I’m Not A Robot, I Swear


True story – I rode the Parisian subway AND the RER train dressed like this. There and back. On a weekend.

Self-presentation has been on my mind a lot. Maybe it’s because I need to re-read Goffman for my PhD, so discussing projected personalities vs “real” personalities is A Thing That I’m Doing.

Do we only create personalities online?

What is it, really, to know a person completely and fully?

And is it really worth it? (Edward Cullen says “No,” although there are some fanfics out there that beg to differ.)

I’m mindful of my audience, as I suspect a number of people are. There are situations where such mindfulness is absolutely necessary – the workplace, for example, or when your friend gets together with a guy who jerks her around, but BY BUBBLE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW SO I’LL BE HAPPY FOR YOU!


Obviously, on this blog, I’m going for the wise-and-wise-cracking-older-relative-that-the-rest-of-the-teens-don’t-call-aunt-even-if-that’s-what-I-am. I make no secret of my huge, gigantic lady-crush on Captain Awkward, though I am a tiny bit embarrassed I spend more time reading Thought Catalog than I do actual writing. I mention my PhD, though not that much, because right now I’m reading myself into circles and I don’t know how to break free. I also try to be honest about the fact that I was a book blogger, and that I’m writing and hoping to get published one day. Some people might say I’m making myself vulnerable. Others might say I’m the exact opposite. Is it a question of points of view? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not going to attempt to answer that because we’ll be here until Boxing Day.

Of course, that is not the only identity I’ve worn, or just tried out for size. There are plenty of photos of me circulating online – damning, 50-pound-adding evidence of me trying to be a hip summer camp counselor, a green-haired mermaid, the kind of person who wears blue eyeshadow unironically, and, even more unironically, pairs said eyeshadow with orange hair.

I might have described your personality to a T just now. But whenever I tried to adopt it, I never felt truly at ease. Like a pair of walking boots that cannot accommodate your feet towards the end of the hike. It’s not the shoes’ fault. It’s not your fault either. You were just a bad match.

Shoes are, actually, a pretty good metaphor for identities and how we manage them. You need to try a whole lot of them until you find the ones that work best for you. Sometimes you have to wear badly fitting ones because this is your circumstance and you cannot afford others. Sometimes you need to have several ones that you change throughout the day. Sometimes you will make a snap decision and regret it later, and the way you choose to go about it might determine how you handle such things in the future.

I’ve been to events where I’ve wobbled on my high heels and looked fabulous while my toes were screaming in pain. Then, at the end of the night, I’d put on my runners and hike the hill home because there are no buses and no taxis left. I’d try to be the easy-going person some people know me as/expect, and then I’d spend the rest of the evening muttering profanities as I try to get rid of my mascara and examine the tears in my stockings.

Here’s the other thing about shoes/personalities – sometimes it’s hard to pin down your audience. Maybe you’ll decide to play it safe and end up looking far more conservative for their tastes. Maybe you’ll try to let your personality show and you overwhelm them. Bad first pick. Sometimes it gets better. Sometimes you get a second chance. Others you don’t. You say: Lesson learned, and you move on. Or you don’t.

I can’t tell how you’d do it. You’re you. I am me. Different experiences, different learning curves. Different circumstances, too.

Which brings me, finally, to the title of this post.

It has been brought to my attention that sometimes, I tend to present like a robot. Too stiff. Too formal. Not humane enough. That came as a bit of a surprise because in the past, I’d been told I’m too emotional (and there are so, so many things about self-presentation that lead back to gender expectations, which I won’t get into now). Something that made this criticism a little easier to process was adding the following modifiers to the sentence:

These people found that at this point in time I tended to present like a robot. Other people, at another point in time, found that I was being too emotional.

I am not static. My self-presentation changes. At the end of the day, I take my shoes off and my feet are either comfy, or in desperate need of a soak. I went through my day, like I did the one before, and the one before that one, too.

How do I want tomorrow to go?

I consider my feet.

Then I pick my shoes. If I can.


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