It turns out more than makeup separates my pajama self from my public self.
It’s not that my pajama self is anything to be ashamed of.
In California, I’m finding a strange cultural contrast with how I grew up: people like it when you “keep it real” here. Old social rules are arbitrary. Formalities trap you in insincerity. Real people are who they are. They say what they want, when they want, and irreverence gets applause.
Other places I have lived, thinking of a certain England or the South, come with elaborate codes of manners. There is a rule for any social situation. There is a pattern for how to treat people, and it’s offensive when you don’t comply. Often, working knowledge of the rules determines a person’s social place. There is a lot of saying what you don’t mean because you’re supposed to.
I want to offer a defense for that.
It’s not all about performance for approval and power, the thing that “keeping it real” is supposed to remedy. When it’s done right, it’s about attending to the people around you, putting others before yourself, and caring for them well.
I understand that if you’re my age, you might not have been raised with etiquette and manners training. I get that the 60s taught our parents to hate that stuff. I get that it’s never really been a thing out here in California.
But “keeping it real” can make things rough. We shove our sentences, delivering them with unnecessary roughness. It often makes more room for selfishness and self-absorption than it does for other people’s needs. The loudest and most powerful are the ones that get heard and get their way.
I also get that if you don’t, from your deepest heart, live by the command “Love your Neighbor” and follow the Person who said it, you don’t have any motivation other than power and approval to follow the code.
But if you are such a follower, then you should welcome any help you can get in knowing how to care well for people. You should be thankful for the rules that remind you to pay attention to other people when it doesn’t come naturally to you. You should be mindful of the turns of phrase and civilities that systematically allow us to honor the personhood of strangers. We need help knowing how to love our neighbor.
We were told to do this a long time ago.