Thursday, August 13, 2015

La vie en rose par procuration

Source Sareen Akarjalian

"One night, while parked in Simon's Sunbeam Alpine in Queens with nothing to do and listening to the radio, the disk jockey played their new single, "The Sounds of Silence," and announced that it was the Number 1 song in the country. Garfunkel reportedly turned to Simon and said, "those guys must be having so much fun!"' (story source here).
"Those guys must be having so much fun!" said Art Garfunkel to Paul Simon about themselves. I saw this sentence originally somewhere on television and it never left my mind and am glad I found it again today. I knew it must have been somewhere on the internet. To me it represents everything about the projected selves we live in. This, as the wonderful comic by Sareen Akarjalian proves it above has only been amplified by social media. No, fear not, a sociological article about the make-believe on the social media, you can find that elsewhere. But it baffles me to see the length at which people go to appear to have a good life. When, in my teens, I heard a neighbor describe ours as "la famille ideale" (the ideal family), I was sort of bewildered. In my lexicon ours was far from "ideal" on day to day basis, but like everything I do not understand, it was kept in my mind for future investigation.
Now I get it, between a lawyer, a medical doctor and a engineer, a perfect housewife and a government bureaucrat living what seemed like the middle class Lebanese dream, we must have appeared "ideal" to the neighbor. Consciously or unconsciously, this is the image we seemed to be projecting.
And if we are not consciously doing it, society has means to condition us. When we went back from the Christmas vacation (I must have been 8) the schoolyard supervisor, a lovely elderly woman, asked me what I got for Christmas as we stood in line, I innocently answered what it was - her reflex was an immediate "seulement!" (only that!). Naturally, I got embarrassed and kept replaying the conversation in my mind to understand what caused her reaction to be surprised and disappointed at once. In retrospect I can understand it is about a flaw in her projection towards me and my life; she assumed something about my lifestyle which my honest answer did not conform to.
Such incidents teach us to better lie, to be a better part of the social acceptance, and some of us - years later - try to decode the origin of the lie when others go further and further into it. Everything from camera-ready behavior (the blogger whom I met by accident at a restaurant was - judging from her expression - bored of her lunch and her company but when one of her friends took out her selfie stick she flashed a major smile which disappeared as soon as the shot was taken), to grappling for invites to such and such place or event (a major news anchor twisted his brother's arm to get invited to the lunch thrown when Carlos Slim - one of the world's richest men - visited Lebanon, I doubt Mr. Slim remembers either of the two!) to any other social status symbol or conspicuous consumption behavior (Thornton Veblen's social theory about spending to impress others, "yiiiiiiiiiiii istez, inta btekod el autobus?" - "oh! sir! You take the bus?" a question I get asked with a social stigma when I reveal how I got to my appointments, which readily confirms how breaking the expected social code assigned to you created a panic in your social audience).
The title of this post comes from a mix of Jean-Jacques Goldman's song "La Vie Par Procuration" (a life by proxy) and the international Edith Piaf hit "la vie en rose" (a life in pink), a mix of harsh reality and dreaminess at once, as long as the mask doesn't crack, then honor is safe and the show goes on.

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