This is our truth, tell us yours
My fellow traveller has already mentioned a lunch date earlier this week. I was nervous, he was amused, and ordering drinks I decided I needed full fat, caffeine enhanced, all the sugar, coke. He, being a sensible soul, ordered the Diet variety. Of course when our drinks came he got the man drink and I got the girly diet free version. Given his own perceptive thoughts on the attitude to men and their weight it could have been seen as simply one more example of how Everyday Sexism is more than the blatant actions of twunts on the tube and high street.
The waitress was no different from all of us, making assumptions about the people around her based on a brief glance, a few words, an accent, a tone. We all do it, in fact we have to do it, communication would be impossible if we did not make assumptions. When we arrived at our appointment, finally, more assumptions were no doubt made, (although an orgasm so huge a paper towel was needed to mop up may have challenged them). If we all make assumptions, and they ease the wheels of communication what can we do to ensure they do not limit or disempower others?
Musing on this the image of a Russian Doll came to mind.
We all present the outer doll, the largest to the world in general. It is the face we are happy (in the main) with other people coming into contact with. It is also the person who others make their assumptions about. Remember I am saying this process of assumption making is inevitable.
We all contain more than that outer personae though. Even those who claim “what you see is what you get” contain within themselves aspects they would not display to all and sundry, be it their fear of escalators or their fetish for being spanked whilst wearing a vicars outfit.
These are the smaller dolls, ones we might choose to reveal to some, but not others, ones that contain thoughts, experiences, beliefs and ideas that are not on general view. They are not any less a part of us, they are no less authentic or real, they are simply kept hidden, revealed more sparingly, and to fewer people. The smaller the doll, the deeper the desire to keep that part private.
As a slight aside it could be said that when we over share. or otherwise reveal ourselves inappropriately all we are really doing is misjudging the circumstances when we move to the next doll with someone. I want to emphasise these are not contradictory personaes, or attitudes, they are simply the ones we do not always present as part of our public face.
So how does this help us with the making of assumptions, with the prejudices we all carry? It seems that I often make the mistake of forgetting that others carry their own dolls around in them, and I think other people may too. I see a person, I make assumptions about who they are, how they might act confronted with X, Y or Z and fail to stop and think, what else are they. I can see this side, this is the side they want me to see, but I know that is just one of many layers, layers they might not feel safe enough with me to reveal yet.
There is a view of therapy that sees it merely as the creation of a space where someone feels safe enough to start working on the things that concern them, unpack their dolls as it were. Egan writes of this when he described how to start a counselling relationship. It would be hoped that in therapy someone felt safe enough to even bring out that smallest, most secret doll, and that might be a process that takes months or even years.
It might be unrealistic to expect every relationship to have that kind of trust, and it is frankly unnecessary. However if we go back to the waitress at the start; when we serve someone, being aware their dolls might include eating disorders, or diabetes or a screaming baby that kept them awake all night, would fundamentally change how such interactions took place. We dont need to know what their dolls are, just that the have them.
I hope to remind myself that the face I see of others is the face they are currently Ok with letting me see, and any assumptions I make must also include the assumption there is far more I do not see, and maybe never will.