A couple days ago I went to see a Baudelaire exhibition, and as I meandered through colourful rooms full of poems about flowers and beautiful glass-eyed girls, to rooms displaying portraits of skeletons and poems about the inevitability of rotting in hell, I couldn’t help but notice a dichotomy. Now, this isn’t an essay for my French degree (don’t worry!), but rather a realisation I have had about myself. In fact, not just myself, but a select group of people.
My whole childhood I was mesmerised by the rather magical prospect of reinvention. Every single summer I decided that they wouldn’t know what hit them and I would be a changed human. One summer it meant that after having decided that I needed a new, cool-girl laugh, I spent the next few months plaguing my friends’, teachers’ and family’s ears with a rather strange and unpleasant throaty cackle; another such renewal manifested itself in Year 7, with permanently worn galaxy leggings and fishnet gloves. I think the teachers must have thought I was just slightly odd and let me do me. They had less sympathy for cap-wearing Ron. My case was met with more pity, rightfully. (As much as I would like to say that I don’t claim her, the fishnetted galaxy girl is definitely buried deep inside and still a big part of who I am today). I know that I am not the only one with this desire to romanticise the everyday. And I think, to some degree, it’s this escapism that makes life worth living. Us Baudelairean existentialists (the select group I mentioned earlier) can’t just commit to one person, it would be too boring. Let’s move away from self-monogamy and accept our multi-sidedness.
We’ve just entered the New Year, a wonderful period of wishful thinking, where determined self-delusion is not only expected, but compulsory. However, when writing my own riveting resolutions manifesto, I realised that the goals were all over the place, and that some completely contradicted each other. Some I wrote on days where I was feeling very much like the wrongly done main character and they went a little like “to put myself first and be more selfish”. On other days, such as when my best friend spent all morning looking for her lost earphones, (that could have been mine for all we know, even though mine are different colour and definitely on that bus I rushed out of last week), I wrote: “don’t be so selfish, be a nicer person”. And at the end of this exhibition was a quote by Baudelaire referring to “l’homo duplex”, the dual man. He says that we are composed of two different selves. And that’s exactly it. (But I actually think it’s more than two for me – rather 10). So how do I go about New Me-ing all of these Maddys?
Glow-ups are always fun. And here in Paris, it’s easy (as long as you make sure your BFF who is also in Paris is on board, or reinventing your name at the bar and lying about being Russian can all go very South very quickly.) But this year I would like it to go beyond the various alcohol-induced “Calypso”s and “Natalya”s. If I am going to do this properly, I have to commit to all of the various real me’s. And you to all of your various and wonderful yous. So, I’ve identified a few me’s that seem to be more prominent at the minute:
- Me with my French Friends here: a Jane Birkin wannabe with a conveniently sexy (and thus slightly exaggerated) English accent.
- Me with my actual Friends: a loud, ridiculous and overly-confident boisterous selfish delight.
- Drunk me: an insufferable paraplegic.
- Me with my Family: an insufferable slob.
- Me with strangers: an overly apologetic, mumbling wreck.
- Me with the studious anti-alcohol anti-drugs housemates I live with: an intellectual who, like them, lives in the library and is opposed to heavy drinking and drugs (“I know right, it’s just so unnecessary”)
Now it is just a matter of bettering each and every one of them, with equal care and dedication. The fundamental trick for this to work is to make sure none of these various groups of people meet/interact with each other. It’s got to be within a controlled environment (It would be extremely awkward if your drunk self told the fit stranger at the club that you’re a Calvin Klein model and then it turns out he’s good friends with someone you know who later informed him that this is, in fact, not true. Not that I would know, but hypothetically speaking I can imagine that would be a little embarrassing).
I am aware this is all veering towards the ludicrous, but – all jokes aside – coming to Paris made me fixate on this New Me concept and I tried and aborted certain Maddys along the way. I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work if you espouse a self that isn’t really you. Why invent a new one when there are already so many brilliant ‘you’s’ to choose from. There is a fine line between the adulting task of networking, and just being a big one-woman show with ten different parts and thirty different wigs. But can I be blamed? It’s hard enough being alone with my ADHD/OCD mind, I need my many selves to spice things up in there. This is really not about being fake. There’s nothing fake in accepting your duality. I was talking to my friend who agrees that there is already a detach from one’s “real” self, especially in another country because of the language barrier. You’re a slightly altered being when in a new lexical world.
A psychological analysis may well conclude that this stems from a place of deep-set insecurity and some form of unresolved past trauma, sure. My personal anthem Bittersweet Symphony states “I’m a million different people from one day to the next” – so I will carry on bettering the various different me’s in unison. But my favourite me is one I’ve not yet mentioned: the me of early childhood who had no conception of (and therefore cared not for) who she was and was everyone and everything just as and when she pleased.
Image Credit: Kevinbism / Pizabay