Anyone who knows me will tell you I feel the same way about Oprah Winfrey as I do about peanut butter and chocolate – her very existence is unholy and a mockery of all I stand for.
But the other day, I came across an Oprah quote so pertinent to the things I had experienced that even I could not make fun of her for it.
She said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
The concept actually makes a lot of sense. Even people who are operating at their most fake will occasionally let the veneer slip and expose something real – either for the good or the bad.
I will be completely honest here. In my life, I have had about as much luck in relationships as Oprah has had with her weight. I have dated men who were the emotional equivalent of Hurricane Katrina, and turned away men who could have been the best thing since Dr. Phil’s spin-off talk show.
Why, you ask? Sometimes I do not believe people when they show me who they are.
As a journalist, I make it my business to notice the subtle things people do when you talk to them – the body language that tells you maybe the interview has gone on too long or that they’re hiding something: the fidgety way they play with their hair or hands when they’re getting impatient with the questions you ask them. Even the way they respond to a question tells a lot about what’s going on inside them. Seeing is believing, right?
When I spoke to a group of friends about this, one of them unveiled the story of a former college roommate – call her “Tina” – who dated a boy her last two years of high school. She broke it off after her first semester at college because “Frank” had become too clingy.
Indeed, Frank had exhibited disturbing behavior during their high school relationship, at one point becoming physically violent with someone because of what he misconstrued as a flirtation. Tina said Frank also seemed emotionally unbalanced, often making comments such as, “I don’t think I would be able to survive if you ever left me.”
After many phone calls, letters and, in one instance, a sobbing breakdown on Tina’s college apartment steps, Frank finally fulfilled his repeated threat and took his own life. Tina felt awful and blamed herself for Frank’s death for a long time – until someone helped her realize that Frank had been leading up to this for years, and if it had not been because of Tina, it would have been because of someone else.
Frank had shown Tina who he was all along. She just never believed him.
We cannot always predict the future, and we cannot always tell what people’s true intentions are. But, for the most part, they give us a pretty good idea.
Sometimes it’s the funny feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re talking to someone who, for some odd reason, gives you the creeps. Sometimes it’s that strange feeling you get after your boyfriend, a self-proclaimed philanderer before you got together, has a night out with the boys for the third weekend in a row. And sometimes it’s just plain old-fashioned intuition that the person you’re talking to is a “nogoodnik.”
So, even though I can’t believe I’m saying this, take Oprah’s advice.
When people show you who they are, believe them. Who knows what you’ll save yourself?
Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]