Thursday, February 12, 2009

Does anyone really ever know who you are?

I recently had a revelation about a someone in my life (to protect the innocent, we'll call him Norman). This is how I know Norman. He is a tall, handsome, sophisticated, button down suit type. He is reserved, thoughtful, well educated and cultured. Norman is clean shaven, with neatly trimed hair, always dressed in a jacket, buttoned down shirt. He also has impecable manners. He had told me that he had a musical background and was once in a band, but I assumed that was long ago, maybe in college or high school. All I was acquainted with was the clean-cut financial analysist side of him. Or maybe that was the only side of him I wanted to see. The side that I was attracted to as a friend. But, this week I discovered another side of Norman.

Knowing that he had clients in the music industry, I asked Norman to recommend some musicians who might be interested in playing at a local music festival. I am the music director of the festival this year and was looking to put together a diverse line-up. In response to my inquiry, he nominated himself as potential entertainment. Well this turn of events caught me off guard. He said that he would like to perform solo, playing guitar and harmonica. He pointed out that he recorded an CD that was available for sale on the internet. A quick google search pulled up his CD, which was released 6 years ago and his MySpace page.

There Norman was on his MySpace page sitting on the couch strumming a guitar with a cowboy hat and boots! What the heck? According to his MySpace bio, he had made up this entire persona of an outlaw guitarman, living in Mojave, CA, playing in local honky tonks. Now I don't know if he ever lived in Mojave, CA, but he certainly does not live there now. He works for an accounting firm in downtown Los Angeles. Who is this person? Was he living a double life? Did he just create this alter ego out of the air, a complete fabrication, a ruse to sell his music?

I was thrown a little off balance. Then I began mining my memory. You know, I have seen him in boots before, when we have casually met for a movie or a drink. At happy hours, Norman did seem to prefer to order beer instead of other more sophisticated well drinks or wine. He did tell me that he played guitar. I just assumed that he played jazz or classical guitar music. I never imagined that Norman was an outlaw country/folk guitarist. But that was my own projection of who he was and not about the reality of who he is. I realized that the window that I was peering into was just a small part of his life. I almost exclusively knew him in a professional context. Our relationship has developed over time into a warm more personal friendship, but not an intimate one. I realized that there were subtleties of Norman's honky tonk musician side peaking out from underneath his Brooks Bros. suit persona, but I either ignored or refused to acknowledge them.

This all started me thinking about who I am and whether the people in my life really know the whole of me. The fact is that most of us know each other in a narrowly defined context. You have your work friends, who know that you wear your favorite Calvin Klein skirt to work on days when you have a big meetings and drink cosmos with grey goose at happy hour. Your school friends, who may remember that you once had a crush of the lead singer of a 80's pop band, and that two wine coolers could make you sick. Then there are your old roommates, who know that you like to buy old cookbooks and make random recipes on the weekend and read every section of the newspaper on Sunday morning along with a whole pot of coffee. Does anyone really know the whole of you? Are there some parts of you that are so compartmentalized that really no one knows all of them but you? Who you are on the phone or on a business call? Who you are at a rock concert? Who you are the first thing in morning? Who you are on vacation in Cancun, Mexico? Who you are in your heart? Gives you something to think about doesn't it?

Copyright 2009 Romy Schneider. All rights reserved.

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