Putting Up an Impressive Front
Son of a Verse
“Watch his face! - - Hello, Suckerrrrr!!!!” he shouts at his neighbor, waving out the driver’s window as he rides his family around the block in the sparkling AMC Ambassador sedan the salesman has brought out for them to see, drive, ride. Everyone in the car laughs at the neighbor as his mouth drops open and his eyes pop wide at the elegant, obviously very expensive new car.
Staring after them, stunned, the neighbor doesn’t know that it’s a dealer demo, or that, as the commercial will make clear though we do not want the neighbor to know, the price is actually very reasonable. But also, it hasn’t yet occurred to the driver that now he has to buy the car or the whole neighborhood will know he's a blowhard.
Someone wrote about this not long ago, which was when I realized what’s going on with social media. The need to hustle about, post only beaming faces, and make sure everybody else sees that one is doing super-excellent. Beautiful and brilliant kids, happy family, incredible career success, perfect state of mind, enviable vacation, all the best things coming together in one’s life, gorgeous home, stylish clothes, perfect relationships with other people.
At first I think it’s a crock that’s perpetuated in the digital age, but then I remember the 1967 AMC television commercial in which the car salesman shows up at the family’s home with the brand new Ambassador 990 sedan for them to drive, and they can’t wait to get it out on neighborhood streets for the neighbors to see and envy.
We read on Facebook and other social media how well everyone else is doing. We wonder why life is making such a mess dragging us through the swamp and running from the snakes and alligators that we have to exaggerate, lie online. I’ve wondered if swallowing the false evidence that everyone else is doing so much better than we can ever hope to do contributes to depression, despair, and suicide around us? It certainly contributes to our unwillingness to tell the truth.
At clergy gatherings I always found the boasting over-ripe about how stupendously one’s own parish is prospering, or at least how promising and growing week by week. When I was in the Navy, an officer would never dream of sharing his problems with another officer, and much less, never, never, never let one’s commander know one was having problems. It might affect one’s standing in the perpetual jostling for top ranking among one’s peers on the fitness report.
And those of us who are fighting within our own beings, battle of the mind and keep the world from knowing. How can I overcome this. Maybe take a different route to the office, I did that this morning, and there’s a For Sale sign in front of my beloved family homestead. A year or so ago I wrote that a loneliness, an incredible sadness had filled my house. Alfred. My grandparents sold the old place. My parents tried to sell it at least once, I think twice. My selling it and moving on. But I haven’t, have not moved on: it’s still there, down the street from 7H, neighborhood so filled with memories that at times I can hardly bear driving through it, by it, past it.
Maybe if I stop playing Chopin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no. 1 in E minor, op.11, “Romance: Larghetto” and skip to Track 3, “Rondo: Vivace.”
My all-time lifetime favorite office: a tiny space on the 0-1 Level of a WW2 destroyer. Second favorite perhaps, a block back from the Gulf of Mexico, open the door to let in the breeze, smell the salt air, hear the surf's roar.
Long years retired, the entrance to my office.
Just so, in the light beyond the 15-light french door: new, My Laughing Place. I'm loving it.
But ... return home by another way.