What??!! Your Mom’s a Lesbian?

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you what I’m really taking about.

Recently my son’s girlfriend’s best friend (are you lost yet?) flew from New York to be married here in Sacramento.  The woman, who is a lesbian, married a transgendered man (don’t ask – it’s confusing).  While they were visiting with my son and his girlfriend, one of them took a look at my books, displayed on the shelf, particularly at the author photo on the back (see above right).

stereotypesAfter a moment the guest said, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but your mother looks like a lesbian in this photo.”  After long minutes of cracking up when my son told me this story, I did have to admit that my hair was cut in a particularly short style and the photographer had posed me so that I was leaning forward, elbow on knee, in a “masculine” position.

The event did get me thinking about stereotypes and perceptions.  Sociologists say we form a pretty solid opinion of a person within the first 30 seconds of meeting them.  In an interview for a job this is critical.  Before you’ve answered the first question, the interviewer has probably already decided whether she wants to hire you or not.

This said, “pretty” people have a real advantage on us more average-looking folks, and congenial and outgoing people have more appeal than shy, introverted ones.  Not fair at all, but probably accurate in many cases. 

The old saying about assumptions is that “assume” makes an “ass” out of “you” and “me.”

True, but it’s hard not to fall victim to judging or evaluating persons on the verbal, spoken, and physical cues they give.

When I was a young mother, big of belly and carting around two or three kids in the shopping cart, I was often asked if I were Catholic, the assumption being that I must be or I wouldn’t have so many children.  These were well-meaning comments, so I bit my lip and held back a snappish retort.

gavelandhammerEven though I had good, solid credentials and recommendations, when I interviewed to teach at my daughter’s high school, the focus of the interview was on Kennan (she was both homecoming queen and valedictorian the first year I taught there).  The committee assumed that I would be a great teacher because I’d reared such an amazing daughter. I always joke that Kennan got the job for me!

Judgments and evaluations make little sense, but we’re all subject to them as part of the human condition.

So, I’ve definitely decided to have a current author’s photo taken (as soon as I lose 15 pounds) because the one I use it eight years old.  I’ll be sure to pose more femininely and grow my hair longer!

judging othersWhat about you?  Ever felt you were judged unfairly by someone else?  Have you ever made an assumption and later changed your mind? 

If you’re one of the lucky few who haven’t, what about photos?  Do you photograph nicely or do the images always seem to catch you with your mouth open or your eyes closed?  What’s the best picture you’ve ever had taken of yourself?

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming back to my place ?

    Have Fun

  • Helen says:


    I am so agreeing with you on assumptions and I guess we are all guilty of doing this I remeber meeting one of our new bosses years ago at work on a harbour cruise just before he started there and my immediate assumption was that he suffered from short mans syndrome 🙂 and that he an I would not be fast friends and true to form he is arrogant and not a nice person but I was not the only one with this opinion and he pretty much has been the only person that I have felt so strongly about, I am sure that there have been lots of people wjo have made assumptions of me and the fact that I had 4 kids very close together I too have been asked if I was Catholic and with a smile I have always said no just love kids 🙂
    As for photos no I don’t think I take a good photo some aren’t too bad but some need to be trashed LOL
    I think that that photo of you is very nice professional.

    Have Fun

    • Jo Robertson says:

      That’s hilarious, Helen. I’ve never heard of short man’s syndrome. Does that mean he’s short tempered or just stuck up? Like Napoleon? Is that where the term comes from.

      Four kids close together is a lot of work, but it also is a great blessing, isn’t it?

      • Helen says:


        He is fairly short in height and this seems to bring the worst out in some men I have seen it a few times I don’t really understand why 🙂

        Have Fun

  • Amy Conley says:

    I try very hard NOT to make assumptions based on 30 second soundbites/photos, although I’m sure there are times I do without thinking.
    I take terrible pics and you will find very few of me anywhere.One of the best pics was taken about 5 years or so ago with author Jill Conner Browne. I cut her out of the pic and will post that picture of me more than any other.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      My sis doesn’t take a good picture, either, Amy. Which is sad because she’s much prettier in real life. She has the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen!

  • Jo, your post cracked me up! Actually I’ve learned that if I have very strong reactions to people pro or con when I meet them, there’s something real going on. I’ve decided that we’re trained to sum people up as friend or enemy very quickly as part of evolution and that often those intuitions I have are right. I’ve also learned to my cost that when I ignore them, I do so at my peril!

    I actually hate pictures of me but one of the hazards of being a writer is that people take your picture a lot (who knew?). So I’ve learned to grin and bear it when I look completely off my tree in a photo!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I guess there’s a reason behind our gut instincts, Anna. I know there are some people you dislike on sight, but I worry more about the people who are so charming and friendly and they end up being untrustworthy. That’s a hard lesson to learn.

      I know what you mean about being so public as a writer! I often wonder how the real Hollywood stars handle it!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I try not to jump to quick conclusions, but fail miserably at times. Happy to be enlightened.

    I do NOT photograph well. My face always comes out looking flushed – like I’ve had a merry old time on the plonk.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      ROTFLOL, Mary! Thank goodness professionals can “touch up” our photos, right, so that we look better than in those candid shots.

      “On the plonk” means plastered, bombed or drunk, right?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      ROTFLOL, Mary! Thank goodness professionals can “touch up” our photos, right, so that we look better than in those candid shots.

      “On the plonk” means plastered, bombed or drunk, right?

  • ki pha says:

    Well, I don’t think many of us know we jump to conclusions or make assumptions so quickly when we first meet people. We might even say that we don’t but really? We all do it even if we don’t want to admit it. It’s human nature and we can’t control it.

    And yes I have been judged or had someone assume I was something or someone I wasn’t. At least they said you looked like a lesbian….and that you’re a girl. I was told I looked like a boy by one of my mother’s aunt! I had long hair was dressed in girl clothes !!! I was humiliated infront of family I barely knew. tsk tsk tsk

    And I’m one of those people who hate taking pictures. My icon right now is probably my favorite one.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I like your hair in your icon, Ki Pha.

      How awful to assume you were a boy without knowing for sure. I dressed my oldest girl in boy clothes all the time because we were very poor and she has two older brothers, so I had the clothes on hand. I think that’s why she dresses her own daughters in such feminine clothes now.

  • Shannon says:

    I tend to meet people in meetings, so there’s often not even 30 seconds to size them up. The people I do know need to talk to me about the meeting or some other project. I do know that after the first time they speak, I am making judgments. My most negative ones are of those who read their prepared remarks. They apparently don’t know their subject, or their agency has a set agenda and is not open to discussion.

    As for photos, my favorite one is now 35 years old. It’s my alternate highschool graduation picture of me in a huge cane chair with me holding a book and looking off into the distance. I’m usually the photographer, partly because I like it and partly to avoid being the subject. My bro snapped an informal picture of me laughing in the hospital, and it’s now up on my Facebook page. BTW, it’s the only picture on my FB page.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I imagine in such places as meetings, Shannon, it’s a good thing to make judgments. After all, those people should be at their very best. I can’t imagine being unprepared in front of my boss.

      My SIL is like that, too. He always takes the piccies b/c he doesn’t like to be in them.

  • Mozette says:

    What about you? Ever felt you were judged unfairly by someone else?

    Judged unfairly? All the time. Every time I get a new neighbour, before they even get to know me, people around the unit complex – who barely know me – get in their ear and whisper gossip and crap about me from my past, gossip they’ve heard from another, who heard it from somebody else’s cousin’s friend while they were stoned on night 5 years ago… and the next thing you know I’m the diseased tramp who’s a black magic witch who kills all the cats around Woodridge and performs Hoodoo under a full moon!

    Um… I’m an artist and a writer who’s 40 years old, has Epilepsy and loves gardening, speaks a little French, South American Spanish, loves to cook and enjoys a good horror movie. And must we all remind others: book – cover… okay?

    Have you ever made an assumption and later changed your mind?

    Yes… most definitely… I also apologised to the person I made the assumption about to their faces; it earns their respect must faster.

    If you’re one of the lucky few who haven’t, what about photos? Do you photograph nicely or do the images always seem to catch you with your mouth open or your eyes closed?

    I’m not too bad to photograph. Sometimes I look a little like a dumb 5 year old because of how my mouth looks at the time; otherwise, I’m good. 😀

    What’s the best picture you’ve ever had taken of yourself?

    My best selfie? Okay it’s this one:


    It’s not a complete selfie… Mum took this one last year of me after my hair cut. 🙂

    Then there’s this one:


    Now, this is a selfie with Marsha… we’re great friends and have wonderful laughs at the Logan Art Gallery. We both love photography and she has a massive, heavy camera while I have my tiny point and shoot camera 😀

    • Jo Robertson says:

      It really hurts when people make incorrect judgments about you. I guess we’re all guilty of that sometime or another. I don’t have time for gossip, so I’m never the person people like to tell stuff — and I’m glad of that!

      All that beautiful red hair, Mozette — so lovely! Great picture with your friend!

      • Mozette says:

        I know what you mean about gossip Jo… I don’t have time for it either. Life is just too short to make a bad name for anyone around the place – or yourself.

        Thank you so much! I was the only one who inherited my Grandpa’s red hair. It’s a direct genetic breed from the 1500’s of Irsh/Northern Scottish red… so it’s an untainted part of my DNA which somehow hasn’t been changed over all these centuries. I’m noticed a lot now that people all over the globe seem to think us redheads are dying off… 😛

        We’re not, we’re keeping outa the sun … 😉

  • Caren Crane says:

    Jo, just the title of this made me laugh! Particularly in light of your 7 children. Ha! It’s too true, though, that we judge quickly and decisively.

    Just yesterday, my older daughter and I were shopping in Macy’s shoe department. A tall man breezed by me. I didn’t get a good look at him, but he had nicely cut hair and a bright lime green quilted jacket on. I took one look at the jacket and thought, “Gay.” Later, I mentioned this to my daughter, because I was a bit embarrassed that I jumped to that conclusion. My daughter hadn’t seen him at first, but had heard him talking to his female companion. Her first thought? “Gay.”

    In our defense, there was nothing about his manner that in any way suggested he was not homosexual, but it was a clear reminder of how quickly (and often superficially) we judge people. Honestly, it didn’t matter to me if the man was gay or not. So why even make the call in my mind? Human nature, I suppose.

    We use our knowledge and prejudices as shorthand to label things. This can help keep us safe (dangerous vs. safe people and situations, for instance) so I’m sure it’s evolutionary. The trouble is when we depend on them and don’t keep our minds open to the possibility we might be completely wrong.

    As to photos, I look horrible in almost all of them. Even good photographers have trouble getting a good shot of me. The best photo ever taken was my yearbook picture my junior year of high school. I don’t know what magic that guy used, but it was a great picture! I need him to come take some author photos for me, because mine are old as anything and I have completely different hair and glasses now! 😀

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I think we’re naturally very critical of our own photos, Caren. I think your author photo is lovely and cute and charming!

      I agree with you and Anna about the evolutionary gut thing being necessary in dangerous situations, like if you’re getting out of your car at night in a dimly lighted parking lot. Now why would you do that anyway??!!

      But I try not to make judgments where it’s a matter of preference or taste. That ugly handbag that my daughter loves. Keeping my mouth shut about that one!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I am overweight, something I would very much love to change. I won’t go into details. I am also far from being a beauty queen so I know what it’s like to be overlooked. I can tell the instant a person has judged me and considers me of no consequence. There is no real acknowledgement, their eyes skip away from mine and I am excluded from their conversation. It hurts. Either that or they will be very condescending, which really makes me mad. As a result I try very hard not to judge a book by its cover. When I worked at a bank, my manager once told me that one of my most valuable assets was that I treated everyone the same, no matter who they were or their status in life. It was one of the highest compliments she could have paid me.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Good for your manager in acknowledging that important trait, Debbie.

      I know that overweight people are often seriously discriminated against. I’m overweight now, too, but haven’t been this way all my life, so I’m getting a taste of what it’s like to have assumptions made about your body weight and size.

    • Debbie, I think a lot of us have weight issues. I get some of that dismissal because I don’t dye my hair, which has a good bit of gray in it now. I’m sorry people have been such jerks.

  • Patty L. says:

    When people meet me they assume that I am an uptight b!%$&. Five minutes in and they realize I am open and honest in a very sweet and loving person. I am called a snob all the time and then everyone apologizes to me for ever thinking it. LOL

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL, that’s so funny, Patty. At least people stick around to give you a chance to show your true self.

      That reminds me of when I directed the congregational music in church. My daughters asked me why I looked so mad. I guess my resting face looks angry because I really enjoyed leading the music!

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Well, that title certainly grabbed my attention! lol!

    I’m one of those fortunate people who takes good pictures. There really are few photos of me during my lifetime that I don’t like.

    I think it’s human nature to make an immediate assessment of the people we meet. The important part, as Caren stated, is that we keep our minds open to the possibility that our initial assessment could be wrong.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yes, you do, PJ! I usually take a good picture too, and I’m always afraid when I meet people in real life they’ll find me really plain LOL.

      Openmindedness is one of a person’s most important characteristics, I think. Unfortunately, so many people are closed minded, but I guess the important thing is to keep trying.

  • Deb says:

    I have made assumptions about people, and have been correct about most. There are just some people that instantly rub me the wrong way, and I guess for a reason. But, I have been wrong in some of those first impressions.

    I do not photograph well when posing. But, if someone catches me in a photo without me knowing, I look fairly decent. I think I always look fat.

    There is a young woman in my town that is going to photography school and she has begun her own business. Just last week she posted a status on FB that was a WOW! status, especially since she is only 19. Basically, she said that people tell her to make them look beautiful in photos, but she said each and every person she takes a photo of is beautiful in their own way and light. God makes beautiful people.

  • catslady says:

    Not always, but usually I’m spot on fairly soon after meeting someone. There are some give aways that never disappoint – how they treat animals, waitresses, and my very favorite – game playing. My test for my daughter’s boyfriends were always if they got upset when losing a game. Now I am competitive and like to win but if I lose that is perfectly fine. Lately, ,social issues seem to be a way of judging too. And I hate pictures of myself lol.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Excellent points, Catslady. Definitely the way a man treats wait servers or his family is the way he’ll end up treating a girl he dates.

      I really like a person who can take losing gracefully.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Good morning, everyone! I have Emma today and she insists I watch her play “Angry Birds” on my Kindle Fire. It’s amazing how quick-fingered and quick-brained kids are today. She’s just 5 and she’s amazing!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Grrrrr, so sorry. The blog is duplicating comments, and I can’t seem to stop it!

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Have people made assumptions about me? ALL MY LIFE. Based on my ethnic name (Italian, must be a slut and will get fat and hairy when she’s older), my family (She’s his daughter? OK, good worker and I can call him and report her every move. She’s HER sister? Must be another bitch. She’s THEIR cousin? Bet she sleeps around like they do), the place I grew up in (You’re from THERE? Clearly a first-gen immigrant who barely made it through high school and community college — this despite a 146 IQ and graduation with honors from an Ivy League sister school), and even my sex (Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t do this job, everyone knows women suck at this.) I purposely married someone with a WASP name and moved 500 miles from my origin so that people could no longer judge me about all those things, hoping it would give me a blank slate. Now they judge me on my credit rating (mostly my spendthrift husband’s doing) and where I live (That neighborhood? Transient, poor, unreliable.) I’ve come to resign myself that there’s no escape, and my kids will only fare better because they’re male, and people question men less.

    I think the last really good photo I took was in 1980 when I first started freelance writing and I needed a good head shot, so I went to the person who did my college yearbook photos as I was very happy with them. Although we did a family photo this Christmas since it was a momentous year (2 graduations and a 25th Anniversary) and that one turned out pretty good.

  • Hey Jo!

    I do tend to make quick decisions about people, although I think my job as a nurse has sort of influenced this. However, I’ve learned to keep an open mind about people. Someone I thought I’d like will do something cruel, mean or stupid and I’m re-evaluating my thoughts about them. Someone I’ve thought would drive me crazy will have qualities of compassion, humor or loyalty…all of which I treasure in a friend.

    And pictures…I hate most of them these days due to my weight, but every so often, someone will take a picture of me and I go, “Wow!” I really like that one. 🙂 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Whenever I think of you, Suzanne, I picture you smiling, and to me, that’s what makes a great picture.

      If I needed a nurse, I’d definitely be TEAM Suzanne!

  • Hey Jo –

    Sorry it took me so long to post on the blog today. For the most part I’ve been laughing hysterically about the lesbian assumption. FWIW – I went with my husband once to a convention in San Diego. One of the ladies in his group was a very masculine lesbian and she brought her partner – a very attractive young lady. That poor girl was hit upon by every male in the vicinity. Obviously, they didn’t think she was a lesbian (though she was) because she was so attractive. Funny the assumptions people make.

    FWIW – to my knowledge – no one has ever assumed I’m a lesbian 🙂 I’m one of those that try to be on the other side of the camera. I don’t like photos of myself unless they’ve been photoshopped to the max. I probably could use a new author photo as well but I’m also pushing for some weight loss – more like 20 lbs. for me.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, my gosh, how uncomfortable about the young gay woman, although the couple probably had a good laugh about it afterwards.

      I think this weight gain this is part of aging; my metabolism is, like, CRAWLING!

  • Becke Turner says:

    OMG, you took that in stride. Whatever happened if you can’t say anything positive, shut your mouth?

    An admin in a former company thought my husband was my son! Okay, that frosted my glass, especially since my dh is a few months older than me.

    I’m sure it was a woman who developed photo shop software! That said, I take miserable photos. This is another one of those women things. How many of us like the way we photograph? I recently had to undergo a professional photo shoot. The team dressed me, did my hair, my makeup and posed me for over two hours! I wasn’t thrilled with the results that appeared in our National publication. So I’m convinced I can’t be fixed for media.

    One helpful colleague said it didn’t look like me. So what did that mean? I look worse than the photo? Silence is golden.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Too funny, Becke; you just have to laugh if someone thinks your husband is your son! There’s just no way to spin that, is there?

      Thankfully, my husband looks older than me because his hair’s nearly white now and so is his beard. I keep mine colored (uh, the hair, that is, not the beard, giggle).

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Oh, Becke, and I think I took the remark in stride because I’m pretty secure in my sexuality. I love, love men, everything about them, even if I am an alpha female!

  • Oh, my, Jo–pictures! I loathe and despise having my picture taken. Half the time when I think I’m smiling what goes onto the memory card more closely resembles a grimace. I survived getting my headshot done because Cassondra and Jeanne were jollying me along while Cassondra took SCADS of pictures so we’d have some good ones amid the weird facial expressions.

    When I went to Governor’s School, before my senior year in high school, I saw a girl walking across the campus–tank top, lowslung, tight jeans, midriff showing, makeup, and thought, “Oh, please, don’t let her be my roommate.”

    And of course she was. And she’d had the same thought about me because I was so totally Geek Girl–dorky glasses, hair pulled back, no makeup, etc.

    And yet we hit it off beautifully. That’s how I know what she thought. We confessed our misconceptions to each other at summer’s end. I ran into her years later, when I was in grad school–in the mimeo room of the theater building, of all places–and was delighted to catch up with her. We haven’t stayed in touch, but I still remember her fondly. And that summer as a lesson in preconceptions.

    And I suspect a fair number of women lawyers have more assertive poses in their pictures to this day. Sexism toward women in professions isn’t as overt as it once was, but it’s still there. I think your picture is great!

  • Alyn Y says:

    I know people like to judge based on appearance so what do I do? I don’t dress up nice when I go shopping. In fact, I go in my sweats and tshirt. That has resulted in me getting little to no customer service before and in the end I took my business elsewhere. Any store that has workers that judge me based on how I’m dressed and refuses to help me because of it doesn’t deserve my money. Of course, I judge people too but that doesn’t mean I don’t help them because of how they look. As for pictures, I used to get the pictures with my mouth open or eyes closed so now when I do take pictures, I purposely open my mouth or close my eyes. It’s going to end up that way anyway.