In my article Virtual RelationShaping we discussed how we deal with each other in the real and the virtual.
Over the weekend we revisited some of the arguments in that article in my Fining Sacramento Kings Bad Taste piece where I said this in a comment:

I think when behavior is tamped down in public it gives rise to dirtier and nastier exploitations in private. One could make an argument that the public expression of a distasteful thought needs the public correction of the majority in order for perception and a frame of reference to be constructed around it for a continued socialized series of checks and balances.

When the nasty is hidden and shared only with like-minded people, terrible things happen because the light of reason is never shined upon the dark wonderings. I think we have all been numbed down by too much pressure on the perception of being wrong and wronging the whole of society in public. Making a public mistake should be fine as long as a remedy is offered and if no apology is offered then public shunning is the next appropriate step.

Transparency and evenhandedness in all situations is vital for an ongoing public discourse that may offend, that may be in bad taste, but should never be shut down because it threatens the bottom line or the constant flow of dollars between the entertained and the entertainer.


My question today is about the false and the real when it comes to your
non-virtual Public Face and Private Persona interactions.

Are you the same person at home you are in public?
Do you change your face with protective masks throughout the day? If
yes, when and how does that change happen and if not, why not?
I was raised with the common Midwestern mindset that at home you “let
loose” and exposed pieces of the real you that should never be
witnessed by those outside the family — slovenly, irritable,
non-curious — while in public you were stoic and staid — always
gracious and proper and non-clever.

My mother was raised in a small town and an entire Sunday family outing
could be ruined if others in town thought less of them while they were
“performing” by merely interacting with the other members of the
village: “Here comes Sadie!” became the whispered family battle cry
with inherent orders to stand up straight, lick your lips and make sure
the part in your hair was straight.

If Sadie thought less of you,
everyone in town thought less of you. If you pleased Sadie with a smile
then your reputation was safe until the next public encounter.

As I grew into my own person, I rejected that duality of persona as
being impossible, two-faced and, frankly, obnoxious because more value
was placed on what you pretended to be in front of others in public
instead of who you really were with your family at home.
It was a struggle to “become my own man” by rejecting that amoral and
confusing behavior between the public and private self — but I
overcame the restrictions of my childhood slowly and with caution —
and I now believe I am predictable in all being: The person you meet on
the street is the same person you get at home.

The secret to getting
there was to simply be a good person at home first.
I am no longer confusing to myself or to others I love by switching
personas behind closed doors. Some now may not like the “always me” but
that’s okay because they are making a decision based on honesty, a
unified person and a genuine effort to always remain real and unabashed.

29 Comments

  1. Hi tajuki!
    I believe deference and respect for authority are important. I do think, however, a cleaving can occur when, say, you are pulled over by a police officer and you are submissive and accepting as he hands you a $300 speeding fine and then you go home and hit your wife to dissipate your frustration over the ticket. It’s fine to be frustrated with the officer and at home as long as you are always respectful of everyone but that can be a hard practice to master.

  2. I missed the other discussion. I think we change to the faces we use because it is easy but is that right? I know I’m more friendly to strangers than I am to my own sons sometimes. I guess that’s pretty wrong.

  3. You’re brave to make that confession, clem, and I thank you for your honesty. It is difficult to always be fair and in control of how we treat everyone in our lives — especially those we claim to love most! Practice and patience — with us first — is the center of overcoming these bad habits as we relate with others.

  4. I think that I am always the same person in public as private. Mother always taught me to be that way, no matter where I was or who I was around.
    But I feel many people wear a mask when they are in the public, and never let anyone know the real them.
    And I know many people on the net, especially on public message boards, because they feel anonyms, they do not act like their self.
    I had a great aunt whom I love very much. I think the reason I cared so much for her is you always knew how she felt about you. I think most people either loved her or hated her, she never wore a mask.
    Regardless, if my great aunt loved you, she would take up for you.
    David, I’ve had a couple of speeding tickets by policemen who were real nice, but I was unable to say thank you to them, does that make me a bad person?
    For a man to go home and hit their wife because of this is crazy, but I feel assure they would hit their wife over the least little thing. I fail to see what a man gets out of doing such a thing.

  5. Hi Jerry —
    Your mother and aunt sound like wonderful people. I didn’t say you had to thank the officer for the ticket 🙂 but expressing your frustration is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to jump for joy for getting the ticket. I know some people take out their fears and aggressions on those they claim to love most. I know it doesn’t make sense but it must offer a form of satiety for some.

  6. I’m getting it now. I think it all has to do with manners. Or at least that’s what we call them out here. Be nice to those you don’t know and be yourself with those you do. Not right, really.

  7. I think I’m pretty much the same everywhere. I do know that with my husband and I working at the same place, sometimes there are issues that I’d rather discuss in a more private area of the office that he occasionally tries to discuss in front of other coworkers. We have had words about those instances, and I feel it is sometimes necessary to keep some conversations out of earshot of coworkers.
    I think it’s hard for me to have a different persona from one place to the other because I have the tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. Those who know me best comment that they can tell when something is wrong by the look on my face.
    I think that pretty much comes across in my blog as well. I can be an emotional, passionate person, and that’s just hard to hide! 😀

  8. Hi Carla!
    I agree with you! You come across totally real here there and everywhere! When you made your recent “I’m a little tipsy” blog entry — and you repeated yourself twice and you repeated yourself twice — it was charming and funny and utterly human and silly! You should ask your hubby if he feels you are precisely the same at work at and home with him.
    🙂

  9. Well, I know he’s sometimes different from one place to the other. He jokes saying that at work he’s “James,” his first name. Most people who know him call him by his middle name; therefore, when someone calls him by his first name, he automatically knows that he doesn’t know that person.
    So when he’s had a bad day and all frustrated at home I tell him, “You’re home, so tell James to go away.”

  10. Ah… now that’s interesting news about your hubby, Carla! There are personas lurking! Fascinating stuff and I thank you for sharing. It’s funny back in Nebraska everyone called me “Dave” by default and I was only “David” when I was in trouble — but here on the East Coast I am definitively always “David” and if I tell people they can call me “Dave” they look at me open-mouthed and say, “Oh, no. You’re not a ‘Dave’ you’re a ‘David.'” Whatever that means! 🙂

  11. When I was in middle school, I was reassigned to a new school for my eighth grade year, and the only kids I knew rode my bus and lived on my street. For some reason I decided before the first day of school that year that I would start going by my middle name, Dawn. I guess I wanted to make some sort of change or something. I was only 13 after all!
    Anyway, in my first period class, I was all set to correct the teacher when she called me by my first name… and then a girl whose last name was before mine was named Dawn. So I changed my mind. Heh.

  12. Heh, yeah! Funny stuff! There was a woman in one of our childhood classes who went by the name “Paige” and she decided she wanted to be called “Jennifer” and the teachers all went to great lengths to call her by her new name while everyone else just called her “Paige” because — in Nebraska, especially — if you pretend to be who you are not you are shunned and not accepted! After a month she went back to Paige.

  13. I have to say, in what I’ve read here over the past few months, I wouldn’t peg you for a “Dave” either. It’s not that you seem uptight or anything, but you’re sort of formal… well, that’s not really the right word. Perhaps it’s the scholarly/literary/creative side of you that makes “David” seem like the more proper name.
    That’s my take on it anyway! 😉

  14. Carla/Dave — What a great delight to find wackiness waiting here for me in the morning! Thank you! I don’t care what people call me — either is fine — and when I’m asked for which one I prefer I tell people I don’t care and that has the tendency to make them angry. 🙂

  15. I was just funning with the thought, but its hard to thank a policeman that gave you a speeding ticket, instead of a warning ticket, the nurse who had just stuck you with what felt like a square needle.
    The fact is I have thanked a State Trooper for being nice who did write give me a speeding ticket, back in my truck driving days, driving an average of 3000 mile per week, the speed limit being 55 MPH at the time, it was hard not to get a ticket from time to time, the law of averages was against you, and I got my share of them.
    I found most troopers to be nice, but I did run into 3 of them from 1971 to 1981 that were not very nice at all, but that may have been caused by the last person they stopped having gave them a rough time.
    In about the 7th grade a friend of mime got very mad at me about something, started calling me by my father’s name, Kelsie, I suppose he thought that would bother me very much, but it didn’t.
    Strange thing happened, everyone started calling me Kelsie, even all of my teachers. Even now after all these years, I have people who will say, I thought your given name was Kelsie, where did the Jerry come from.
    I think a person makes the name, the name does not make the person. But, I suppose all of the Hollywood types would disagree with me.

  16. Heya Jerry!
    3,000 miles a week! Wowser! Did you get much sleep? I’m not good in cars. I get bored too easily with toeing a straight line. 🙂
    Graciousness under pressure is difficult to achieve but if you can swing it you run the great advantage of soothing the other person in distress and that can make you both feel better.
    It’s funny how names can carry such weight and meaning. Perhaps I’m disconnected from it all because “Boles” was not my birth name and so I see names only as attachments without much real meaning.

  17. This was a very interesting article David!
    I am a bit late to dig this article up but I am happy I finally did!
    “Every man has three characters, that which he exhibits, that which he has and that which he thinks he has”……….said by Alphonse Karr and I wonder how true it is!
    The way I “exhibit’ myself in public, I think I am the same way in private too. Or, I prefer to think I am??? I don’t know. 😀
    I follow some ground rules both in private and public while marinating relationships – and that’s about it!

  18. Hey Katha!
    I, too, am glad you found this article. I appreciate your quote to help engage the subject matter on a deeper level.
    I am glad you work hard to be the same person at all times. That can be a tricky situation negotiation between the private and the public self.