Think about it for a moment. No artifice, no performance, no alteration of what makes you, you. Do you remember? Has it ever happened?
I think every interaction we have, every day, is performance to some extent, whether it's with strangers, colleagues, friends, relatives, lovers - something is always performed*. We carefully groom ourselves. We "dress for success". We pull our punches. We tell white lies. We pretend to enjoy things we really don't. And why? What is actually so bad about the real us?
As a woman (and I can't write from any other frame of reference), I think the performance aspect of our lives is even more pronounced. We "put on our face". We shave, wax, pluck, and dye. Our appearance, clothes, attitudes, and voices are more closely scrutinised. And the reasons why we do these things to ourselves are so internalised that we don't even think, generally, about why we do them. And if we see another woman on the street who doesn't do these things, we think there is something wrong with her, not with the society that makes these arbitrary rules.
Two recent blog posts from Natalie at Definatalie have made me think about these performances recently. In the first one, she wrote about growing her leg hair; in the second, she wrote about editing photos of herself before publishing them online. My immediate, visceral reactions were disgust at the first post and anger at the second. But when I considered them both together, as two sides of the same coin, I started analysing my reactions. I realised that I was being hypocritical, in that I was objecting to both a performance and a rejection of one.
While I don't feel like I'm currently in a headspace where I can go out in public without shaving my legs, I admire Natalie for being brave enough to do so. And I will be analysing the performance aspect of my life more closely in future.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts...
Shakespeare, As You Like It, II:vii:139-141
* Including in this blog. I write with what I think of as either my "casual blog voice" or "serious blog voice". Neither are my actual voice.