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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Faking it

Yes, we’ve all been guilty of it, at one time or another

These days whenever I get together with friends, we seem to end up reminiscing about our misspent youth. Most of the stories are unprintable, so I will spare your blushes. But there was one that I found particularly funny so I’m going to share it with you.

This friend of mine – who shall remain unnamed, needless to say – went off to study at an American university after college. This was his first time abroad, so his family hooked him up with some old friends who lived nearby, so that he could spend a week or so with them before setting up home on his own.

He arrived at the airport, bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, to be confronted with a vision in pink at the airport. This was the 20-year-old daughter of the house, all long blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and a cleavage in which he could imagine spending the rest of his life in.

They hit it off on the drive home, she sat with him talking late into the night after dinner, and he thought he had died and gone to heaven. Some time in the early hours, the two of them said a chaste goodnight to one another and went to bed.

But given the fantasies chasing one another in my friend’s head, he couldn’t really sleep. So, an hour later, he got up and went to use the bathroom.

The first thing he saw as he entered was a large bottle of peroxide. Aha, so her hair wasn’t really blonde, he thought to himself. Well, okay, that’s not so bad.

Then, as he was washing his hands at the sink, his eyes fell upon two small jars filled with liquid. Inside each of them swam a bright blue contact lens. Um, so the eyes weren’t blue either. No big deal, he said to himself.

He wiped his hands on the washcloth and turned around to leave. And then, from the corner of his eye he saw a large contraption hanging from the laundry line. It was pink, it was lacy, and it was heavily padded. Yes, that cleavage he had been lusting after all evening existed only by the grace of foam rubber.

Even 20 years later, my friend’s chagrin was palpable as he related this story to us. “What I don’t understand,” he said bitterly, ignoring our gales of laughter, “is why all this false advertising? What is the point of pretending to be something you’re not? You’re only going to disappoint people once they find out the truth.”

All jokes aside, though, my friend does have a point. False advertising serves no real purpose. The truth has an inconvenient way of slipping out from behind the façade you have created. And of course people feel let down when they are confronted with reality.

But who among us hasn’t been guilty of this at some point in our lives? Which of us can deny pretending to be something or someone we are not? At one time or another, all of us have resorted to false advertising to get a date, get a job, or just get ahead.

We all have masks we present to the world in the hope of being perceived as better than we really are. It is part of human nature to try to be put the best face on things, even if that face is not our own.

If you think about it, there aren’t that many people whom you really allow to see the real you. For everyone else, you put on one disguise or another.

It starts with the smallest of details and goes on to consume the bigger stuff. And before we know it, we have a fully-formed persona that we assume for the benefit of others.

We dress up when we go out for dinner. We slather on our make-up before we leave the house. We assume our best manners when we are meeting someone for the first time. We groom ourselves before we head out for a job interview.

We laugh at jokes we don’t find funny. We pretend to be happy when we’re not. We act interested when we are anything but. We pretend to love something we absolutely loathe.

In fact, I can’t think of a situation in which we don’t fake it on occasion.

The truth is that it is a very human instinct to want to project an idealized image of ourselves to the world. An image which makes us seem better, brighter, more beautiful, more desirable than we really are. An image that makes everyone like us just a little bit more.

Not all of us may want to be seen as busty blue-eyed blondes like the girl in my friend’s story, but we all have an ideal that we aspire to. And it’s that ideal that we project to the world.

We know that this is an illusion that cannot last forever, that it is a bubble that will burst soon enough. But even a pretence of perfection often makes us feel better about ourselves – no matter how fleetingly.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you - honesty is much better than pretending to be who we aren't. It's so much simpler to be liked, accepted, loved and valued just the way one is.

Anubha Gujral said...

Hi Seema, brilliant take on another dimension of this strange human psyche. Are you a trained psychologists or you love reading behavioral patterns?

My daughter's teacher asked her what is more important "inner beauty" or "outer beauty" (I wonder what was the dire need to grill a 11 year old tender mind on a touchy topic) but I found my daughter's reply rather amusing (pardon my biases)

She said, "Inner beauty is non-negotiable, it is like fish without water. We all must posses all the good virtues, manners & be a nice citizen, child in this world and work for a larger cause to repay the universe. But then it is very important to be beautiful from the outside too, because only once someone is attracted to your physical appearance will they notice how beautiful a person you are. The outer beauty could be you good mannerisms, your voice, your smart personality, confidence or a very pretty face among many things falling under the same category.

I believe we all like to accepted and hate rejection of any form, even if its as silly as someone not replying to your tweet. It is human need to be socially accepted and sometimes we are too desperate & do silly things like faking up, lying or even becoming doormat to please the other person. I've a very bad habit of not saying "NO" which costs me heavily sometimes as some people walk all over me. I am speaking in defense for such people, but then like you said being fake doesn't take you very far.

Seema Goswami said...

@anubha Your daughter is one smart kid! I am so impressed!
Thanks so much for sharing that story with me.

Ranjana said...

Hi seema,
amazing take on the psyche and it is true that we all do it, otherwise the vulnerable side of ours is projected. The assumption is that once the advertisement hits,the idealized projection is liked,the actual product stands a chance. We all try to set ourselves apart from the rest in some way, the important part definitely, is to know where do draw the line, where the truth completely gets overwhelmed, and where we loose ourselves in a projection that is not truly us