In my review of Seraphina I wrote “I never feel like I’m being honest with the world, everything is a dance performed so I am not shunned”, and someone wrote in to ask me 1. How did you learn to do this, and 2. How do you feel ok about doing it (or the need to do it).
I learned, eventually, because all of society is bent to making one learn this. I don’t feel special in this regard, I assume nearly everyone in the world has the same experience. But when something is that ubiquitous, it’s not really all that interesting to talk about, right? “Hey Bob. How’s the sky, still blue? You eating food, drinking water? How about that.”
I learned by watching my parents drive home from church, fighting, yelling. Sometimes consoling my mother when she broke down. Then hosting a dinner party where everything is great. You don’t let outsiders see problems. It makes you weak.
I learned by growing up in a strict household, with rules I couldn’t abide. When I was young, I would sneak around to watch Saturday Morning Cartoons (which was forbidden). I couldn’t not watch Captain N. But I had to do it quietly, never letting on that earlier in the day I’d been breaking the rules. It was stressful, and sometimes my parents were already awake and I couldn’t pull it off that day.
On the playgrounds, I often pretended I knew what kids were talking about when we played whatever movie or TV show was currently popular. Basically it’s just running around anyway. And I didn’t want to be left out.
I learned to always, always be performing from my religion. Maybe the irreligious have times when they can let their guard down, when they don’t have to play any role for anyone. But those with an omnipresent god who take their faith seriously are NEVER without an audience. Every waking moment you are on display, being watched and judged.
I did not have many friends growing up. I was performing for authority figures—parents and God—rather than peers. It was a very hard switch to make, and it took me quite a ways into my adulthood. But now I’ve adapted, and my life outcomes have drastically improved since I started performing masculinity. It isn’t even all that hard, and the rewards are myriad.
Learning to perform isn’t too hard, everyone is willing to teach you. They can’t help it. Watch what makes people smile, or laugh. What makes them want to engage with you, rather than wince and move away. It actually feels good. Just make sure these people are the kinds of people you WANT to perform for. I never perform religiosity, for example. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where I don’t have to.
When you actually fit in, many of the rewards are self-generated. At least they are for me, and I suspect most people are hard-wired to feel pleasure naturally from such a situation. Intellectually, sure, maybe it’s a bit appalling. But so is almost everything about life in a physical reality, if you look at it the right way.
I prefer to find the roles that best fit me whenever possible. The Enthusiastic Geek is a fun one. And when possible, I try to stay with the audience/friends I most like to perform with. Because ultimately, we’re all performing together, for each other. And every now and then if a mask slips, your friends are the ones who are most happy to nod, smile, and keep playing along.