Friday, September 10, 2010
I’m not the only person who inhabits multiple realms. The design of our institutions encourages us to divide ourselves into different personas that are appropriate to the moment and the place and company. I have a hard time discussing my jack-off club with anyone at my corporate workplace, and I resist the desire to do so because, well, duh… I want to keep my job and not offend the wrong persons.
One of the most heinous labels one can get in formal environments is the dreaded, “inappropriate.”
Okay… massive time-shift…
Stepping back a few decades… I remember being attracted to males from a very early age and, like many gay kids, perceived that this was inappropriate. I therefore took the common tack of suppressing this innate desire and deny it to myself. I started to put on a fake self to protect myself from the displeasure of others who might find my inner reality wrong.
And so was reinforced another lesson in being fake, which so many of us learn from the beginning. It’s not unique to American culture either, since all communities have standards and boundaries for behavior. The only truly uninhibited are the insane, so it is considered a balanced, sane quality to fit in with a crowd, to find a “normal” for ourselves.
When the pressure of a teenage sex drive bottled up broke through, I was 17 and admitted to myself I was gay. I immediately wanted the world to know but because my mother told me in solemn tones, “Don’t tell your father,” there would remain a stash of artifice in my life, at least until he passed away six years later. So at 23, I officially had no one else to hide from. I was out from that moment on and would never hide again.
In high school, I belonged to several cliques. Choir, newspaper, radio, theater, all were different groups that defined themselves by their groups, but there was very little crossover, except for me. On the groups pages of my Senior yearbook, I’m all over the place… though not in sports. I was also a druggie since I got high and dropped acid back then. I’d been pegged as a fag well before coming out, since I studied ballet starting when I was 14.
Without a tedious recounting of my decade of drug abuse, my decade of recovery, my years of finding what I wanted and gaining my life back, but there are almost no places where I am not expected to play a role, and to spare my associates in that arena the discomfort of who I am and what I value elsewhere.
Today, I have these specific realms in which I exist, and there is little crossover between them. Listed in no particular order…
I could also list Twitter and Facebook, since I tailor the content there to those I know follow me in one but not another.
At home, with the husband, I talk about everything, though generally just in the moments when he’s fully available… we both have our work obsessions that tend to force out other interests for a while… but I hide nothing from him.
The goal, for me, is to be who I am in all realms, although I may not be practicing the same activities in one as in the other. It means I have to be aware of the “me” driving all of these activities, and not be the activities themselves.
So when I’m talking to new members about the club, I’m the same me who talks to account managers in the office, and the same me who talks to my mom about my step-dad’s health, and the same me who holds my husband in bed… I can honor different sets of rules but not confuse the rules with the ruled.
The things that define my self are the things in which I invest my self. If I’m really attached to things and processes and outcomes, the division between those things and my self becomes hard to distinguish. It follows that to be more authentic in more places, I need to be less invested or at least less attached. Being more authentic means being more available to what and who is there at any given moment, so the more I can let go of work, and worry, and busy-ness and social issues and politics and whatever story of the day is clamoring for my mind, the more I’m just me.