Ah, the posse. And I don’t mean the kind that gathers to chase down the bad guy, galloping through the tumbleweed.
I’m talking about judging others by who their friends are, even past adolescence and into adulthood.
Aren’t we judged by the company we keep? If we are, does that encourage us to spend our time with others who are like us – or whom we hope to emulate? Does that mean we become party to an increasingly homogeneous group as a result, gradually conforming in look, behavior and other standards, rather than expressing our individuality?
An article at Time has me curious about my own choice of friends over the years – why I gravitated to them, or vice versa.
More Attractive Company Makes You Seem More Attractive
“Your Posse Makes You Better Looking” addresses our perceptions of attractiveness. Apparently, we’re viewed as more physically appealing when we keep attractive company. Specifically, the plain woman at a bar who is surrounded by prettier friends will be seen as prettier. The cited research suggests that our brain / eye apparently “averages out” differences in appearance.
Stay with me for a few moments, whether or not you’re in “headed to the bar with girlfriends” mode. This notion of the company we keep is intriguing, though the data suggesting we “up” our attractiveness quotient in this way is counterintuitive, at least to me.
Perhaps it’s a matter of degree – the extent to which one is plain versus attractive, and how wide the gap is between the two. Otherwise, wouldn’t all the guys want to hang with hunkier wing-men, and wouldn’t all the women want to be with even more beautiful friends on girls night out? Since when do women want to socialize with more attractive (or skinnier) friends, especially if “competing?”
So here’s my question. Is it always about the company you keep?
Judging People by the Company They Keep
Come on. We all worry about what others think of us – more in adolescence and young adulthood. Don’t we like being with the “cool kids” in high school? For that matter, don’t we still prefer those who are popular at 30-something, gathered at the neighborhood holiday celebration?
Are we concerned about showing up with a friend in ratty clothes and slumping demeanor, who may be going through some difficult times? Instead, do we take our night out with the girls with two others who are perkier (and cuter) and amplify our desired sense of self?
We all judge each other, but as we mature, I believe many of us understand the value of the total package. We’re influenced by humor and smarts and other aspects of who a person is, rather than how they look. We’re more discriminating in our judgments in general.
Judgment and First Impressions
So might dating be a special situation? Is this notion of first impressions that take into account the company we keep more applicable in a social scenario?
Is any judgment by “group” a matter of maturity, or will some individuals always make snap judgments, including by the company you keep, and that’s that?
If you’re out on the down with a group of friends (looking to meet potential partners), do you bring a wing-man or wing-woman? Do you pick that person in part because of how they look? Do you spend your time with friends who are like you – the same age range, marital status, ethnic group, parenting status, income, education?
Influence, Image, and… What?
I had a friend in my late twenties and early thirties who was DDG. Drop Dead Gorgeous.
You’d think it would land her anything she wanted, and it did come with perks as she was the first to admit, but it also had drawbacks and occasionally that had to do with friends. For example, if I entered a social gathering with her, I may as well have been absolutely invisible. I didn’t stop going places with her, but I wound up doing so less, and drifting away on my own – a bit dejected – and always feeling inferior.
So this concept of the company we keep – and the advantages of those perceived as “better” in some way… well, I’d say that depends, don’t you think?
And whether for ourselves or our children, are we worrying about the company we keep as a matter of image? Or are we genuinely concerned with influence that may be exerted overtly or indirectly?
The Posse Comes and Goes…
As I think about my life since divorce, there’s no question that my changing marital status – and financial situation – distanced me from couples who were previously friends. I think this is a more complex dynamic than simplistic statements about divorce being contagious, or even the divorcée stigma that accompanies a suddenly single woman in the group.
I suspect that money plays a larger role than many are willing to admit – its presence, or its absence.
Considering my friendships when my children were in elementary school, I recall a highly diverse mix of wonderful women ranging in age from 30 to mid-forties. I was fortunate to have such an interesting bunch to interact with, even if only in and around activities to do with the school.
Currently? My world has narrowed, but my virtual world is fascinating. The richness of diversity enriches me, and if anyone judged me by the online company I keep, I would be very pleased indeed.
You May Also Enjoy