The price of pretense

I’m in my mid thirties. Can I tell you something? It’s weird to think of. Often, I have what I call “pause moments”. Those, take a look in the bathroom and gaze at yourself naked and imperfect, assessing every parcel to the last iota spells- and it baffles me. I’ve hit what at one time seemed an insurmountable number. I often remember my mom, lecturing me when my grades where subpar in school and saying the following; ” What do you want to see when you’re grown up and looking in the mirror?” Such a statement evokes a load of layers and meaning and some levels of snark. All cynicism aside, I’m not displeased with what I see. I see a slender though healthy individual. I have the deep set smokey eyes of my Latin ancestors, mixed with Cherokee and Aztec to my mothers side, the strong jawline and pronounced features of my Northern Italian brethren on my father’s side. I have my great grandfathers thinning hairline, sadly ( as a receipt on my countertop proudly announcing ” Rogain” gleefully illustrates) as well as the coordination of a daft lemur ( If you were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to cartwheel ,you may as well dig my grave right there.)

Self depreciating ironies and observations aside, I’ve come to a place in my life where I genuinely like myself. It’s not an emotion born of smugness or conceit. I call my flaws and my virtues into order and I assess them one by one- and make peace. There’s alot of have to learn in this life and much I have learned and I’m grateful for that, believe you me.

What’s the point of this musing?

Well I speak of being genuine. Knowing what you are and where you come from. One of my heroes, Jane Fonda, once said “to know where you’re going, you must know where you’ve been”. Truer words were never spoken. One thing I personally see to have, and this may resonate with you as well, is a genuine persona. Someone without pretense,mask veil or otherwise. Now I know in the creative stew in which I used to swim, pretense is tantamount to hustle. You can’t showcase venerability too much when you have an image to cultivate and works to ply. Fully understood. But at what point does and person drop the pretense and simply –be? You don’t need a personalty when this mask you carved out for yourself is the loudest thing in the room-and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I have to say that when you spend alot of time with true individuals, spending time for people who are vainglorious ego shills is unbearable. Let me give you an example. A few years ago, when I was sauntering in and out of the poetic scene, a new host appeared at the resident open mic I frequented. Now I won’t name this guy, though truthfully I don’t think he would notice moreover-care. In any case, I met this him one night and there was something about him I just could not jive with. I felt it instinctively. You know when you’re sick and its a slight tickle in the back of your throat and you just know it’s leading to something?

It was unmistakable . I’m sorry to say, he wasted little time proving me right. As time passed, this person spread more and more of his influence. Nights of meaning and hard truth became filled to overflowing with pseudo wisdom and debased spiritual jargon and part time yogis. I remember standing in the corner watching all this foolishness take place and feeling disappointment. How could so many be so seduced by such obvious facade? I wasn’t buying it and furrowed my brow at those who did, people whose ideas once meant something to me, having been transported by art and song- buying into nonsense, from a snakeoil salesman slathered in patchouli oil and hemp with a shit eating grin. It was maddening. As the weeks went by I saw more and more of my friends heed his pied pipers call and dance under his sway. Suddenly legions of my friends where adapting henna tattoos and telling me about my aura color. Instead of deep personal conversations on passion and dreams or fears and revelations, people began to form “hug circles” and “cuddle puddles”. These monstrosities of superfluous fluff were often accompanied by hippie drum circles carried in the dead of night on our dry lake bed. Kind of a wanna be witches sabbat only instead of rituals and calling the dead, it was DMT and molly infused orgies carried out in borrowed Target tents. These weren’t high spiritual nights. There were drug induced cacophonous keggers of baseless noise. Through all of this, our burlap donning, ever grinning lord of chaos himself carried on while his loaded lemmings wasted into oblivion pounded drums to call the night- or God or Zeus or Satan- depending on what kind of drugs they were wasted on.

Nothing like synthetic devotion. I hated him. I hated how I saw right through him, and nobody else seemed to. All the way down to his oily second hand Birkenstocks. Nothing but a spiritual shyster who hijacked a great scene and mind fucked the gullible- WHY could nobody see this? What is the MATTER with you all?!

Then, something happened.

He just drifted away. Little by little. People spoke less of him, his presence became less obvious and in a year or so’s time, apart from the occasional spotting at an event, he faded. Friends began to tell me of how superficial he was and how he was nothing like he said. I relinquished the urge to say , “I told you so”, and his influence eventually faded from memory and he became a blip on the radar. Now, in retrospect, I seem to have been rather hard on this individual. I mean, there was no need to hate him. I admit, I must have had some envy. Still-where was it rooted? Jealously? That he was finding something I had yet to? That he held sway and people sought to be around him? That he was crafting an identity for himself I sought to manifest? I would say it’s only half true. I feel the backlash truthfully came from people stepping away and seeing how vacant this all was. A sabbatical can be a blessing and I truly encourage them if you aren’t feeling very certain of something, or someone-if of course you have the time.

The final nail I feel with all of this is that transparency eventually became too apparent and it eventually turned folks off. When a person comes to you feeling true anguish, they dont want a long winded overzealous , passively domineering hug. They want a friend. They want to talk. When you’ve had a lousy day at work or a fight with a loved one, you don’t want a “cuddle puddle”, you want to look someone in the eyes and know really and truly you are cared for. You want a smile and security. What this all boils down to, is that facades, like mandalas- fade. And like a lying Pinocchio, they grow and grow until they become blindingly obvious. In the end, I ask you- what’s the point? Survival? Okay. Popularity? Perhaps- though not exactly noble and not at all lasting.

Granted this person I used as an example is long gone , and I don’t follow him on my scant social media. I do wish him well and looking back and knowing what I know know, I should have been a little more understanding that, he like many of us was “seeking himself”, or something to that effect. My ire lay with the fact he dragged so many down with him and in all honesty that’s something I’m still not completely over. I’m a project- laden with flaws-ever changing. We all are. It all comes back to what my mother said to me many moons ago.

“How do you want to see yourself when you’re grown up?”

-and I in turn ask you the same thing, reader.

What’s it going to be? You’re genuine self, an imperfect work in progress, ever changing- or- an egocentric circus act, that, like all performances, loses its crowd and eventually-leaves town?

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