I’m going through my first two weeks in a brand new school. This means that there has been a lot of meet-and-greet, lots of activation of the smile muscles, lots of enthusiasm, and a conscious suppression of fart jokes, sarcastic comments, and any perceivable “negativity”.
Sometimes I wonder if that means we’re all “faking it”, pretending to be more perfect creatures than we actually are, striving to be thought of in the most favorable terms. Of course, if that’s what is happening, it’s very understandable. I like fart jokes (farts are funny!), but obviously it would be inappropriate to share that with everybody I meet, the first time I meet them. So I self-censor. Moreover, if there’s pretense, then there’s a natural end to it. As Hawthorne so memorably wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” Most of us are not master Januses, so however consciously we try, we can’t be forever “cool”. So, not least for being short-lived, any initial duplicity is forgivable.
Is it preferable? While this may be the most arrogant expression of self we’ve dreamed of, we want to be liked “for who we are”. Among other things, I want to tell friends fart jokes and see if they have any new materials to add to my repertoire. So why not tell my classmates, people with whom I want to be friends, the jokes to being with? Is it cowardice, or is it civility? Is it simply patience? Does the process of matching, whether that be in the labor market with employers and employees, in the dating scene with single, interested parties, or in a lecture hall with 75 new faces, simply take time?
This is not even touching on the question of whether there is even such a thing as authenticity of self. Do we only have one “self”? Isn’t it arguable that we’re instead fractured images bouncing off faceted mirrors? I am only one person, but I am not to my boss as I am to my oldest friends. He wouldn’t wish me to be, and it is for the best. With all that said, I can’t wait to have library friends already. The jokes are piling up!