Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Being and Doing

If there’s a single phrase that suggests in our common language that we perform ourselves, it is “out of character.” If we do or say something that is not typical, we hear, “That’s not like you.”

I like performing, but I also like my time as the center of attention to be limited. I really, really enjoyed doing THE HEART OF A DOG with Andy. I loved teaching. But I don’t want everyone looking at me all the time. I like the anonymity of being a guy in the city and not having to worry about someone recognizing me. And if they did, it’d be basically just a novelty anyway. Jonathan West, former artistic director of Bialystock & Bloom and current managing director at Sunset Playhouse, once had someone recognize him in a coffee shop. Said fan was so enthusiastic about whatever she’d seen him in, that she gesticulated his coffee right on to his computer.

See? A little anonymity goes a long way.

I did something screwy to my knees yesterday, and today I’m walking around in constant mild pain. It’s more of a drag than anything else, but combined with whatever was bothering my stomach, I felt like hell by the time we were heading back from the dog park this morning. Lisa commented that my eyes looked glassy.

I can’t perform that – glassy eyes. I can limp, or I can try not to. I can hide some symptoms but not others. I can be sick without acting sick. When we feel like it, we recognize that there’s a qualitative, existential difference between someone who is an asshole, and someone who is just acting like one. My father-in-law has a list of several of these people.

This is the “low affect” question with Anthony. For me, at least. How much of his depression is performed and symptomatic, and how much is generated by his body? The tremors, the tics, those are all symptoms of the disease – or, I don’t know, maybe the drugs that are supposed to be alleviating other things. Anthony is not like anyone I’m used to. He’s articulate and can talk immediately about his lack of threshold between complacency and anger. And because he’s articulate I expect him to be able to do something about it, and I watch as he snaps from complacency to anger, unable to do more than observe behavior in himself that he doesn’t like.

It’s not that the performed “sick” is less true. If I don’t limp, then my performance is a lie by not indicating my discomfort. There’s no more inherent relation between performance and truth than there is between words and truth. We can lie or convince in all kinds of ways.

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One response

  1. clickerbug

    arg. The past three posts have got me thinking a LOT. I can’t hold back any longer.

    1) I did not expect that you would reveal that you’ve had a vasectomy in a blog. I guess I thought you were acting “out of character” … although I don’t know you well enough to know what “in character” fully encompasses. I would have guessed that such a story would be reserved for close friends, not be broadcast to the public. Why? Because of other cues I thought you’ve given that seem to indicate a desire for privacy, “anonymity.” Close friends expect more personal information. The general public expects a wall around personal issues (although it definitely appreciates the opportunity for voyeurism).

    Which raises the question about friendship that has buggered me for years: who is entitled to know what? Does granting someone the title of “friend” automatically create an obligation to let them know everything about us? Some private information is too mundane to be made public. Who really wants to know the “brushing-teeth” me? Other information is extremely juicy, the stuff of tabloids. Do we deserve to know all private information just because we’re friends with someone? What are the limits on privacy?

    2) It has been said that some people lead “double lives.” Is such a thing really possible, given that we can physically only lead one life at a time, and given that we are constantly playing different roles? Tiger Woods is entitled to keep information about his sex life with his wife private. Why are we entitled to know when his sex life includes other people? If we expect his behavior to be “THIS,” and then later we find that he’s consistently acted “out of character” (in other words, in a role he chose not to make public), has he done something he has no right to do? Are we expected to make all roles public to all people?

    3) What are our obligations to friends? Should we limit who gets the “friend” label so that we can fulfill all our obligations to them all? Or can two people be “friends” but have fewer obligations to each other? Do we choose which friend we send a card to vs. which friend we drive five (seven) hours to visit based on different criteria? Or do all people labeled “friend” get the same treatment?

    Ack, I’ll stop now.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:46 am

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