Monthly Archives: June 2011

Truth Be Told

            Polonius
tells his son Leartes, “To thy own self be true.”  Sounds like great advice.  The problem is Shakespeare is too much
of a genius to make anything easy. 
Polonius is a longwinded, pompous parental figure at best, a deceptive,
self-serving lackey at worst.  So
taking his advice at face value is about as wise as believing Lady Veronica on
the Psychic Network.  But even
psychics and fools stumble upon wisdom and truth on occasion.  So where does that leave Leartes?  Well, running off to France, actually.  For those of us with smaller trust
funds and less tolerance for underarm hair, we’re left contemplating shades of
meaning.

            I’m
a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, but I wouldn’t show up in such an outfit for
an interview or a first date.  I
also wouldn’t share that I sometimes swear like a trucker and enjoy children’s
cereal, multi-colored marshmallows and all.  And I’d probably outright lie in an interview if asked what
the last book I read was–no school wants to advertise its middle school English
teacher likes racy fantasy romance novels.  There are rules of etiquette and certain expectations that
we’re just expected to meet in life. 
And we do, with no real worries about whether we’re selling ourselves
out, even if they require a few white lies or omissions of truth.  Employers, dates, and new acquaintances
not only tolerate these half-truths, they expect them.  So we play the game, even though I’m
quite certain any observant potential employer or partner only needs to see me
teeter a few feet in a pair of pumps to know my preferred footwear is neither
heeled nor pointy.  And one look at
my bookshelves is all that would be required to deduce I like my fictional men
tall, buff, and fanged.

            So
when does giving people what they want to see and hear turn into being
disingenuous to who we are?  We all
have unique qualities that certain types of people will be put off by: our
values, our sense of independence, the way we interact with people, what makes
us laugh, or what makes us cringe. 
If someone were to ask me at an interview how important professional
dress is to me, should I lie? 
Frankly, though I like to look nice, I don’t think I’d be a better
teacher if I wore suits or skirts more often.  Considering how often I like to plop onto the floor to work
with a group of kids, such clothing would probably actually hinder my teaching
style–and that is part of who I truly am, not just a surface level quirk I
could easily toss aside.  If a
potential employer, or date, or friend values something trivial over who I
really am and what I have to offer as a person, they’re not who I want to work
for, date, or be friends with anyways. 

            Like
too many women, I spent nearly all of my adolescence, and much too much of my
twenties, worrying about being what the rest of the world wanted me to look like
or act like.  Where did that get
me?  Not far; I have a closet full
of “sexy, feminine” shoes I can’t walk more than ten feet in.  Since then I’ve filled my remaining
closet space with flip flops, flats, and sneakers.  In those shoes, my shoes, I’ve taken the trip to study
abroad that I was too intimidated to take in college, have written two novels
after I had almost given up seeing myself as a writer, and have become so lost
in the joy of holding my best friend’s baby that for that moment I stopped
worrying about when I’d have my own. 
I’ve learned to accept my own plodding pace and have gone farther at
thirty-one than I ever could have at eighteen or twenty-five when I was too concerned with keeping up with the crowd.

            In
case you forgot, near the end of
Hamlet,
Polonius hides himself in an arras and ends up dead, mistaken for someone he’s
not.  This time I think Shakespeare
made the lesson a tad more apparent, though perhaps a little melodramatic.  No one’s likely to die for selling
out.  Then again, they might just
miss out on a lot of living.

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Profiles in Courage

            If
you’re single, or if you just have a few poor single fools, uh, friends, left
out there, you know that when it comes to dating, it’s brave new world.  For all my spiky jewelry and witty
sarcasm, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a coward in this area.  If dating is a game, as so many
(obviously married) people like to refer to it, I’ve been happily warming the
bench with the lion from Oz and the little nose picker whose dad thought sports
would toughen him up.  I’ve written
before about how tough it is to send my writing out into the world and watch
the rejection letters come trickling back.  But as I said then, at least I could learn from those.  I could rewrite, revise, or, worse comes
to worse, start again.  When it’s
you you’re sending out into the world, it’s even scarier.  Short of undergoing more plastic
surgeries than the Barbie wanna-be featured on Inside Edition, I can’t rewrite
myself.  I can however rewrite my
profile–again, and again, and again–until my 4000 characters perfectly capture
my essence, or at least amuse another poor single fool taking a shot at online
dating.

            Truly,
these profiles are what make dating sites hilarious.  If you’ve never been on one, find a friend who is and spend
a few hours reading what people write on there.  It’s far better than Prozac, especially if you’re lucky
enough to be in a serious relationship. 
As a “female searching for males,” I can only view guys’
profiles, but there is plenty there to keep me amused.  For instance, I never knew how many
single men in the Massachusetts area enjoyed walking on the beach.  Really, I spend all summer on the
beaches of the Cape.  If there were
that many singles guys walking the coastline, they should be washing up at my
feet like dead horseshoe crabs in August. 
And then there is the plethora of men who love serious conversation,
which, as a woman, I define as conversation involving the sharing of values,
emotions, and/or desires.  As a
writer and just an all-around nosy person, I listen in on a lot of
conversations, and I grew up crashing my older brother’s parties and
eavesdropping on everyone I could. 
There were lots of heated conversations–usually concerning sports or
politics, and nearly always following heavy drinking, but other than the
occasional drunken, “I love you, man,” I wouldn’t have qualified any of them as
open outpourings of one’s soul.  It
seems being online, in an environment where the chance of your best friends
reading your profile and questioning your manliness is slim, makes guys
braver.  Sometimes, this is a good
thing.  I find it endearing when a
guy can admit to being a geek or liking to cuddle.  Other times these guys (and girls, I’m sure) would do better
to remember that someone is out there reading these profiles and trying to
glean a first impression.  It’s all
about marketing yourself–carefully. 
Saying you’re close to your family, great.  Admitting you’re a momma’s boy, not a turn on.  One attempt at a serious, sexy, or
thoughtful pose for a picture, intriguing.  Using the wink and finger gun pose in every picture (all of
which you clearly took of yourself), disturbing.

            Alright,
so I can only chide these people because I know my own profile is hideous.  No one can manage to write about
themselves and sound sincere, but not pompous; funny, but not obnoxious;
intelligent, but not bookish; and compassionate, but not sappy, all in one
paragraph.  So what you end up with
is something between a cliché Hallmark card and poorly executed stand-up
routine.  The best you can hope for
is that someone of the opposite sex will read your profile and chuckle, able to
read between the lines of the ridiculousness enough to catch of glimpse of who you
really are.  Most often, I’m
willing to give a guy the benefit of the doubt in hopes that a few good men will do
the same for me.  I may not be
called to the Kennedy Center anytime soon, but at least I’m willing to step up
to the plate, and I’m thankful for the brave souls of the other gender who are
willing to do the same.  Play ball!

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