putting on a show

Go Big or Go Bust: On Putting On A Show of Being A Nice Person, Donkeys and The New Yorker

At the end of the last post before this blog was hijacked by the saga of How To Be Louise, was a ‘suggestion’ that I would finish another story:  

< < The clenched-fist-and-teeth approach to career success carried me through pretty much to this Summer. >>

Wishing I’d made some notes to know just what that was referring to, I’ll try to muddle through.  

Blame it on my childhood.  Or, as Dr. Kumar (Vedic Astrologer) would say, “Blame it on your karma!”.  Everybody’s more or less afraid of people, right?  Well, I fall squarely on the ‘more’ side of that equation.  And along with that fact, as far back as I can remember, I’ve had the feeling that it was my job to put on a show - not only a show that I wasn’t afraid but, notching it up, to make a convincing case that I really liked everyone and was an all-around ‘nice person’.  

An accepted fact of life in our house was having to hug and pretend to be at ease with distant relatives who showed up out of the blue. This was usually restricted to major holidays and I’m pretty sure all of my sisters colluded with me on that.  It was part of the deal.  We curtsied.  We passed hors d’oeuvres at our parents parties.  And we hugged old relatives who we didn’t especially know or like.  

But one afternoon, when I was at most seven years old, I distinctly remember that all of my sisters ran the other way while I walked into the belly of the beast.  We were still living on our grandparent’s farm with a large herd of Sardinian donkeys.  My mother announced that some ‘reporters’ from The New Yorker had come to write a story about the donkeys and that it would be very nice if some of us went out to meet them.  We lived over two hours from New York City in the rolling green country of Warren County, New Jersey.  I had less than no interest in New York City or The New Yorker.  I vividly remember a wave of exhaustion passing through me, my eyes rolling back in my head and the silent scream “Noooooooooo.”  “Can’t Lee (my older sister) do it?”  Lee liked to read and was always in the middle of something she couldn’t put down.  And Lee had a laboratory in the basement where she could always say she was in the middle of an experiment.  Lee definitely had some great valid excuse.  But the funny thing is, I don’t remember my mother insisting.  I remember some feeling of pushing myself.  “Aww righttt.”  I gave in, lowered my head and submitted to my fate.  I’d go meet the darn grownups and put on a show of being a nice person.

As an adult, I once saw a clipping of the account of that visit (in the 'Talk of the Town'?) It featured a little sketch of my sister Victoria and me with our hair in our eyes but I don’t even remember if we were mentioned.  Much more vividly, to the marrow of my bones, I can recall that feeling of so many more decades ago, that I was wasn't enough as I was, that I'd have to ‘rise to the occasion’ to go meet these grownups.  

Living from a tap root of the conviction of my inadequacy is what (I think) I was referring to as ‘the clenched-teeth-and-fist approach to career success’ (and to life, for that matter).  I’d like to think that that belief has been falling away for decades.  It may have taken a more decisive hit this summer ...  but only a look through those free-writing pages will jog my memory on the details. 

(to be continued)

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