Tuesday, May 13, 2008

what's your backstage?

This made me go "aw," but I'm a big ol' softie.

From Pitse1eh on her "backstage" (go here for the explication of Goffman concept of backstage):

[From Good Will Hunting] "Those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that I only knew about. That’s what made her my wife. Oh, and she had the goods on me too. She knew all my little peccadilloes. People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. Oh, that’s the good stuff. Then we get to choose who we let into our weird little worlds. "

I have an old friend from high school who rewrites all of his letters before he sends them out… rewrites them if there is a single mistake. Why? Because he wanted his letters, those representations of himself, to be perfect. When I met one of his friends from college, we teased him about this. He got very upset that I told her about this little peccadillo. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was letting her in on part of his backstage that I had been privileged to and she had not. From my position, I was sharing how great he was (because these oddnesses I do think are what make us wonderful). From his, I was betraying his trust. Now that I understand this, I feel bad about this when I reflect on it all these years later. In fact, I even emailed him to make sure that it was okay to share this story. Again, showing that there is some type of backstage between him and I in our friendship. I felt the need to communicate with him to clarify what was backstage and what was not.

On a related, side note, I’m wondering if we sometimes “slip up” and give away backstage information on our loved ones to make claims on them to others. “See, look what I know about X.”

In my marriage, this is a problem that Blue and I have sometimes. He likes to tease me with our friends, but in doing so, sometimes he lets slip details about my backstage.

I think marriage (and being in a couple in general) is one example where there is a clear “team” and a clear “stage” and “backstage.”

That's a nice way to think about it, and certainly more realistic (and yet still romantic) than most conceptions proffered in pop culture. In many ways, I think that's the most exciting part about a relationship--learning the little quirks, and learning you can live with them, and jealously guarding the secrets. Claiming ownership when they are teasingly referred to in part (but not whole) in public. Coming up with cover stories to obscure the back stories. Real love and partnership is not always grand, epic romantic adventure--but it is an ever unfolding story with changing points of view, unreliable narrators, red herrings, plot twists, and little details that are easily missed except upon close reading or intimate knowledge of the characters. In fact, I regret my chatty nature, and how easily I've revealed some of the most special little quirks that I've come to love best--such that I hold onto them now in silence. I don't think that they reveal any essential character, but I do think they're little artifacts of knowledge that are meant only for myself.

This is somewhat related to my "no pictures" theory of why some memories are too good to document, because then it stays a shared moment between two people. The memories residing in the corners of the mind, waiting to be recalled for pure pleasure. The images printed on the backs of our eyelids, fluttering into view whenever we close our eyes in daydream.


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