The Cult of Personality


Someone once suggested that I’d know I was truly grown up when I became the same person around my parents as I am around my friends. I’m not sure why this was deemed to be a barometer of maturity. Frankly, I'm not sure any of us want to go through life being the same person at every turn.

I had an interesting revelation along these lines in the not so distant past. I noticed that my voice tends to jump an octave in certain situations, like when I’m ordering in a restaurant or calling an appliance repair shop. I fully understand why—all the women in my immediate family do the same thing—but the fact that I do drives me bananas. It’s as though I’m saying my regular voice, which is a bit smarmy, isn’t feminine enough for mass consumption. I go overkill on the pleasantness, leaving the other person thinking they're talking to a delusional housewife who’s been a bit too liberal with the quaaludes (or whatever be the modern equivalent).

I remember reading an article once about how babies enjoy our playing the part of babbling idiots. It was something about the higher pitch resonating a vibe of happiness in their new little brains. By the same token, they also enjoy the deeper tones Dad provides, likely because that voice sounds a bit more relaxed than Mom’s overly enthusiastic attempts to get a smile. In my own experience, I notice a happier, sing-songy voice when trying to sway my toddler’s opinion, a somewhat less annoying tone when speaking to my four-year-old, and an arguably tired and grumpy voice when speaking to my poor husband. Sorry Luke.

It reminds me of another article a based on a book co-authored by Elizabeth Dunn. The book is actually about how to spend money more happily (apparently this is challenging), but in it she suggests we should all try to treat our partners a bit more like strangers. Think about it. If you are in a similar situation to me, your significant other comes home around the time your children are turning into gremlins because you either haven’t yet presented them with dinner or you had the gaul to give them something other than hot dogs and cheese pizza. You’re not at your best. You’re not feeling the love. So they walk in the door and you’re thinking, “For the love of god, make the screaming stop!” as a dinner roll goes flying across the room and they're thinking, “Uh… hi?”

But let’s say they brought someone you’d never met home for dinner. Social etiquette makes it challenging to embrace anger when there’s a new person around. It feels as natural as wearing your underwear on the outside of your pants. So you’d probably laugh off the insanity, greet your guest and put on your best show. Eventually, you'd likely forget that you're supposed to be angry and end up having a good time. 

It would be interesting to know at what age we start to experiment with these different masks and whether it’s even a conscious undertaking. Most of us don’t have a personality switch we actively flip depending on who walks through the door, it just seems to happen like a pavlovian response. If it is even possible to reach that plateau of full growth (god, I hope not), perhaps it's not through being the same person with our parents as we are with our friends or with our spouse as are with our children, but through recognizing the difference and understanding the manifestations. 

Teller of truth


The problem I seem to have with starting a blog, or anything really, is that I want it to be perfectly formed before it ever sees the light of day. I think I get this from my father, although I’m sure I’ve read some parenting thing somewhere that says we discount the concept of individuality by suggesting we inherit traits from our parents or that we pass them onto our children. It implies we are all merely the same person living over and over again just with less ozone and more technology.

I'd argue we're more likely to see the challenging parts of our personality (or label them as such) play themselves out in our little reincarnations than we are to see the good we pass on. The more modest among us are, anyway. In light of that, I will also suggest I get my ability to write from Dad and that I inherited my mother’s desire to help others along with her propensity to worry. A bit from Column A, a bit from Column B.

But here’s what I’m realizing. This little seed that I’m planting here can’t possibly grow into its own thing unless I put it out into the sun and add a little water every now and then. It’s like having children: we fool ourselves into believing we have some semblance of control when really it is they who call the shots, before they even divide into two cells.

I want to control what this may or may not become, which means it isn’t becoming anything. It is a dog on a leash in front of the most amazing off-leash park. There are so many piles of shit to roll in! Why won’t she just let me go!

This is probably where fear in the creative process comes into play. If I never actually launch this site, it can’t possibly fail. If no one knows it exists, no one can’t read it. I can go on living with this lovely notion of having this beautiful thing like so many others I see without actually having to do anything. It’s easier to live with the dream of success than the reality of failure but I’m creatively lonely and tired of having nothing to call my own.

I realize it’s possible to just write for myself, but (shock of the century), I have an ego. I enjoy writing for other people. I enjoy sparking conversation or helping people feel they aren’t alone by expressing what many of us are too socially respectable to say. My truth is real and the filter is thin.

(As for my photography, I really don’t know what I’m doing but I’m enjoying the challenge. Constructive feedback from those who do know what they’re doing is always welcome.)

So here we are on the eve of my not-40-yet birthday and I am finally (mentally) ready to push this thing out of the plane. It’s certainly not perfect. It definitely requires work. But at least it will now have purpose.

Nanoo Nanoo, and all that jazz.