Thursday, December 17, 2009

Someone Other than Me

"Chest Rockwell..." one said, looking up from the register, bright-eyed.

"I'm Sonny," said the other, leaning in with a wide smile, putting on a heavier Southern accent than usual, the one Sonny would have.

"Wow," I said, laughing, "that was fast. You didn't even have to pause to come up with your alter-ego names..."

They both nodded, already back to work. I had suggested to these friends at the diner that they might be featured should my blog turn visual and, in a moment, they had created their characters, their prime-time personas. Nice. I loved that. How often during the day, I wondered, when business got slow, did they slip into these other selves, imagine that they were these people they aspired to be in their minds?

It has always been a popular theme, the alter ego, the persona one would take on if they had super powers or just the power to be something, anything other than hum-drum regular people. Alter egos, you see, are never hum drum. I didn't ask my friends all about "Chest" and "Sonny," but like branded characters companies develop, like Chester the Cheeto and Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger, I'm sure they have full-blown character sketches with all their traits, all they would and wouldn't do, all the ways in which they inspire others.

A friend, later in the day, showed me her facebook photo. She had named herself something other than her own name in the photo, looking at it, she looked wistful, like she wanted to crawl into this other character, at least for a while. She had, she said, for a time. She was back now, but it had been nice for a time to step out of herself.

I just shook my head as I listened to her tale. Wow, I thought, it isn't just me. We're all of us totally delusional if we give ourselves the slightest room to be, we fantasize so richly, regardless of our age, about all that might be possible for this yet-untapped self, that person we would be if we could. Part of the beauty of the alter-ego, though, is it never actually has to materialize for it to be useful. It lives in your head as you mop the floor or buy groceries, get dressed in a suit for a big meeting, do the dishes or the diapers or go on a disappointing date. You can even dress the part on certain days, that is the beauty of fashion.

I give a big gold star to anyone who lets their healthy alter-ego rule sometimes. It is a necessity, I think, especially around the holidays. How nice to appear at a family gathering as someone else entirely, even just in your own head?!

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