“Let’s pretend that…”
When I was a kid, those were my 3 favorite words in the world… but the rest of the sentence was really what was important. Whatever came out of my mouth following “Let’s pretend that…” would become my universe for the next three hours.
“Lets pretend that we’re mermaids. My mermaid name is Christina, what’s yours?… OK you’re Cynthia. Behind the barstools , that’s the lagoon where we live. The shark lives in the hot tub, so we only go in there when we have to. We have to meet Squish, the nice jellyfish, in 3 minutes for lunch. Come on!”
After that, the real world would cease to exist. I actually became Christina; I was her. It didn’t matter that I was once a 9 year old girl in a Tye-dyed one piece that kept riding up my left butt cheek. Once the three magic words were spoken, I became an 18 year old princess mermaid with perky boobs held up with a clam-shell bra. I would spend the afternoon fighting noodle-sharks and strangling pool-pump-eels. I made friends with thebubble-minnows that hung out near the drain. I lived by the law that if I stayed on land for more than five minutes, my fin would shrivel up and I would become a human for eternity. When the humans were on shore, they expected a show- so I would perform diving and flip shows where I would prove that I could do 15 or more somersaults without taking a breath.
It wasn’t always mermaids though. Sometimes I would pretend that I was a lion tamer who lived in the jungle. I had a destiny to fulfill, and that was to ride the evil old Copper Spaniel lion that lived in the deepest depths of the trees. Other times I would be a mom who actually liked to cook. Or if I was forced to clean, I would become a 19th century maid, mimicking the mannerisms of Cinderella. When I said I wanted to “draw,” what I actually wanted was to pretend I was a secretary. I would set up a nice little area with a stapler and a roll of tape, and I would imagine that I was completing highly important tasks. Every once in a while I would put down my number 2 pencil to answer an imaginary phone.
I continued playing pretend long after the other kids had given it up for spin the bottle and Girl Talk. Don’t get me wrong, I played those too… but when I was alone I would play out scenes with boys in front of the mirror. I fantasized about being discovered and cast in Party of Five as the long lost Salinger sibling. I gave press talks and interviews about my rise to fame.
I know a lot of people have these sort of day dreams, but looking back, it feels like I took them to a ridiculous level.
I realize now, that even when Idid finally grew out of 3-D fantasizing 24/7, I started to merge “pretending” into the real aspects of my life. In high school, I had several different groups of friends who were all very different. I had my dance friends, my theater friends, my cheerleader friends, and well… boys. It’s not that I was never myself around any of them, but I did learn how to pretend to be just the way they needed me to be. I don’t think this was really a bad thing though. I think I was just taking the idea of “fake it til ya make it” and applying it to more practical aspects of my life.
For a while I thought that I was over pretending. After a college I went through a complete, life-changing transformation and for a long while I believed that I had finally found myself. I had taken up improv, which allowed me to fullfill the craving I had to “pretend;” and in my real life I was able to focus on who I really was. I started finding music that I understood; I pursued interests that were mine, and mine alone; I lived alone and I ate what I enjoyed eating.
Somewhere over the last couple years I feel like I’ve let some of that “self discovery” disappear. I still know my passions, but I’ve found out that I’m still quite susceptible to slipping into pretend mode. I don’t do it on purpose, and Idont even realize I’m doing it, but I think I am.
Lately I find myself silently telling myself to “Let’s pretend that,” which is most often followed with “every-thing’s OK.” Whether it’s when I’m dealing with my family, my friends, or relationships- I feel like I’ve somehow trained myself (as improvisers say) to “yes and” every situation that I’m in, until I establish what I’m dealing with. Once I know what role I’m supposed to play, I’m nice and ready to take part in the newest “long form” improvised segment of my life.
I realize that everyone does this to an extent, after-all; we’re innately designed to adapt to our current situations. I just think that sometimes I need to completely remove myself from the stage so that I can reevaluate my real life.
I’ve found that over the last few years, I’ve started developing a habit of agreeing with peoplewhen I don’t really believe what they are saying to be true. Sometimes when I’m with certain people who expect me to be “on,” I put on a schtick because I know it will make them happy.
I still don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with this. I’m a people pleaser. I’m a person of many faces. I enjoy being both ofthose things. The problem with my pretending is that at some point, if I ever want to keep moving forward in my starring role, I have to really establish my own character. I need to figure out the details of what makes me. I need to take note of what I love. Just as if I were performing in an improv scene, I have to ask myself these questions.
If I’m going to go to the store to buy a bottle of wine, what wine would I really want to drink ? If I’m going to spend $23.99 on an itunes audio book, what book would really make me happy? If I walk into a crowded coffee shop, where would I most likely sit, in a corner by myself, or would I sit down with a group of people?
Playing myself is a weird concept when I really start to think about it. I’ve started keeping a notebook with me again. This time, instead of jotting down ideas for sketches or blogs, I’ve just been writing down things that I like and things that I don’t like. I’ve already collected 20 pages that are now filled with phrases like “I could replace wine with grapes and be happy forever.” Or “I really don’t like short shorts on men.” It’s been interesting really- recording facts about myself that I’ve never verbally admitted in the past.
I’m not sure what I’m planning on doing with my “Glossary of myself,” or my “Glossarme” as I’ve started to call it, but I guess I’m hoping that it will help me to move on. There are so many choices, so many options in this life- and I just have to gather up all the information I know about my character, and keep developing new scenes until I find myself in one organically progresses.
NOTE: *I’ve been in major self-reflection mode the last few weeks, so bare with me while I work some of this out on paper. I’ve decided that I’m not going to forwarn you or apologize anytime I feel inspired to go a bit sappy, it’s just where I am right now. And so is your face. So there.