This morning, on my usual subway ride to work, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation which made me reflect on the role of pretentiousness and truthfulness in our lives. Ok, MY life...
Several young and beautiful "friends" were on their way someplace on the B train. Come to think of it, they were all really pretty - in both feminine and masculine terms, like the set of characters on the sitcom "Friends". They immediately grabbed my attention, because, I don't know about your commute, but beauty is not something which is served up on the New York subway in large quantities. The friends were chatting and laughing. They were clearly talking about someone less perfect than they are. Words like, "desperate", "unattractive", "loser" were thrown around. One of the friends was a young beautiful woman, with long shimmering golden hair, who laughed especially hard at the jokes of the others. It just seemed like she was having a whale of a time. She flipped her hair and slapped her hands on her knees, when someone mention that certain OTHER who is a major loser.
After some time most of the friends got off their stops, after a lot of smooching and ciaos. And eventually the gorgeous blond was the only who stayed behind. I was certain, on her way to even cooler things and even more stunning people...BUT as soon as the "witnesses were gone", she totally changed. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. She cradled her face in her hands for a few seconds. And when she lifted her eyes again, her perfect make up was a not as perfect. She put her long blond hair in a simple ponytail, with a few stands sticking out in a funny, messy and yet endearing kind of a way. Our eyes met (or was the fact that I've been starring at her caught her attention?) She looked at me and I looked at her.... This was a young woman in a simple ponytail. The glamour was gone. The strained laughter was gone. And then a thought hit me - could it be that the process of trying so hard to fit in made her so exhausted? I am not sure why, but this whole scene stirred something in me. I suppose enough of something to write a blog about it. Of course, I haven't a clue whether they were talking about actual desperados and losers. Or whether she was just exhausted from lifting bricks the night before at her construction job. Then again, maybe part of it is the American thing...That idea of putting your best "face on" when others are around. It took me years after I came to the US to realize that when people asked "how are you", most of the time, they were expecting "great" in a form of a response and not the results of the most recent MRI!
But if my intuition is right, and she was tired of being someone else, what does it mean? Why do we cover up the truth about ourselves? Who are we kidding??? Because I believe, the issue isn't just with the subway riders. I recently attended a very posh event where pretentiousness and the truth collided with such speed and intensity that nearly each conversation could have started a small fire. Since nobody is perfect (if such a thing even exists), the friends on the B train, may just appear as such, but what lies beneath the appearance and how much energy does it take to keep up the appearance? We all think have to put out a persona or a version of ourselves that is more or less acceptable to the world (or at least we think it is). But what if we start a little truth trend?
What would happen if we all disclosed some truths about ourselves; those weird idiosyncrasies that make us unique? Would it be so bad? You know that feeling of connectedness you experience when you realize you are "in the same boat" with another human being or, holly smokes, MANY human beings. If we disclosed at least one truth about ourselves, wouldn't it make the world a little friendlier and a little less fake? Maybe this is part of the success the Alcoholic Anonymous and group therapy in general – people bond by first acknowledging that they are far from perfect.
So, I'll start. My name is Rina and here is one of the truths about me (and yes, I realize that I am posting it on the World Wide Web, thankyouverymuch):
I have a walkman radio. It’s black, worn out and it just FM. It has one dial, no buttons, and no screen. When I first turn it on, it needs a few moments to “warm-up”. I've had my little ugly walkman since I was in High School. I love it. I cherish it. I have nightmares about loosing it because it would be irreplaceable
But the truth is I feel a little...oh, what the heck, a LOT, embarrassed carrying it around. So, when I am on the subway, I try to hide it from people's prying eyes. Why is that? What am I trying to hide or prove? To whom? Who cares if I get the puzzled looks like "what the heck is that?" I suppose, the truth is I care, because I don't want to feel inferior to the people with I-Pads, I-phones and I-whatevers. If you asked me, I'd tell you that I am very confident and comfortable in my shoes...but what's with the walkman situation? Maybe, it’s that deep inside I am very conservative and kind of old-fashioned...and sort of the opposite of cool. I don't like admitting it! I get attached to "old things". And the other part of the truth, which is even more concerning, is that it is possible that I may have made fun of someone else who is attached to something that seems ridiculous and old-fashioned to me. I was covering up my own truth by devaluing someone else’s. And not unlike the beautiful, tired friend on the B train, it made me feel empty inside, exhausted, as if something essential got chipped away.
Lost in my thoughts, I nearly forgot about my new subway friend. Now she was standing closer to me, waiting at the door for her stop. And when the door opened, she smiled, a very warm genuine smile, and said, “Nice radio.” I looked down on my lap, and there it was – the little black radio walkman, which I forgot to turn off since we went into the tunnel. Now it was sending equally soothing and annoying sounds into my ears – the cracking and hissing “sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.
So, here is to all old-fashioned losers out there, beautiful young Goldilocks, and everyone else, whether you have an old warn out walkman or not, lets bond together and just be more real with who we are...and with time even more comfortable in our skins.
What's your truth? My point is you don't have to post it on your blog. But acknowledging it even to yourself could be really liberating.