The thought occurs to me as I read stories about Clancy on this site that I sometimes portray her as something of a hard-ass. I have commented in the past that she is the sort that “suffers no fools” and have often played her straight-laced posture against my own more freewheeling (sometimes kinda sorta reckless) nature. When I read over posts that involve her, it seems to unduly establish her Hit Coffee persona. Accuracy of characterization is not a premium on this site by any stretch. It’s not that I make an attempt to be inaccurate, but there are occasional indulgences and exaggerations. But mostly, I think it’s a function that the sum of my stories is largely only half of the story. The cases where I am freespiritedly eating convenience store hot dogs and she reacts unfavorably are more interesting to write about than cases where she and I are both of the same mind on something. So while she and I have a lot of similar views and values on a lot of things, they play off one another. I think my “characterization” is less distorted simply because I am the narrator and my interactions with Clancy are countered by my interactions with others and so on.

But when you think about it, the perceptions you all have of Clancy are the sort of stuff that we deal with in life all the time. I take for example Clem “Golden Boy” Hartford. My characterization of him was grossly unfair. He has a side to the story that I don’t bother to tell and, to be honest, that when I was working with him I did not extensively concern myself about. What I cared about was that he was my nemesis. That was the role he played in my life. No matter how much I would try to understand him and relate to him as a person, his very existence in my surroundings caused me grief. He was everything that I disliked about suck-ups, know-it-alls, and certain kinds of Mormon men. But beyond that, he was a rival. His success made my life more unpleasant in very real ways. His departure from our department made my life materially easier and better. So in the story that was my employment at Falstaff, he was the villain.

No doubt, though, he could tell his story and I would be the villain. I would be the one that sabotaged his chances at a promotion. A conspirator who made his life difficult. My motivations would be beside the point. From his perspective, my actions in regards to him were who I was. From his perspective, he tried exceptionally hard to be friendly to me and I rebuffed him. My reasons for doing so don’t matter.

The other day I was going through some of the employee photos of Falstaff and picking out some to show up on my slideshow screensaver. I saw his picture, with the goofy and (to me) insidious smile and I actually grinned. And I added him to the slideshow. I remember how gratified I was to hear that he was unceremoniously fired from Falstaff and that his fate was playing video games while his wife worked and supported him. But now, a few years later, I don’t care. I wish him well, I guess. Now I see him as a goofy guy that was the source of all manner of humor, mischief, and drama. He is a memory and not a threat. Now, with all of this distance, I can remember that he was someone that meant no more harm than a dog that won’t stop humping your leg. He is, however, the same person he always was. But he’s an entirely different character now.

It makes me think of comic books, in a way. in the DC Universe, you have characters like Batman and Superman who are portrayed differently by different writers. More than that, when they make guest-appearances in other comic books they fill different roles. When Batman tries to hunt down the Vigilante in the latter’s series, he is the antagonist. When he runs into some no-name character, he is an idol. And so on, and so on. A whole lot of different perspectives on the same (albeit fictional) guy. Also in the world of fiction, it’s something that has made its way into my own writing. One character has been in every novel that I’ve written and that I plan to write that take place in the same “universe”. It’s the same guy, but in the first book he’s an aloof member of a rival group of the novel’s protagonist. In the second he is the male lead. In the third he is a sidekick of sorts with certain blue-collar accents that for various reasons don’t show up in the previous piece. Same guy, different character. Similarly, the protagonist in the third will be the object of revulsion in a later one (if I ever get around to writing it), seen as arrogant and entitled and cold and cruel. h

The same is true even without the site or the fiction. The way that we perceive people is based on our incomplete experiences with them.

To use Clancy as an example again, there are some patients that she has that really dislike her. Because they wanted a doctor that would prescribe drugs and she is rather tight-fisted about prescriptions. But for other patience who want actual care, she is golden. Far from being the hard-ass that she is sometimes portrayed to be here, she is exceptionally compassionate. Ironically, she does particularly well with patients that are the fools that she does not suffer. She listens to them in the same way that other doctors don’t. And they latch on to her. When she was in Deseret, she built up nearly twice the practice as the next-highest resident. Patients would see her through the lottery and then would ask to see her again at rates far higher than other doctors. Some of that is because she is an absolutely awesome doctor (not that I’m biased or anything), but a big part of it is because patients are very comfortable with her.

And of course I couldn’t personally marry a hard-ass. Not a real one. Clancy is one of the warmest people I know. That I am who I am and that she is with me demonstrates a lot more versatility than I sometimes give her credit for. There are some guys I know that I have commented on that need to marry a “drill-sergeant”, but I’m not really one of them. I sometimes need a straight-man (or woman), but I am one fool that she fortunately suffers gladly.

The paranoid part of me thinks all of these things and wonders how others see me. I don’t just mean in the sense of “do they like me?” but rather do they see me for what I am? I will take being liked for the wrong reasons from a purely pragmatic standpoint, though of course I would dislike being disliked for the wrong ones for a few reasons. But I also wonder who sees me as a person that they would not like to get to know even though they are exactly the kind of person that I would get along with. And I have more transparently been in situations where I wonder “Why does this person like me? Who does this person think I am?” and I’m annoyed, though I go along for the sake of pragmatism and because I believe that it’s good to have people to lean on whether you like them or not.

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