Skin deep - Joel Hall

As people, we often fall into the trap of judging others based solely on appearance.

Employers often hire, and promote, people who are physically attractive, and studies have shown that even children assume beautiful people to be smarter, and more talented, than other people.

I've learned very recently that even what people assume about your appearance can change the way you are treated.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column in which I talked about being put on notice by my doctor that my cholesterol level was high. Now, I don't consider myself a dreamy hunk, by any means, but I would say that I'm, at least, above average, if not handsome.

Every week my column appears in the paper, people get the benefit of seeing my dimples, but not the rest of my body.

Skinny, and fat people, can have high cholesterol, and controlling it is often just a matter of exercising regularly, and eating the right foods. However, since one mention of the phrase "high cholesterol," a "fat joke" has accompanied almost any negative comment I have received about my writing or the topics I chose.

In the last few weeks, I've been called "fat," "greasy," "overweight," and have even been accused of smoking cigarettes. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life.

My writing style hasn't changed drastically as of late, but recent criticism has gotten a lot more vicious since people began assuming that I am a big lard-o.

It's an amusing chain of events, but it's also a statement on how unsympathetic, and uncaring, people can be to others who do not have the gift of outer beauty.

It made me think of the recent response the world has given to unlikely, Scottish singing sensation, Susan Boyle, from the TV show "Britain's Got Talent." She recently wowed the world with her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," from the musical "Les Miserables."

With thick, dark eyebrows and a double chin, Boyle didn't impress anybody with her looks. The three judges - Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, and Piers Morgan - as well as many members of the audience, showed with their facial expressions that, initially, they weren't ready to give her the time of day.

Although she was single, and unemployed, Boyle had personality and she demonstrated that in her performance interviews. When she began singing for the judges, the whole audience was shocked that something so beautiful could come out of somebody they perceived to be unattractive.

I don't know if the judges really learned a lesson, because part of the reason she has become an overnight sensation is because, visually, she is unimpressive. If she had a slim silhouette, long, flowing hair, high cheek bones, and the same voice, she would probably get a contract all the same, but would have to wait a bit longer to be in the spotlight.

I think Boyle's story is a good lesson that everything is not as it seems, and that people should be judged for who they are on the inside. While it's a lesson as old as time, its good to get a reminder from time to time.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.