I performed for an audience of plastic surgeons last night. I was the featured focus of attention in a room full of people who have had extensive training to find room for improvement in people's appearances.
Well c'mon, I couldn't help but be conscious of that, could I? I do know that it's a silly thing to focus on, though. It's like back before therapy became so common, when people would worry about how sane their answer made them sound if a psychiatrist so much as asked them what time it was. "Quarter past. The hour, I mean. Which is nine. It's a quarter past nine. I do have the full time here. Just like everybody else! Says nine fifteen. Right there. Would you like to see the watch? Oh okay, oh... wait. It's nine sixteen now. I'd like to note that the time did change while we were talking, and that I have never had any difficulty in assessing the correct hour. I am not a communist!" Pure self obsessive paranoia. It was a great show and the doctors enjoyed the entertainment. They weren't analyzing my bone structure and doing a comparative cost analysis against the price of water front property in Hawaii. Probably. Right?
Okay, so I'm not convinced. Actually, if we look at that analogy a little more closely it's really quite odd that we have stopped guarding against involuntary psychoanalysis, isn't it? Our worst fears there have become realized in full technicolor with surround sound. We were worried about degreed professionals trained in objectivity analyzing us? Hah! You can't even order a cup of coffee without a free personality assessment thrown in on the side these days. "Check out Mr. Decaf Soy Cappuccino over there. Today he wants chocolate sprinkles. Classic passive aggressive transference, that. I'm betting he had a fight with his mother." Now pretty much everybody considers themselves qualified to analyze every single thing we say, either on the virtue of having taken a handful of psychology classes in university or on the basis of something they heard somebody else who has taken a handful of psychology classes in university say on a talk show.
I guess we don't worry about whether or not other people think we're sane any more because we know nothing we can say is going to convince anybody that we are anyway. The saner we sound the more obvious it is we're in denial, after all. It's okay, though, because we know the people who think we're insane probably consider themselves to be exponentially more messed up. They only have access to the symptoms of our mental deficiencies when we're actually around to display them (excepting, of course, those of us who have taken the wise precaution of preserving them for future generations on a blog), but self criticism never takes a holiday.
Nothing's ever going to stop us from worrying about what other people think about how we look, though. Birth control, automotive transportation and the internet combined haven't had the impact on social evolution that the invention of the mirror did. I'm sure the first person to ever look their clear, undistorted reflection in the eye immediately hid in a closet until their mother could convince them to come out on the promise that nobody would laugh and there'd be chocolate pudding for dessert. That's not to suggest we don't have our priorities straight, though. Of course we know it's what's inside that counts.
Why else would we be so anxious to create a good distraction on the outside?
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