This I Believe: I Believe In Second Impressions

Apr 14, 2011

Essayist Becky Perlow (right) and her brother's girlfriend, Kristen.

I was just shy of 17 the first time my brother Daniel introduced me to his girlfriend. Her name was Kristen, and I hated her immediately. But my brother loved her. Granted, I may not have known what love was, but in my teenage years, love meant a brother who would rather be with his girlfriend than with his siblings. Call it what you want *cough* jealously *cough*, but I wasn’t happy.

I probably didn’t speak more than five words to her that first night at dinner. I watched her gaze at my brother, laugh at his stupid jokes and sit on his lap for most of the evening. It didn’t matter how smart or pretty or nice she was, I knew she was the wrong girl for my brother. She was evil, and no one was going to change my mind.

Each time Kristen visited, I would tell my mother she wasn’t allowed to stay in my room. Each time she would sit down on the sofa with us, I secretly hoped the cushions would swallow her whole. For the next three years, my hatred for her grew.

A few hours before Kristen was due to arrive for a holiday, my mother pulled me aside. She told me, “You know Becky, Kristen really is a nice person. You should try to give her a chance.” The tone of her voice told me this was something very important to her.

A few hours after Kristen arrived, I heard a knock on my door. Kristen asked if she could come in. I cursed silently as she opened the door. “What’s up?” I asked, with a forced sweetness through my barred teeth.

“I was wondering if it would be ok if I could borrow a dress,” she asked me. “We’re going out to dinner tonight and I didn’t bring anything for the occasion.” Hearing my mother’s words echoing in my head, I walked to my closet and sifted through some clothes. “What about this one?” she asked, holding up a dress that didn’t suit her.

I gave her another one to try on. “Thanks,” she said, smiling. As she turned to leave, I grabbed a pair of shoes and handed them to her. “These will go nicely with that dress,” I said, returning the smile.

Fast-forward three years and Kristen and I are not only friends, we’re good friends. We’ve seen each other through deaths in our families and insecurities within ourselves. We have been there to comfort each other when we’re sick and to hold each other’s hands when we need sisterly support. She has been there for me since that first day standing outside my closet, where a piece of clothing brought down a wall. What’s more, she will continue to be there for me long into the future, regardless of whether she keeps dating my brother.

Though I’d never admit it to her, for fear of her holding it over my head, Kristen has taught me a lot about life. But perhaps the most important lesson is that first impressions are never what they seem. Because of her, I believe in second impressions.

Then again, I recently found out my mother never told me that Kristen stayed in my room while I was out of town. I’ll need to speak to her about that.

Becky Perlow is will graduate in May from Penn State University Park with degrees in Journalism and Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management.