I used to have a certain kind of distaste for men in perfectly tailored suits. The well positioned cufflinks, the perfectly angled tie, the shiny shoes. All of it. Whenever I’d be around such men, I’d notice myself changing. I stiffen up. If I happen to be out having coffee with one of them, I start saying things like, “may I be excused, I need to use the lavatory to powder my nose” and “what pleasant weather.” I, all of a sudden, become a character from Mad Men. I may even occasionally stop to notice and check if I’m playing my newly appointed part well, that of the sophisticated modern gal. I’d manage it, maybe for 30 minutes. After which point, I’d have to bid adieu.
I could never really articulate why I felt this way. Was I intimidated by well dressed and competent men? (Why would I assume they were competent?) Did I somehow feel inferior in their presence? Why so much prejudice? I mean, I, myself, have worn suits. I might have even enjoyed doing it a time or two.
In early 2018, I vowed to fully embrace authenticity, to become more honest with myself and those around me. This meant, I needed to first acknowledge that I do a lot of bullshitting on the daily – much less than average it turned out – but a lot of bullshitting nonetheless. And something funny happens when you decide to completely stop bullshitting, you start seeing how much of it happens around you all the time – the pretense, the white lies, the lies through omission… It’s everywhere. But, Interestingly enough, being hyper aware of this reality didn’t make me disheartened or judgmental of others or myself in any way. It somehow made me more understanding, even compassionate, dare I say.
You see, there’s a certain level of delusion that one must possess in order to go through life reasonably intact. A certain level of forgetfulness is of paramount importance. You sprinkle in denial, then you’ve achieved success. We’ve turned bullshitting ourselves and others daily, into an art… “I don’t need a man” you think, as your heart bleeds dreaming of his touch. “I’ve done my best” you say, as you click “next” on the episode. “How selfish could she be?” you mutter, as you see past her questioning gaze… The thing is these small and “insignificant” lies serve a purpose. They free us from potential failure, from responsibility, from facing the Goliath within our souls. These lies are also relatively easy and seemingly inconsequential – never have I been struck by lightening for sweeping my shit under the rug or burying my head under the sand. But of course the repercussions remain: the nagging anxiety, the resentment, the un-articulated anger… these things will slowly and continuously chip at your soul – one word, one gesture, one act at a time, someday render you completely and utterly lost.
Then. Then, there are the ideas we’ve collectively constructed: the identities, cultures and ideologies we so fervently hold on to. These ideas, we so desperately need to give our lives meaning and significance. These ideas inform us, quite subtly, of who we are, what we should value, what we should achieve. I mean, who am I, if not the strong independent woman I, so perfectly, picture in my mind? If not the athlete I fancy myself to be? Have I really lived well at all If I haven’t ticked every box – the money, the career, the house, the car, the husband, and the 2.5 kids? Do I even really matter lest others know of my name and speak often of my worth? … Weirdly enough, these ideas, I respect. These ideas have helped us build families, communities and nations. They have provided us structure, security and purpose. These ideas are what get us out of bed each morning, drive us to achieve the impossible and keep us hopeful in our quest to achieve that ever illusory thing called happiness. But, – there’s always a but, – how *real* are they really?
… I do not know.
Some days I wonder if what we’ve done is construct a beautiful, awe inspiring, lie. Some days I think of how we’ve somehow ended up in this world having never provided consent and will leave it as such. But, now that we’re already here, with a perplexing innate need to remain here – and to do so with some level of sanity – what choice do we have but to delude, forget and deny? How else could we face the reality we were born into? “The real world is simply too terrible to admit” writes Ernest Becker, “it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die…” What other choice did we have but to construct this alternative reality, a reason for our existence, a thing to get us through the day and back? Becker continues, “Culture changes all of this, makes man seem important, vital to the universe. Immortal in some ways…”
Thus, my distaste of tailored suits. It was never really the men, the men I found beautiful, even alluring. It was the lie the suit represented that I wanted to run away from. The suit brought up in my head what Soren Kierkegaard termed the “automatic cultural man” a man confined by culture, a slave to it. Concerning himself of only achieving the goals which were designed by the constructed world, constantly hiding within it… because stepping out, risks too much. It risks anxiety and depression, even insanity. It’s only the courageous that look outside the construct *knowing* there’s something deeper, more *real*, out there. Trusting their gut that *this* can’t be all there is. And I, so desperately, wanted to be of the courageous… I wanted to be of those who found true freedom while existing within this limited world, even thriving in it. I wanted to be of those who prioritized Truth over security. I, so desperately, wanted to be of those rare, beautiful and delightful spirits who walk to the beat of their own souls and not the chant of the masses.
How I wish.