From the earliest days, we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover. Mostly, it is very good advice. We cannot assume following the stereotype leads to good judgment. Yet, as a parent of an ever-maturing family, I find appearances do matter. Can we risk allowing our sons and daughters – clearly our most-treasured responsibility – to get in a car with another teenager noticeably tattooed and pierced? Likewise, can we send them off to church camp after reading stories of predatory cultish practices, sometimes infecting the once safe harbor? Is it that the question, like all normative valuations, depends wholly on the route used to determine the answer? Or, is it simply a percentage of risk charged against one’s tolerance for a particular eventuality?
If given a perfect amount of information and time, most of us would work to arrive at a thoughtful solution. Simply because a teenage girl has elected to have a tattoo on her neck is not enough to assume she is reckless in all areas of her life. However, absent the time to assess the risk adequately, can we, in good faith, disregard this very public statement? So, does how people look define them? Does the wearing of a soul patch make someone a jazz musician or simply follically-enhanced? Does the abundance wrought by augmentation make the woman sporting the amplitude needy or self-assured? Do the corpulent deserve our ire, our sympathy or neither?
Regardless, it does make a difference. As we consider the image we present to the world, shouldn’t we likewise consider the assumptions inure to such a posture? While it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, it may be a good starting place.