I am currently studying a course called ‘The Art of the English Language’ as part of my English Language and Literature degree and a recent chapter has really got me thinking. It talks about the art of performance in everyday situations and how we all ‘play a part’ depending on who we are talking to and how we want to be perceived by them. I think that this is totally true – I am a completely different person in front of friends, then I am say, in a meeting at work. My use of language changes from using a lot of slang, to a more standard variety. I stop telling my awful jokes or taking the mickey out of people (I don’t think a director in a meeting would appreciate me pulling him up on his receding hairline or middle-age spread), I am more reserved and even my appearance becomes smarter. However, it’s not just in meetings that I feel I am ‘performing’, I think I change the way I act from friend-to-friend as well. For instance, if I am with a group of girls, I tend to act more ‘girly’, talk about things such as shoes, the new hot actor in a current film, and will generally gossip more. When I am with a mixed group or with just male friends, I tend to make more jokes and take the mickey out of people more – there’s a lot more banter. I guess I am converging to fit in with the current audience. Sociolinguist, Alan Bell called this ‘Audience Design’ (1984).
So, when are we ever actually our true selves? And what is our true self? Maybe we are always ourselves, but have many different versions (like outfits which we wear to fit an occasion)? I tend to think that the only person who actually knows what we are really like, stripped down to our core, is our partners, children and parents. These are the people who live or have lived with us. They are the people who see us without a mask. With these people, we do not feel the need to perform because we do not care how they perceive us – They have already accepted us for who we are and do not judge us in any way.
So, to those of you who do not consider yourselves in any way dramatical, you play a part everyday without even realising!
Laterz darling *kiss kiss*