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Myself: My Self

This orig­i­nally appeared on mis​ter​agye​man​.blogspot​.com on August 8, 2014.

What makes me?

Physically speak­ing, I am an inter­est­ing col­lec­tion of descrip­tions. My wall­pa­per is a sort of bar­be­cued choco­late. The Northern border is wooly and unco­op­er­a­tive in the foliage, which nicely cam­ou­flages a very impres­sive skull. It is a nice skull. My mother says it has its qual­i­ties; she’s right, as usual. My occip­i­tal crest, for exam­ple, would be the envy of any silver-back gorilla. On this skull, there is a face. It has qual­i­ties as well. The com­plex­ion is pleas­antly varied over the con­tours of it. Of the con­tours: two eyes sunken by squint­ing and lack of sleep; a nose, ordi­nary; a mouth too small for the face, as lean as it is; these fea­tures could work, pos­si­bly. Once in a while, they do coöper­ate, and then I am told I look boyish. But then they resume hos­til­i­ties, and nice old ladies smile con­sci­en­tious smiles at me. Of course, I do not do myself any favours. I often forget to shear the wool above; it extends, and covers most of my fore­head with downy tufts. And the eyes get blood­shot, with bags under­neath. And then my beard refuses to orga­nize itself. I shall write an exposé, some­day, on the cor­rup­tion within that beard. It will shake the world. Anyway. I also boast the cross-sec­tional shape of a whisky flask. Put all this together, and you have a spectacle.

I tend to get car­ried away in the fever of self-dep­re­ca­tion, I know. But I’m being real here. When I was twelve, a strange lady called me over to her side­walk chair, clutched my hand and begged me to learn to love myself the way I am. I love myself the way I am, as it hap­pens. It makes ladies clutch my hand. I could cut my hair every two weeks, use mois­tur­izer and stop read­ing in bad light, I sup­pose. I’ll prob­a­bly do them anyway, now I’m not an angsty teen any­more (except the mois­tur­izer bit). It was a useful banner for my per­son­al­ity, but I’m not sure what my per­son­al­ity is now, so I’m just trying to be incon­spic­u­ous. And that’s hard enough when you pos­sess six impe­r­ial feet of height, one of them in neck alone.

But that’s the inter­est­ing area in the sub­ject of self: appear­ance and per­son­al­ity, our two facades. They are simul­ta­ne­ously sym­bi­otic, and opposed. Those who swear by looks scoff at the ‘It’s What’s Inside’ advo­cates, who in turn call them dolls and bimbos. But then most people would be fairly con­fi­dent of point­ing out the nerd clique in a social sit­u­a­tion, so they must have a look too. And of course, there is such a thing as a ‘super­fi­cial per­son­al­ity’. With one, we prop up the other. With the other, we jus­tify the one. And yet they are both con­structs. Do they have any rela­tion to our essence? Not nec­es­sar­ily. True, as beings, we are who we needed to be to sur­vive yes­ter­day. But that is too flex­i­ble, too vague a tag to be much use as an intro­duc­tion. So we find words: African; aca­d­e­mic; left-brain; out­spo­ken. We have pro­fes­sions, codes, uni­forms, so we know which line to stand in. If one morn­ing you find your girl has left you, you turn off the pop and turn on the blues, and trade your red tie for a black one. Why? It’s tied into instinct, but why, really? How do we describe per­son­al­ity beyond the society?

I find people who change phys­i­cally very inter­est­ing. They say Lincoln does­n’t have two pic­tures which look the same. I have a bit of that. It’s very annoy­ing. You strike this facial arrange­ment which served you so well in front of the mirror, and the camera returns with evil tid­ings. But that’s the invol­un­tary sort of vari­a­tion. I mean people who ran­domly go from head-scarf phase to totally-bald phase. I’ve never known one inti­mately, so I’ve been won­der­ing if the changes in their appear­ances are inde­pen­dent of their per­son­al­ity. It would be even more inter­est­ing if it was entirely gov­erned by it. Perhaps we could entirely aban­don pre­tenses and all con­structed reason, and become sem­a­phore poles for our emo­tions and prin­ci­ples. We already have wigs, skin tone mod­i­fiers, con­tact lenses, eye­lash and fin­ger­nail exten­sions. Perhaps some enlight­ened day we’ll simply switch out body parts as the mood takes us. It would be inter­est­ing, would it not?