I find it really interesting to think about the ways I interact with different groups of people.
For the most part, I’m the same guy everywhere. People expect me to be funny, people expect me to be interested in a good conversation, people expect me to be easy going.
And I am all of those things. Those things are the easiest parts of my character to manufacture on command, so I generally know I can always be those things.
But with my family I am more reserved, especially with jokes. I don’t have conversations about some of the biggest things in my life. I do what I can to maintain neutrality on most things. I am generally focused on not upsetting anyone. I think that when I am with my family (and by this I mean my family and my wife’s family) I am more aware of my thoughts and actions. And I am particularly careful about what I say.
With my close friends I am more aggressive and vulgar. I go out of my way to make a scathing joke or dirty joke that will delight and much as it disgusts. I have become known as the guy who says the inappropriate thing at any time. I don’t generally consider what I am saying and I speak as freely as possible, which is not necessarily a look that I like on myself. I enjoy being able to really explore how funny I can be, especially in taboo situations. But I sometimes feel like I am expected to be “on” when I just want to relax.
There are so many different groups of my not as close friends that it is hard to pin down into one front. I try to turn my humor from vulgar into clever. I don’t get into culture or politics, except maybe food or movies (isn’t it weird that music can be an offensive conversation). I try to stay in the back and be more in a responsive mode.
When I am writing these articles, or in therapy, or dealing with this stuff I put pressure on myself to up the ante and push my illness as if it is in the forefront of my mind, when really anyone that knows me knows that I don’t really mention it much, if ever.
Work Steve is much more concerned with politics (in general hiding my real position and making jokes) and sports and television than any other version of Steve. At work I also pretend to be less intelligent than I really am. I don’t act dumb but I have found that people tend to like you better if they believe they are instructing you in something you don’t know.
Speaking of intelligence and culture, while I consider myself a faux-intelligent and cultured person, both of those things are big parts of how I identify myself. I have generated this role for myself as a baseball seamhead. And as such I get a lot of people asking me about baseball, which is fine, I don’t mind. But I would just as happily talk to you about Voltaire or the strengths and weaknesses of the Roman Empire or the themes of manipulation and war in Ender’s Game. But those things never come up. And to be honest, the odd time that I do feel myself geeking out on a subject like that, I can feel the air deflating around me.
Around my wife I have to pretend that I am much more masculine and decisive than I am normally. It is my role to fix things and decide things, especially big things, and move those types of things forward. But really, it terrifies me. I don’t particularly like this role I am in.
There is probably close to an infinite number of faces I put on, probably a unique one for every crowd. I’m sure you do the same. It is hard to pinpoint when I started to morph into these roles. It is hard to guess what would happen if I came out of them. Some are more delicate than others. Some are easier to fake than others. Some are more what I like about me than others. It is an interesting thought to realize that maybe you are never yourself. No one knows the weird thoughts you’ve had. No one knows the things you have done at 2am when you are home alone. I guess it is probably better that way.