You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression
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I’d like to thank all of you for the outpouring of letters that I’ve received over this past month. Although you’ve touched on numerous topics, I would like devote today’s column to the most common complaint that singles have about meeting new people and the early stages of dating. The complaint is about what I like to refer to as “The Representative.”

This one’s for Susan (London), Len (Toronto), Shy Girl (Woodstock), Beaver (Wawa) and Disillusioned (London).

Upon meeting someone for the first time, are you meeting them or their representative?

And you might ask the same question of yourself regarding the way you portray yourself to others.

In the dating world, there are countless horror stories that start with “He seemed like such a nice guy, until...” or “She appeared to be the ideal woman for me, then...”

I’m not talking about the neighbours of the serial killer who say “he was quiet and polite, and he seemed so normal.” The people I am talking about are everyday people living everyday lives (with nothing more than a spare tire and a jack in their trunks).

Sure, we all want to make an impact with our first impressions. Unfortunately, it is astounding how many of us lie, fib, or slightly embellish: who we are, the way we view the world, and how we respond to situations. It’s like we’re all sales representatives trying to sell the product that is us.

What ever happened to the old adage a good product sells itself?

A first impression can be full of lies -- visual lies like dyed hair, plastic surgery, makeup, padded shoulders, fake nails, or lifts in the shoes. Then there are pathetic, midlevel lies about age, weight, career, income, general interests, or hobbies.

Although somewhat misleading, external and midlevel deceptions are relatively harmless, compared to lies about political, moral, racial, and religious views.

Granted, phoney representatives are seen in other areas than simply the dating scene: at dinner parties, work, family functions, etc. Sadly, in the world of dating the existence of ‘the representative’ can lead to long-term disasters.

Some people maintain the sham far into the relationship. I’ve even heard of people who let their representative walk down the aisle for them. They may think that they have things under control and that they can maintain this impersonation indefinitely.

Huh! First of all, it’s highly unlikely. Secondly, if a person can pretend to be someone else, how happy are they going to be in someone else’s skin? Keeping up with the Joneses is tough enough; not being able to live up to your own reputation would be a pretty ridiculous predicament, wouldn’t you say?

Again, what ever happened to a good product sells itself? Here we are again on the topic of self-esteem.

You only get a one chance to make a great first impression.

If you think it’s cool to say that you skydive, then go skydiving. Don’t brag about how you have done things that you haven’t done. If you think people would be more impressed by you if you had a better education, then go back to school.

Either try to be the best you that you can be, or learn to like yourself the way you are.

Have a question, a thought, or a story to share (anonymity guaranteed), e-mail Christine at:

This article first appeared in The London Free Press on Thursday, October 24, 2002.

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