‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

multiple personality disorderliness

My sister's kids can tell when she's on the phone with me. Sugarplum can tell when I'm on the phone with Iss. I can tell when Chris is talking to some guy I've never met who lives in London.

We're not posers, we're just different with different people. I dare say we all do this.

I am very polite when I am around a) churchy people, b) my friend Giselle and c) people I've just met. I do polite very convincingly, despite my lack of practice. I cannot keep it up for long.

Then there's the rest of the time. I thought the version of me that's in frequent rotation was pretty much just ME, but I would be wrong about that. Because of the phone thing, you see. It's all where you put the emphasis.

Which is why it's such a problem when you can't figure out how you know someone. You know when someone has no idea who you are, no matter how hard they try to fake it.

A friend of mine called my work the other day - a work that I don't usually show up at. It's okay, they like it that way. I mean, I'm scheduled that way. I mean...oh nevermind. So this friend didn't know it was me on the phone and very politely asked for my boss. He sounded so strange. Was he mad at me? Under the weather? Was his boss watching? He works for himself, so I guess his boss was watching. That's it, then.

Except it's not. He just didn't know it was me, so he didn't know to use the "for use with Susan" voice.

Which has nothing to do with anything. It's just a long shot at explaining my latest and greatest identity crisis, as follows.

This morning Sugarplum wore a jumper that I had knit for her to school. It's a silly little thing that looks more like a piƱata than a jumper. I don't knit very well. Sugarplum's teacher asked if I had made her jumper and I thought well duh, do you think someone would actually buy that? but I just said "yes" because she falls halfway into the "people I'm polite to" category. It depends on the day and if there are other parents around.

When I said yes she made some comment about the chickens and the knitting and... well then she made this gross overstatement about the kind of person I am. I can't remember her exact words, but it made me sound like the love child of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Martha Stewart.

Which I am not. I don't think. I just, I just don't know anymore.

Torture the facts and they'll show you whatever you want to see. So I guess the question is, who do I want to be now?

Who do YOU want to be now? Or do you act the same with everyone (please say no)?


neb said...

when i was very little my mom asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up and i told her a man..she is very proud to tell this story still occasionally, she just didn't realize ive been waiting for her to ask which man.....

verification-tattleto: the person to whom a infraction has been told

Anonymous said...

Oh, phone voices. Yes, I have a whole range, from the droning ´no, I do NOT need another car insurance´ to the whining ´please sir, can I come and work for you in Australia?´ and everything in between.

You give great insight in your life and in a pleasant funny way, Susan. I´ll keep on reading you(r blog).


Janine said...

I work hard not to have a "phone voice" because most of us work hard not to be our mothers, right? My mother was a very nice person - on the phone.

I used to wonder about things such as Who Am I, but I'm older now and I'm pretty much in everyone's face, which accomplishes 2 life goals -

1. to be myself and

2. to scare off the people who don't know (or don't want me to be)who I am.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Um, NO. Of COURSE I'm not the same with everyone. In fact, I'm different with every single person, because I am a people-pleaser, and part of being a people-pleaser is reading said people and figuring out how to react to them. Therefore, with my husband's cousin I talk about gardens, because that's what he likes. With my family, I'm funny and witty and entertaining. With my MiL, I'm smart and practical and supportive.

And with the dogs and chickens, I'm whatever I want to be at the time, because they, thankfully, don't care.

P.S. I think there are worse things than being thought of as similar to L.I.W. Unless she was snotty about it. And if she was? No fresh tomatoes for HER.

Dana's Brain said...

Oh totally different people over here! I so get the "polite" people thing. And the work thing. I answer the phone a lot at my work and have to take reservations and stuff so the "phone voice" is a big faker.

I'm with Kristin @ the LIW thing. Plus? I can't knit or sew anything (okay, a button) so I'm totally impressed.

m j pseudosage said...

I think who we are is more of a journey than a destination (with a few whistle stops along the way). Every interaction is a negotiation of some sort (not news to anyone who's been a parent). On the phone we lack the visual cues of face to face encounters, hence the detached tone at first.
There's also the quote from Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
All the various Susans I've met have been gracious, good humored and sharp as a tack.
My verification word is ellfure, a term used to describe the hissy fits of European fashion models.

neb said...

sniglets are back! but in a new form.....the reverse sniglet.

verification - adedd: any beverage designed specifically for well endowed.

TwoBusy said...

If you're the same around everyone, chances are you're not that complex or interesting a person.

Peace Turkey said...

You're not alone.

Look, even SNL says you're not alone! http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/girlfriend-voice/1081346/

Celia said...

Mmm, well yes I am different with different people. It is nice to consider someone else's feelings and treat them accordingly. So Sister Mary will get treated differently than my sister. And I am not gonna let it all hang out in front of my boss.

Laggin said...

I have totally different personas for different places ... ninja mommy, the bitch, the ice queen, the comedian ... and more.

I love the idea of the love child of Laura and Martha. That made my day.

My grandmother knitted me matching pants, sweater, hat and mittens. Yes, I said PANTS. In purple. Acrylic.

NOT pretty.

Actually, humiliating.

I think my mother saved them.


Susan said...

neb - maybe she was afraid of the answer?

George - welcome, and thanks! I, too, would like to go work in Australia. That sounds kind of awesome.

Janine - You mean the phone voice that makes you all sweet and nice even though you've just finished telling someone off? I have no idea what you're talking about. But if I did know (ahem), I'd avoid that one. Oh yes I would.

kristin - she was not snotty about it. In fact, it was her complimentary tone that threw me. She will get fresh tomatoes.

Dana - I use a hot glue gun on my buttons.

mjp - I like the quote. And I like the things you said about me. Perhaps you are always here at a good time? I am not above ellfure. Just ask Chris (although he will not tell you the truth IF HE KNOWS WHAT'S GOOD FOR HIM.)

(cough, cough... smoothing pinafore)

neb - ha!

TwoBusy - not only am I complex, I have several. I don't think anyone is the same around everyone, although it may be a matter of degrees with some.

Peace Turkey - oh great. I was having a productive day and now I am glued to SNL. No one can watch just one.

Celia - That's true. My sister gets pretty much all of it - although I tone it down when she's on speaker phone.

Laggin - the great thing about purple acrylic handknit pants is that they will never, ever deteriorate. But oh, it's making my skin crawl. Gah.

Mary Alice said...

Oh. You are not alone. You should see me hiding granola crunchy, liberal, inappropriate laughter, dirty mind, and Episcopalianism while spending time with the other really conservative churchy military wives at the coffees. It is painful to watch. Sometimes they think I am mute and can only smile and nod.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

That the two facts she was basing her impression on were the knitted dress and your chickens seems kind of unfortunate. Maybe you should let her know about the jam sessions that go on at Trout Towers. Or tell her about Hot Child in the City. Throw in something totally off the Ingalls/Stewart scent, and watch her head explode.

Tiny Dancer said...

Well that explains it! I'm always seeing you when the church people are around and you're being nice, HA!

I don't think we can help being a bit different with different people. In California I let it all hang out and told my life story to the folks in the grocery line. But like Mary Alice wrote in her post, I didn't let on to some of the PTA moms that I was an old hippie and quite liberal.

And even in California you have to be nice around the church folks!

Susan said...

Mary Alice - That's it exactly. There's also the shifting that I don't notice. I think my posture is even better around some people. They might not notice when I'm on the phone with them, though.

Steamy - I think the knitting and the chickening suddenly hit her as incongruent. She knows the Hot Child in the City part and now she's all, "wait, knitting? who even are you?" which is terrible grammar and may make me take my daughter out of her class.

Dancer - It explains a lot, doesn't it? I'm not actually that nice.

The Upstairs Neighbor said...

Different situations do require different levels of one's self exposure - try working at a place where Lilly Pulitzer rules, they are all HARD CORE conservatives and you're the queen of birkenstocks!! Around most people though, I am myself. Mainly cuz I surround myself with those who understand me. I do have a phone voice that isn't even me. It's actually polite and caring.

Lisa said...

I get all annoyed when people make assumptions about me based on a couple facts. But then it's true that we all (or the interesting among us, anyway) have so many facets and so of course we show different sides when stimulated in different ways.

It is just the best when you get to be close enough that even if all your sides aren't exposed, they can be, and the person appreciates them all whether they understand them or not.

If that makes sense. It's been a long day so far.