Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Unprepossessing" and "Prepossessing"

     Most of us are unprepossessing.  It's a five-syllable word that doesn't enjoy much currency anymore, if it ever did, sort of a bulky word that stumbles coming out of the mouth.  Unattractive.  Which is good because that's exactly what the word means, unattractive.  In spades.  Online dictionaries say "unprepossessing" is the same as "unremarkable," "nondescript," "unpresentable," "unpleasant," "unappealing," "unsightly," and "uninviting."  Quite a chorus of negatives.

     It's opposite is "prepossessing," which enjoys even less currency, though it is a syllable shorter and a positive rather than a negative.  No one describes anyone who is pleasant and attractive as "prepossessing." No, the only way we know the word, and clearly very few do, is through its negative.  Which makes either or both words even less attractive.  Perfect.

     All of which is preface to my point:  when I look into the mirror, I don't see someone attractive, someone who makes a good first impression, someone who inspires confidence.  Not by a long shot.  I'm old now, and it hardly matters, but looking back on a lifetime of being unprepossessing, I've lost countless opportunities because of it.  It's maddening, of course, but I'm in good company, for most people walking the planet are just as unprepossessing as I am.

     That's a lot of unprepossessing people.   As of this moment, and you can look it up by going to, there are 7.382 billion people on the planet, and it's growing at the rate of 275 births per minute.  We lose only 115 per minute, a net growth of 160 people every single minute of every single day.  We'll hit 8 billion in 2024, a mere thirteen years after we hit 7 billion.

     And most of them will be just as unprepossessing as we are and will learn, as we have, how to overcome our disadvantage.  We work hard, for example, develop fortitude, and learn new skills, both on-the-job and inter-personal.  Of course, talent (always attractive if we happen to have any), makes up for a lot of it.  But even so, the way to the top is easier for the prepossessing people who can smile their way to the top--an unearned advantage if there ever was one.  The masters of the race, damn them, are the talented, determined, prepossessing people of the world, a minuscule minority of our 7.382 billion.  The world is their oyster. 

     But as for the rest of us, I have three words:  get over it.  Make whatever mark you can on the history of the species.  Don't be content until you do.  Be proud of yourself and proud to make whatever contribution you can.  Today.  Make a difference.  Force yourself not to be satisfied.  Work.  That's what prepossessing looks like, not the image in your mirror.  

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