To say I struggle with authenticity would be an understatement. The closest I get toward emotional vulnerability and that bizarre thing called sharing is a form of emotional exhibitionism -- it seems that no matter how hard I try to let someone in, all I end up doing is just pulling all my shit out and making it a spectacle. A monument of some kind. I understand the frustration of trying to get closer to someone who can't stop performing for everyone. It's not that I don't want to, but that I don't know how to. Making it a performance makes it safe, creates a distance between me and the subject of the performance. I'm at my best when I'm performing, because, safe in that 'this is just for show' net, I can finally stop holding myself together, stop selecting the 'appropriate' response and just revel in the uglier emotions I don't want associated with me.
Maybe you realised what was going on that time when I broke down in the nightclub -- I wasn't planning on doing that of course -- not everything I do is premeditated -- but the moment you leaned in and asked me if something was wrong -- I would be lying if I said that everything from that moment on was a genuine response. I was always watching your reaction. It was always under control. It sounds so inhuman, but this is how I am human. There is no level where I am completely acting without any awareness of the affect I am having on you; there is no point when I am not making conscious choices regarding how to continue behaving. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen when I started acting out, breaking things, tearing things apart. I knew exactly what sort of reaction I wanted from you when I drew you in and whispered 'my secrets' to you in the dark. I was performing vulnerability for you -- there was real fear, real vulnerability inside me at that moment, but what you got wasn't the real deal. I couldn't go that far. I gave you a different, altered version and you responded just the way I though you would -- but then something happened that I didn't anticipate: I started crying.
I do surprise myself sometimes and in those moments, I utterly terrify myself. I slip outside of my own control. You see, on the inside, where you can't possibly see, I'm not together at all. I'm completely raw and I know it and I fear it. I'm all nerve-endings and electrical jolts and this swirling cloud of responses. You see me staring out the window, you notice I suddenly fall silent during dinner, you wonder where I am when I sit next to you in a taxi and eyes seem to be staring into the distance and my face an unreadable mask -- I am here, on the inside. I am submerged in that rioting sea and there is nothing here which can be communicated -- there is no experience I can share with you because nothing here is linear, nothing here approximates a shape or even the shadow of something which I can at least trace with words; everything is in revolt, there is no order, much less a simplicity of experience which I can convey in words and gestures. I'm aware of the dichotomy of what you see and what I know and I can't break that down because how terrifying would that be? Nothing makes sense here and yet in life, we have to make sense and so in taking small trace elements of my 'authentic self' (which is not so much a self at all, but a roaring, boiling sea, unbounded and never still), both of us (the performer and the audience) get to interact with something bounded, something rational, something defined.
What am I trying to say? Maybe just this: those first tears were real. Unexpected and surprising. What came after wasn't -- that became a performance, studied for the effect I wanted to produce in you. Oh, it was still real though. The real and artificial are not so easily distinguished. Before I do something, before I write it or speak it or act it out, I often rehearse it several times in my head. Even now I'm re-reading my words, rephrasing them in my head, asking myself just what it is I want to convey to you and how best to do so. Even now I'm thinking about what I want you to know of me, what is this picture of me I want to build in your head, what can I not let you know, what must I (MUST, you see -- an imperative) mislead you about, what must I distort or misrepresent, or should I say, re-represent? But I don't want you to dismiss everything I do and am because of this -- you can't dismiss everything because of this studied process, because the impulse to tell you this, the impulse to write at all -- this impulse surprises me, much like those tears surprised me.
I feel torn between self-preservation and self-destruction. I want to reach you, the 'I' inside and not the 'I' produced, but I cannot reach you without destroying the 'I' produced (which holds me together). This is the closest I can let you come for now. Notice the anonymity of this letter to you, notice its public posting. I realise that I'm doing it again -- I'm taking something private (what I want to communicate to you, a designated individual with a name) and making it public -- I'm pushing you away until you're part of the audience to a message board posting, which is a faceless, nameless mass. Trust me, I lament this instinct of mine, I hate it, I loathe it and yet, I cannot be without it. I'm making you indistinguishable from everyone else; I'm could be saying you are just an audience for me -- YOU are not significant, what is significant is that you watch me; you are just a face in the crowd and I sing and dance for you because your eyes are on me. I say this with my actions, I know -- yet, this is what I want you to know: I want YOUR eyes on me, not just anyone's. They can look and I am indifferent to them, but I am hoping that YOU are looking. I produce myself so that you will look, that your eyes will fall upon me and watch me. When all is said and done, that is all I can really offer you: the knowledge that I am aware of you gaze, I am your performer, and I invent myself for you. Your gaze eclipses them all.
(I just needed to get that off my chest and into writing.)