Multiple conversations as of late have brought me round to the issue of Person versus Persona. Last night, it was a podcast recording – an interview with a colleague who said, “You sound like the nicest person on the phone – it’s different from the in-your-face brand that’s out there online.”
Of course it is. People buy into extremes. Brands commit, and that’s where RedheadWriting comes from. It’s my alter ego that slinks off to the Bat Cave and gets shithoused at the bar while Alfred’s working on the Bat Mobile. It’s 80% me and 20% titanium balls…a devil-may-care version of a 5’3” redhead who, in all actuality, cares quite a bit about the people in her life. It’s also a defense mechanism – a protective outer coating. The chocolate on my Ding Dong. No one in his right mind would send a Ding Dong to market without that coating. It’d get beat to shit in 3 swings of the lunch box flat.
Enter, The Persona – the protective chocolate coating for public souls worldwide.
So what can Personas do that The Person can’t (or shouldn’t)?
Our brains like to conjure up retort after retort. We talk in the car, in the shower, in front of mirrors and to friends and colleagues about all the things we wish we could say if we had the balls. Enter the 20% of The Persona (remember? Titanium balls). Persona’s got balls covered. So, for every 10 shitty things we think of saying, The Persona says all 10.
The Person is more 9 out of 10. And here’s where we commence slapping.
I’m as guilty as the next person of taking snark one step too far. Ranting. My persona flies off the motherfucking handle like Ari on Entourage. But when it comes to my personal life, which includes every interaction outside of my Persona, I try to err on the side of leaving that one shitty thing left unsaid. Some days I succeed. Others, I fail miserably. But I do try.
And maybe I’m killing whatever illusion you had of my Persona – and that’s okay. Everyone has some level of illusion they conjure to protect them from the world knowing 100% of their shit. When you put yourself out there, you have to hold something back for yourself and the people dear to you. But before you get sideways that there’s a gal behind the curtain making the Big Red Head talk, think about your own Persona for a moment. What do you share? How do you share it? What makes you feel safe? Pot, meet kettle. You do the same thing. And it’s not about not being “authentic” (which I have no fucking idea what that means anyways). It’s about saying – Hey, I’m here, but here’s what you get. This stuff? It’s mine. Why? Because you haven’t earned a place in my life to share those things with me, just like I ain’t coming to your house for Christmas, ‘aight?
Personas can go to item #10 safely. But having been a person that used to always have to have the last word, to win, to conquer…I can say it’s a better life erring more toward the 9s. Having watched every season of Entourage, everyone fell in love with Ari Gold. I’ll say it: he made angry sexy. And he always went to #10. We all wished we had the balls to say what he said, and we cringed/laughed/felt embarrassed every time he long jumped over 9 and took the game-winning (and in many cases, losing) shot.
And it’s also why in the final season, he became human to us. Because we saw a man who stepped out of his Persona and left #10 alone and instead, started to say the things he should have been saying all along and to the people who mattered most.
This entire post was inspired by an email I received last night and couldn’t find the words to respond with until an hour or so ago. Filled with apologies and words I know to be sincere, it was from someone who always went to #10. And I’m here to tell you – #10s hurt. They make you doubt and lose faith in yourself; they make someone else’s issues your responsibility. They quickly turn what could have been love into remorse and take things that you wanted to remember as beautiful and tarnish them. Someone feels like they win. The Person on the receiving end loses. And neither of you are any better off than before #10 flew through the air.
Maybe Meatloaf’s math is better with the whole two out of three thing, yet I know my mind doesn’t work that way. My brain runs at 203MPH from the moment I get up until the moment I can convince myself to go to sleep (and god help me if I wake up in the middle of the night). And the 9 out of 10 rule serves me well.
I don’t argue, if nothing good’s going to come of it (and for all parties involved).
I certainly don’t fight anymore, unless it’s for something that I believe in. Life’s filled with small shit that we can waste our time bickering about or we can save that energy for the big shit (which is where we’ll need the extra energy anyways).
And when #10 flies every now and then, I still feel like shit. Because I remember how it felt when someone hit me with #10.
So, yeah. I slap myself, having been on the receiving end of some #10s over the past few months. Maybe you know what it feels like. The next time you see The Redhead take it to #10, it’s the Persona talking – the one people say, “Oh, I wish I could say that!” about, when in actuality, you really don’t. Just like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail – the one time you get the gumption to say what you really, really think (and not in a nice way)… it’s probably about the same time you wish you could eat those words like a bowl of fucking tortilla chips and RoTel queso dip at a Superbowl party.
Having the upper hand? Doesn’t win you anything most times.
Saying that shitty little thing that creeps in? That should leave you feeling shitty after the words are spent.
And sometimes, the most compassionate thing we can do – for others and ourselves – is to find a way to be more Ari in the series finale than Ari first-season. And if you’ve never seen an episode of Entourage in your life, just go with the 9 out of 10 rule. Some days – the days where you feel less like the guy on the Wheaties box and more like the box – shoot for 3 out of 10. While I promised myself I’d never leave unsaid things I felt needed saying after losing Jason last year, we could all use a lesson on dialing back the snark and turning up the soul.
Or maybe I’m an idiot and that’s just me – if you’ve got this mortal coil all figured out, hats off to ya. I just feel pretty lucky every day where I can go to bed knowing that I did good work, spoke from my convictions and learned something in the process.
Carry on. Smartly.