Let’s face it: no matter how many PSA videos we were forced to watch and picture books we were told to read (or had read to us) during our time growing up, we as people always judge others based on the way we initially perceive them, if only for a second.
We will always “judge the book by its cover.”
Our brains see something or someone and within moments, without even consciously realizing it, we’ve already formed an opinion as to what we think that thing or person will be like when we interact with it or them.
I will admit that I myself am guilty of those few seconds of judgment before I can think to catch myself.
So I can’t hold it against people for their split-second impressions regarding my music taste and those who enjoy the same genre(s).
For reference, I am a long-time rock music fan. I live for classic rock, alt-rock, punk and metal.
I was constantly heckled as an “emo” throughout my middle school years and yes, a majority of my wardrobe is black.
While I have always loved the style of the rock scene, I am no stranger to comments about the fans being “scary” or “dangerous” and other (usually negative) opinions based solely on the way that they dress.
When I moved to college in June 2021, I went from having attended two concerts in all 18 years of my life, to going to ten concerts in a single school year, all falling under the umbrella that is “rock.”
There is nothing I love doing more than listening to live music.
There’s a magic to seeing the songs that you love being sung right in front of you, to seeing instruments creating melodies in real-time.
But there’s something else that I get excited about every time I go to another concert: The people.
The fans at rock shows are some of the sweetest people I have ever met.
This might be hard to imagine — given the outward display of chains, spikes, dyed hair and various piercings and tattoos — but it’s true.
Sure, those two guys are wearing razor blade necklaces, but they also giggled like kids and high-fived when they realized that they had the same one.
And the two teenagers with brightly colored hair and layers of ripped clothing?
They’ve been walking up and down the line outside the venue with a “free hugs” sign.
The young man with fishnet sleeves and pentagram jewelry is constantly checking in on his girlfriend, making sure she feels comfortable and safe.
The boy with the stretched ears and shaggy hair half-covering his face tells me that my hair is “really sick” right before throwing himself into the mosh pit.
I have so many experiences like these at metal concerts that I can’t help but laugh when I hear “I don’t know how comfortable I am knowing that you hang around people like that” from my parents or “those shows probably get violent a lot, so I don’t feel like it’s safe” from an acquaintance.
I can’t help but laugh because while they see people who can’t possibly be good influences, I think of the memories of crowds of “scary-looking people” collectively singing the “Phineas and Ferb” theme song and “Breaking Free” from “High School Musical” while waiting for the bands to take the stage.
I think of the girl who turned around to give me a big hug when I helped keep people from pushing into her and her friends during one of the last songs in a set.
I think of the friend I now talk to multiple times a week after we ran into each other at several concerts.
Since coming to Tech, I’ve had the chance to fall in love with my favorite music all over again.
But this time, I’m not falling in love with the songs or the bands. I’m falling in love with the people that I meet: the unconventional-looking people, the people who have no chance of making it through the metal detectors in one pass because of the number of piercings adorning their faces, the people made taller by platform boots and the people with hair pulled straight skyward into spikes.
I no longer default to split-second perceptions around people like them because, now, the wonderful memories I have will counteract any judgments before they’re even made.
If anything, the split-second perception my brain creates will be a perception of someone that I’ll feel comfortable around and that I can be friends with.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m telling every single person to go to a rock concert tomorrow, I understand that metal music can be many people’s least favorite cup of tea.
What I am saying though is, maybe, we should reflect more on that lesson that the adults in our childhood tried so hard to teach us: when we judge a book by its cover alone, we might be missing the best story that we’ll never read.