Visual literacy, or how to tell if that guy in the next office is going to drive you out of your mind before he ever opens his mouth

Unless your photocopier is broken or you run a tanning salon, you probably won’t encounter this guy, but just in case you do…

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but it doesn’t take much more than a glance to get a good idea what the story’s all about. And so it is with new acquaintances, both social and professional. I find that being able to get a quick handle on new people is an extremely useful skill, as it helps you avoid the undesirable, the annoying and the certifiable before they can stake a claim on your time, your attention or your guest room.

Does my tendency to take others at face value make me a bad person? Nah, shallow maybe, but not bad. What it does make me is a happier person – one who rarely has to duck a neighbor, hide behind a newspaper in the employee cafeteria, or make good on a threat to file a restraining order, though of course that misunderstanding with Anthony Bourdain did involve an order of protection…sadly, not on my behalf, but we’re well past all that now. At least I am. I’m not so sure about Tony.

Anyways, for those of you who are not familiar with the more common hallmarks of the crazy and/or obnoxious and what they communicate, here’s a little primer on how to pick out some of the most easily recognized signifiers that say, “back away now while you still can.” An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of Tums.


Blond Dreads
“I hate my parents almost as much as I resent my trust fund. Sooner or later I’ll hate you, too.”



“High heels reduce women to sex objects. I refuse to be objectified.”



French Manicure
“How’m I suppostah know wheah ya’ check is?
I’ll ax Mistah Nussbaum when he gets back, ahright?”



Scraggly, Bald Ponytail
“I still got it, baby. You want some?”



Adult GRRanimals
“My wife dresses me (so I behave like an adolescent).”



Hideous, Inappropriate Footwear
“I dress myself (and I just made ten trillion dollars off an idea I stole).”

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on May 31, 2012, in Friendly Advice, The Slattern Speaks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I used to have a ponytail. Thanks the Lord I cut the bastard off. Age mellows and matures the mind. But I’m no old fart. Right now I’m wearing a Family Guy T shirt. I’m down with the kids, oh yes.

  2. Love the guy in cargo shorts and mandals. We could probably add a couple of others like guy wearing crocks and plunging V-neck. Your stuff is really funny. I am glad Cristy sent me your way.

  3. Did you forget the “soul patch?” That requires a really special level of I’m-a-hippie-but-I-still-like-my-designer-shit-and-what’s-wrong-with-my-blonde-dreads-and-bongo-drums-you-bitch! I think I’d be impressed if a guy just left a random patch of hair somewhere on his cheek, but right under the bottom lip makes him look like he things that a beret and sunglasses will turn him into one of the Beat poets.

  4. You forgot me, the mid-sixties guy who has hair down to his shoulders and likes to tell people who mention it it’s a reaction to a haircut he got in his teens. I know, lame.

  5. Ewww… I think it’s kind of funny that we all seem to be so repulsed by the ponytail guy. WTH are those guys thinking?!?

  6. I’ve often wondered what the reaction would if I were to take scissors, or a knife, and slice those scraggly ponytails off, but I’m too soft to spend a night in jail.

  7. Kenton Lewis

    The expression about not judging a book by its cover is from a time when all cover were the same.
    The truth is that when you see a person tattooed, spiked, studded, pierced and what ever else and they say judge me for who I am: that’s who they are. (period)
    Why do they want us to believe there is another you.
    Great post! The beast in me has awakened.

  8. Have you ever sneaked up behind one of those baldy ponytail guys with scissors?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: