This originally appeared on misteragyeman.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?