The Case For Faking It
If anyone were to ask me my philosophy of life, I’d have to say: fake it. I mean really, nobody knows why we are here and for what purpose, and just to bring this down a notch or two, who can possibly know one’s authentic self. At least, by faking it you have a pretty good chance of getting through life’s more terrifying or bewildering moments.
I’m dyslexic—I know, who isn’t—but back in the sixties when I was in grade school and trying to learn to read, they really hadn’t figured out, or even labelled the myriad ways you could be learning disabled. If you were having trouble reading, it meant you were slow. Even as a kid, I knew being cast as slow could have life long repercussions. Besides, something didn’t jive. After all, I understood everything and I was verbally dexterous, so what gave? Eventually, and I have to say probably unwittingly, I created a way of faking it through reading. I understood enough words that I could create the rest, assume, in effect, my way down the page. And by adding a dash of panache to my readings I managed to skirt any dreaded label.
Some would equate faking with lying. But I don’t think they are the same thing at all. Though I believe in both. I love lying. Comes as easily to me as breathing. I once wrote a whole essay for an in-flight magazine about the joys of getting on an airplane and making up a whole new self for the duration of the flight. Steal that time, I wrote, to be something you’d never have the balls or the brains to be in real life. Mostly, I confessed, I would pretend to be a weatherman, a meteorologist. To sound like I knew my business, I would tell people that there’s no such thing as a five-day forecast that there were just too many variables like wind speed, barometric pressure, sunspots, leaf cover, clouds, pollution and so forth. But that forecasters like myself were forced to feed into the myth of a predictable future. I rounded out the essay with me, upon landing, looking sagely out the window and stating the obvious, it’s sunny, it’s cloudy, it’s rainy.
The magazine was inundated with irate letters. People really get exorcised about lying. One man said I should be banned from the skies. As if me pretending to be a weatherman would threaten the very integrity of the aeroplane.
And this is where telling a lie differs from faking it. Nobody faults the possum for playing dead. No woman would fault another woman for faking an orgasm. Rather a deluded happy man, than an insecure simpering one.
Faking is based on a deep biological imperative. There are thousands of examples in nature of creatures camouflaging themselves –a prime form of faking it—or setting up decoy food stores, or putting dummy eyes on the back of their heads so they always seem on the lookout. In fact, if you don’t have some sort of scheme up your proverbial sleeve, you are kind of a loser and are likely to end up some one’s lunch.
Faking serves another purpose as well. In America, at this very moment, we are constantly being bombarded by right-wingers and conservative Christians of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. If you believe this drivel, well then, best to learn how to fake it.
I have been married twenty-two years but anyone who’s been married longer than twenty-two minutes knows it’s impossible to be in love the entire time. There are moments; days even, months when you have to fake it. And I’m not talking about pretending that you aren’t driven mad by the small annoyances, the banana peel left on the counter, or the petty slights and miscues that make your spouse at times seem the biggest jerk on earth.
No, I’m talking about feeling nothing, no spark when he comes through the restaurant door and you’re waiting at the bar, or worse the behind-the-glass feeling when his touch seems prosaic and totally formulaic. What is so awful about these moments, because it is human nature to fall prone before doubt, is that right then you believe you are seeing the truth, seeing directly into the core, the very essence of your husband. It feels a little like that moment when you realize that your parents are as fallible, disappointed, or as screwed up as every other human being. And when that happens it is a pretty lonely moment but when it happens with your husband it’s ten times worse. You married them to save you from that loneliness. You married them because this was going to be your new, your chosen family. And there he is walking into the restaurant and you feel nothing! But some fake instinct checked in and I didn’t blurt out, “I don’t love you anymore!” instead I pretended everything was alright. Okay, maybe my voice was a little too high pitched and maybe I took a little too much interest in things that when I was in love and confident I had no problem telling him bored me to tears. The first time, I will admit, was the scariest because I didn’t know then that there was going to be another side to this no love feeling. Thankfully, there was. By faking it I was ferried back into being in love. Which is more real? Neither probably. But one is a lot more fun.
Our lives then are ours to make up. I’m not the first to think this of course. Immanuel Kant knew there was no such thing as an irrefutable reality when he wrote something along the lines that the mind is forever barred from direct knowing from the thing in itself. But I needn’t just rely on some 18th century philosopher. I’ll never forget the day my husband came charging out of his office, eyes wide, having just read that cognitive scientists have come to the conclusion that the very reason for consciousness is to act as a scrim keeping an inconceivable reality at bay. So there you have it, turns out everything we think, feel, see, everything we perceive is made up. What a relief.
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