January 10th, 2006


Not Keats.

Every once in awhile I get in a Beautiful Food Mood. This is the kind of mood that sometimes results in hours in the kitchen chopping and roasting and kneading and generally making a mess. I don't really have the energy for big-time mess-making today, so I fell into sort of a produce-induced trance-state instead. I found myself wiggling over the almost-peppery smell of the grapefruits at Byerly's, and I sang "haricots verts" to the tune of "Nottingham Ale" for the rest of the shopping expedition. (Very quietly under my breath.) (No veggie on earth cooks like haricots verts.) The produce will require very little energy on my part to taste most excellent. I will probably hum to myself while I eat it, too. I get like that. I am not really much of a sucker for artificial packaging in food, but the appearance of produce gets me every time. Also I get ideas of what is the right thing to have. This time it was strawberry ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. The people who make ice cream with liquid nitrogen have my business anyway (it's SO GOOD), but suddenly strawberry was just It.

Also there was a black leather miniskirt online for 75% off; what was a girl to do? It was only available in my theoretical size. I was looking for a half-remembered red silk miniskirt, but as I didn't find it...well, leather goes with boots, right? Sure it does. And if it doesn't fit right, back it goes. (I tried on such a skirt from a different manufacturer some years ago. It was a subject of some hilarity, because it fit absolutely perfectly up to where the hips started to curve in again towards the waist, and then I could have fit a baby kangaroo in the space remaining between me and the skirt. A fairly old baby kangaroo. Possibly a kangaroo toddler. I'm pretty sure that some of you find leather miniskirts hot and some do not, but even those in the "hot" category must see that an ill-fitting leather miniskirt is more amusing than attractive.)

One of you asked -- yes, I'm still on the topics from the night of sleep dep a week ago -- about my "real self." "Tell me about the 'real you,'" this person asked, and she was sensible enough to use the quotation marks. Here's the thing: it's all the real me. Am I my "real self" with strangers? Sure I am: part of what's really me is the urge not to tell some stuff to strangers.

I noticed recently that I was slightly different when having dinner with markgritter, timprov, dd_b, lydy, and pameladean than when having dinner with the same group minus the Pamela. Was one more or less real? More or less relaxed or honest or genuine? No. They were just different. Being the Pamela's friend is not the same as being anybody else's friend, because she is the Pamela and not anybody else, and this seems like it should be obvious. So it's not the same being a Mris around the Pamela than not around the Pamela. So of course I wouldn't act quite the same.

For some people this gets a lot more complicated around relatives. I will pick on seagrit because she's here (virtually speaking): I am my real self around my sister-in-law. Do I tell her everything? Of course not. You can never tell any one person everything. If you could, you wouldn't be thinking enough, because you need to think more and faster than you can talk. And, for example, markgritter's is not the kind of family where sisters-in-law would sit down together and one would say, "Hoo, you wouldn't believe what your brother did in bed last night!" That's not less real. It's just not an area in which we enjoy discussion -- in which our real, true selves enjoy discussion.

So sometimes people I like don't know how glad I am to see them, because I am repressing my Golden Retriever puppy reactions -- but that choice to repress those reactions is really me, too, not just the joyful internal slobbering on people's shoes. Is my real self like a Golden Retriever pup? Yes, and also not like.

For some people -- not, I think, for this questioner in specific -- the idea of a "real self" is an excuse. You may appear to be a kindergarten teacher, but your real self is a ballet dancer. I say, really be both if you want to be. Dance and teach. Paint and sell pool tables. But don't talk yourself into the idea that what you're doing has to do with someone else, because it's all a part of you. Your real self would never speak to someone that way? Then don't. Your real self dreams of a brambled rose garden? Then plant, or at least find out where you'd get the seeds and when and how you'd plant them. Put up or shut up: if you can come up with things that are really you, really do them. Really. That's what real means.