Over the last couple of days I have been going through a lot of files and papers to shed some of the bulk before I move (ever so soon). In the process, I've discovered a couple of things. First, I've read a lot of papers about a lot of different things over the years and had a lot of ideas about a lot of stuff. For the last several months I've been so busy working to finish the code for my dissertation that I haven't had a chance to actually do any research. I'm really looking forward to getting back into research when I start at GMU.
I also came across an old story that I wrote when I was in college. There has been some talk lately about how much I've changed since I first started at Penn, so the general theme of it kind of echoed for me. It makes me wonder how much the core of a person actually changes versus how much they just adapt a few behaviors to fit the circumstances they find themselves in. Or is there even a difference?
She walks home from a business luncheon at a chic new low calorie French restaurant. The sun reflects off her shiny metallic sun glasses like the glare off a saber. Her spiked heels try to pierce the sidewalk with every step. Her electrified hair juts from her head like miniature swords. Her make-up can be seen from further away than her canary yellow dress. Her fingers, tipped with long, pointed finger nails, curl around the handle of a snake skin brief case.
As she passes a construction site, she whistles and makes rude comments to the workers. One of the workers becomes distracted by her, and drives a nail through his thumb. She sees this mishap, but walks on. The man's screaming cuts through the air, as she reaches the door to her town house.
She unlocks the door and goes in. As she passes through the kitchen she lays down her briefcase and picks up a bag of marshmallows. She enters the bedroom and closes the door. When she emerges a few minutes later, she is completely changed. Her canary yellow dress has been traded for a pair of faded blue jeans and a flannel shirt. Her spiked heels are now bunny slippers with floppy ears. Her make-up has been replaced by soft, smooth skin. Silky auburn curls cascade over her shoulders.
She takes the bag of marshmallows into the backyard. She sits in the cool shadow of an elm tree to eat. Sunning himself on the stone beside her is a snake. When she sees him, she almost jumps out of her skin. She goes back into the house closing the door behind her.
She turns on her favorite soap opera, and relaxes on the fluffy, powder blue sofa. A tear runs down her cheek when Steel breaks up with Jessica for the fifth time. She blushes when they renew their relationship for the twenty fifth time this week.
The telephone rings. It is her mother calling from Iowa. She turns off the television. Her mother tells her about the Simpson's divorce and the Harting's new baby. Then she asks about her daughter's adventures in the big city. In a timid voice, she begins to tell her about the luncheon. Her mother scolds her for talking to softly, and begins her weekly lecture about protecting herself in the big city. Only her mother knows the scared little girl that trembles inside that ferocious business woman. Her mother's pies are burning, so they hang up.
The low calorie lunch did not tame her hunger, and the marshmallows are gone, so she puts a frozen pizza in the microwave. The buzzer sounds and she take it out. She grabs a knife and tries to cut it, but the knife is too dull. She tries another. It is too dull. She tries another and another. All of them are too dull to cut the pizza, so she folds it in half and takes a bite.
When she is done eating the pizza, she calls her accountant and demands the figures on the Manson account be finished by tomorrow. If they are not, she personally will toss him and his calculator from the window of her fiftieth floor corner office. Then she hangs up with a sigh.
She cannot allow him or any one else to know what she is really like. She is afraid they will not like her. She does not know if she likes herself. The personality she has adopted does not care whether or not any one likes her. It protects her from all of the harshness of other people, from their actions and their brutal, cutting words. She tries to cut other people so they cannot cut her.
Her adopted personality protects her from a cruel business world. When it closes another factory to cut costs, the people it sees sleeping in boxes on the street do not make a difference. It does not hesitate, when it tears down an orphanage, and the children are moved to a crowded inner-city facility. It allows her to separate herself from the cruelties of her job, and the cruelties of life. Her second personality is the shield that protects her from all of the swords of this world, but how deep has she been cut by her own sharp edges?