Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The person and the persona

spicy girl only

I'll start with a moment of honesty. Before this I was on Facebook stalking a few unspeakably spicy women I've never met, whom I'm glad I've never met for the simple reason that occupying the same time zone as these goddesses impels in me this irreversible shame and self-loathing; if ever I were to meet them eye-to-eye, then after the week-long anxious shaking and jerking ceased I'd probably climb atop Taipei 101 and dive off the needle's springboard to a chorus of disparaging honks from people in their cars and mopeds who've been momentarily inconvenienced by this very sudden, but profoundly immaterial, splat on the pavement.

In other words, these women are hot. And perusing the mirror for hours on end, I come to the same conclusion every time: I'm not. And that's how I know there's no God.

Anyway, for some odd reason, anytime I think about or see beautiful women, my immediate urge is to write. Not even about them. Just write some shit that will make people say, "This didn't come from a writer. This came from an artist." How lusting for these perfect tens and writing profundity connect, I'm not 100 percent sure, though I do have a theory. I know that based on my various inherited qualities--looks, personality, overall human worth--let's just say the grass is incontrovertibly greener. So writing being art, and a good writer being a good artist, and a good artist being tantalyzingly sexy and desirous in the eyes of beautiful women--that's the link. I mean, it makes sense, right? Supermodels across the world reading these very words right now, overlooking my countless physical deformities, tranced by my ability to write geniusly, getting hot below the waist and fantasizing about being ravaged by a religiously embittered blog writer.

Yeah, makes sense.


I concede that the above are not my genuine thoughts. Well, not all of them. It is true that when I chance upon spectacular women, my immediate want is to produce prose that, if comparable, would match the hotness of said provocateurs. The rest, though--my automatically jumping to the conclusion that I need to jump to my life's conclusion, the self-deprecation, etc. etc.--I wrote down because I thought it was funny. The whole thing is an act I stole from my favorite Jews in the whole world: Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and Woody Allen.

What those three did for me I'll never be able to repay. They taught me about misanthropy, existentialism, nihilism, the absurdity of social decorum, that it's very rarely the "big" events that define life, but more so the itsy bitsy minutiaed jujyfruit added up and collaged, producing a grand and giant mural that, once complete, depicts absolutely nothing. The abovementioned self-deprecation is a part of that. Learning to laugh at and poke fun of yourself, understanding that life is futile and meaningless and don't take yourself so goddamn seriously all the time. 

Larry David, self-deprecation embodied

Unfortunately, there was one crucial nugget of information in all this that I failed to pick up until very recently:

Self-deprecation is an art.

Meaning, for years nobody had disabused me of the notion that one can extricate the man from his self-loathing. I thought the two were married, that one simply lived a life putting himself down hundreds of times a day because he was genuine in his belief that deprecating the self is a jolly good time. I thought Seinfeld's misanthropy was genuine life. That LD's self-awareness regarding his desperation with women translated into an actual pick-up attempt. That in his movies WA's signature neurosis was an autobiographical portrayal, that if he got stuck in an elevator in real life in real life his head would actually combust.

So, with all this misinformation, I did would any good student looking to emulate his heroes would do: I too wed the self with the loathing.

For one, I thought it was funny (which it is). But more importantly, I thought that art and life were the same; that, essentially, if you wanted to walk the walk, you had to talk to talk. And so in 2009 I transformed myself into a self-deprecating bastard, the proverbial bass in a cappella groups hitting all the low notes. I began aligning myself with failure because above all I wanted to be funny, and who's ever heard of laughter incited from success? "Be awkward, be incompetent, be ugly" became my mantra. I started purposely making situations uncomfortable for both parties; I embellished social interaction stories so that I came off worser (?) than was actually the case; and of course with women, I felt like I'd grand slammed every time I struck out.

In essence, I was reshaping my personality to match that of an incompetent, unconfident piece of shit.

"Why are you talking like that?" friends would say when hearing me knife myself with insults.

"You don't understand," I'd say back. "It's funny to self-deprecate, and it's funniest if you're aware. Don't worry, I'm okay."

And I was okay. But all this reshaping for the sake of talking the talk to one day produce fine art was gonna eventually catch up to me and do… something. What that something was, I neither knew nor even knew to contemplate. Of course, under the hood of pretense, invisible to the eye was my initial purposeful unconfidence begetting more unconfidence, this time accidental and unanticipated, all the while intractable and supremely lethal in its effects. The piece of shit I was playing for appearances had now submerged itself wholly into me, so that there was no more "playing for appearances." I now 100-percent identified with the moniker preceding it. I was simply Steven Lo, Piece of Shit.

Well, long story short, enduring life when constantly plagued by thoughts of insecurity and inferiority can get tiresome. And hard. And I heard women don't find it that attractive either.

And then one day I learned about this word called "persona." The antithesis to marriage, wedlock, eternal togetherness, all that shit. The ascertaining of which caused me to sink for a moment and berate myself for my immense gullibility and stupidity all these years. I immediately chucked my dated worldview right out the window. (Unfortunately it landed on a biker and he's dead now.)

Let me explain. When Louis CK, Bill Burr, Seinfeld, all those guys do their act on stage, it's just that. An act. They're not really that miserable and misanthropic and douchey in real life. Well… they might be. But not to the extent that their stage selves embellish. They discover what's funny and exploit the hell out of it anytime they're performing or expected to make people laugh.

Ohhh, now I get it. It's a fucking act! A persona! How did I miss that? Jesus Christ, all this time I thought this was just how they were in real life? "You fucking imbecile. Of course it's put on. God, you're such a cunt."

Yeah, I know…

When reading Jay-Z's Decoded earlier this year I learned he too was all about this same kind of persona. A quick cram lesson: rap is unfairly and ignorantly judged all over the world. It's the only genre in which the artist's words are taken at face value. If Nas talks about "sneakin' an uzi on the island in my army jacket linin,'" we more or less expect Nas's conjured image to reflect his real life. In contrast, nobody really pictures Taylor Swift to be shedding tears on her mahogany guitar on Monday, then prancing exaltingly through a field in Victorian attire that same Wednesday.

So with Jay-Z, when breaking down song lyrics in his book, he'd keep referring to the "I" in his songs as a third person. As "him," "that dude," "the narrator," "this nigga," etc. etc. (Akin to a novelist writing in first person.)

For example: in the footnote for the lyric I sold it all from crack to opium, Hov says this: "This is something I do in a lot of my songs--I introduce the narrator with a declaration that lets you know who he is: In this case, he's obviously a boss, someone who 'sold it all' and is speaking from that experience." 

The "I" who sold crack and opium is not Jay-Z. It's a fictional chracater, like Harry Potter or God. What Hov is doing is acting through song. He's taking on a persona that may or may not have anything to do with real life.

That's why earlier I said the ability to self-deprecate is an art. Because one simply doesn't take a thousand shots at himself and get his net worth up to half a billion dollars. He has to craft his self-deprecating persona scrupulously, tirelessly. It must be purposeful while at the same time convincing enough so that we, the public, take it for his real personality. It's an art because it has to be created. It has to be made up, because it is not the real thing.

I wish I had known that four years ago. That for one to produce fine art, one needn't put himself through the fire. One can give off the appearance of lacking all sorts of competence and adequacy because it's funny, but in real life still be totally competent and adequate.

Maybe this has given you nothing new to work with. Maybe it's just common sense. But then again, I'm a good-for-nothing, dumb cunt, so try to show a little empathy and bare with me, okay? 

Was that person or persona? Life or art?

-Either/and/or OUT!

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