late at night, it is not from doing something crazier than reading and/or writing at a restaurant for a while . One time, as a teenager, I got grounded for six weeks as a result of spending a couple of hours chatting with a few other young people at a Denny’s after a church dance and then driving home after a curfiew, and that particular evening stands as one of the most conspicuous examples of teenage “rebellion” during my youth. A private investigator tailing me in order to gather information about my goings and doings would be bored out of his or her mind before very long.
Nevertheless, there are times where I find people where I do not particularly expect to. For example, I once ran into a fellow member of my church while I was doing a bit of writing on a Friday afternoon at the library. Truth be told, she seemed a bit more surprised than should have been the case. If there is any place you should expect to find me, it is a library. No one should be surprised to see me in a place where there are books, and yet that would appear to be the case. I have also been seen in unexpected places at restaurants, which is another place where you should expect to see me. My love of social reading, where even when I am alone, which is a vast majority of the time I go out to eat, means that I find myself in restaurants for long hours reading books and occasionally chatting with the people who are around me. Given that I know many people in the area, and that I tend to be a creature of habit about where I most enjoy eating, it should not be a surprise to find me enjoying some hours of scholarly solitude from time to time, trying to still the grumbles in my stomach after a long day of work and trying to quiet the voices in my head through having a conversation with a (hopefully) good book.
While most of the time my presence seems to surprise other people, I tend to feel an equal sense of surprise in such circumstances. After all, if I feel people should expect to see me in restaurants and libraries, I am often surprised to see anyone else there. I know I am a reader and feel that this fact should be fairly obvious to others, if they read anything that I have to say. Likewise, I write fairly often about my eating habits and love of music and think that few people should be in any doubt as to the fairly tranquil bounds of my wanderings. Even when I do something unusual, I am driving to a quiet beach to spend time with friends or to a garden or fortress or something equally easy to understand and free of dishonor and shame. If I am not always easy to put into simple boxes, I do live my life within certain boundaries and tend to find it more than a little off-putting that people seem to think that my life is more dark than it is, as if I had given them any reason to think of me as someone whose behavior would be the sort of thing one would have to be ashamed of.
Yet I know that all too easily I can put other people into boxes as well. This happens especially when it comes to books and music, where I interact with people more often than in any other context. For example, this morning at work I was listening to an adult alternative station that focused on singer-songwriters. I had a certain group of people I expected to see in this particular box of music and for the most part I was not disappointed–Elliott Smith, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Ashley Monroe, Elvis Costello, and artists of that kind. Although I was not familiar with all of the songs, or even all of the groups, most of them were at least more or less where I expected them to be. I was, however, very surprised to listen to Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover” in that context, though. This is not a bad thing by any means, I happen to like the song and have a general fondness for her music and singing. I just did not expect to see it in that context. I suppose as deeply concerned about being put into the wrong boxes and the wrong categories by others as I am, perhaps I would do well to remember that I have the same tendency to classify people a bit too easily and not always accurately. Alas, I am all too human after all, complaining of what others do to me when I do the same to others. The problem of double standards is something we must all struggle with, for none of us is immune from various forms of what we would label in others as hypocrisy.
 See, for example: