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Appearance is everything…

Submitted by Laura Horton on July 6, 2010 – 6:30 pmComments

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I have a friend who admits to faking the occasional phone call.  She claims it to be an alternative to talking to herself, which she’s not opposed to doing, per se, but it garners more than a handful of interested passerbys.  A phone call, well, at least she appears not to be a lunatic, right?

This conversation came up at a dinner table recently, and the discussion eventually led to all the things we do so as not to appear desperate, lonely, crazy, etc.  One friend mentioned that she enjoys the occasional meal alone, but doesn’t sit in comfortable ignorance of neighbors’ curious glances unless she has something to read.  For this reason, among other “more legitimate” ones, she always carries a newspaper, a novel AND a magazine.  (That’s just all too much weight to add to my already obese bag, but, you know, to each her own.)

Another girl admitted to wearing a ring on her left hand that could be interpreted as an engagement ring.  It’s not, and she’d never actually lie and say that she’s engaged, but she likes letting other people believe it when she’s not in the mood to deal with being hit on.

We all dedicate hours of our day to affecting how others see us: make-up, outfit, workout plan (and to all that brouhaha about doing it to feel good about yourself: yes, I buy it, but you’re feeling good about yourself because you’re worrying less about how others may perceive you, so big ‘ole loop right back to square one).  There are days when I would not leave bed were it not that I felt mildly judged by my roommates for staying in it.

But here’s the point, boiled down and saved for the last paragraph: I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with being motivated by fear of judgment or desire to not draw attention to yourself.  We draw power from how we are perceived (I could refer you to a few political essays on Hobbes, but I’ll spare you), so whatever internal process is happening is entirely irrelevant.  If you can feel comfortable sitting alone without reading material to disappear into, I salute you.  But if it makes you uncomfortable, there’s no shame in a superficial fix.

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