For Lyonel Perabo.
I am, I protest, a shy person. I’ve got the Meyer-Briggs to prove it: Nick Nicholas’ answer to What’s your MBTI personality type? A person who is uncomfortable and a wall-hugger in a new crowd. A person who finds it hard to mingle in the proverbial cocktail party. A person who gave up on conference dinners early on, because my God, I don’t know any of these randoms.
People who know me very well can corroborate this.
People who know me less well will think I’m talking crap.
Because once I find myself in an environment where I know people, I come out of my shell. And it’s very hard to stuff me back in.
Dad-dancing into the cafe for my morning latte. Greeting imaginary fans with a politician’s wave, as I walk into a restaurant with my honey (but only if it’s together with my honey). Guffawing and talking loudly in the pub about whatever recondite topic strikes my fancy (back when I used to go to the pub). Holding court at work about power dynamics (but only if I have an audience).
My ideal self is like that. Loud and Greek. Voluble and witty. Unabashed and unreserved.
That’s my ideal self. I have only noticed slowly that this wasn’t who I was most of the time; that I had fallen silent much of the day; that I was back in my shell after all.
But not at work, praise be. I’m the guy that the cubicles in the neighbouring office complain about.
And not on here, in the virtual equivalent of the cube farm. I think out loud here, and I live out loud. Not as unabashed as I think my ideal self is: any BNBR violations I’ve gotten have been about tone policing, rather than me actually being un-nice or dis-respectful. But voluble, certainly enough at times for me to have been reproached. And every bit as much the social butterfly and the connector as I seek to be, trying to draw people together, out and engaging with the collective. (Unless those people are shmucks. Then, I just avoid you, because I go back in my shell.)
It’s performance, the dad-dancing and the waving at imaginary crowds and the storming into the office late exclaiming “So! What did I miss?” It’s performance of an ideal self, who is not afraid, and not embarrassed, and not ashamed. You could argue that the real me is not that. You could argue that this is front, to shield the cowering real me, who broods when struck or reproached or found wanting.
You could argue that. I prefer to think that it’s all performance, all facades. The bravado, and the cowering both. They’re all stances and reactions. And if the loud persona banishes the quiet persona for a few hours a day, there’s a reason for it. It feels alive. It feels vindicated.
It sure as hell feels like me.