Grand Illusion: We're All Just Pretending
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
How The Pandemic Exposed We're All Just Pretending
Original Article by Lynn Steger Strong theguardian.com
I was meant to write about perception versus reality in what I do professionally. The owner of the New York restaurant Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton, wrote an essay about this recently – describing how, for so long, so many of us have been pretending that we were or were about to “make it”. We had checked all or most of the boxes we were told to check in our professions, even as our lives remained in constant states of anxiety and fear. Work – the ability not only to get it and to do it but to not ever stop it – is the attribute that is perhaps flaunted and celebrated most of all. One of the reasons many of us don’t share the ways we do not have enough money is, I would argue, because we’re ashamed to say we’re struggling. We’ve internalized that our suffering is our fault – that it is because we must not be working hard enough.
"I wanted to write about the pervasiveness of this feeling that there are no longer avenues to stability, because I wanted there to be less shame around it."
The Jig Is Up
In her essay, Hamilton speaks of talking to others she also thought of as successful who were actually just performing success the same way she did. Hearing them say now that they were one bad week or month from going under before Covid-19 shocked her. She discovered that, in fact, the lot of it has been a ruse for a while.
It’s not just shame that keeps us quiet either. We keep our “failures” close to us because we know, especially in the markets that both Hamilton and I work in – art, books, restaurants – it’s so much about appearance. Is that book or that chef, that artist important? Why should anyone pay for her rent, her studio, her tour? Our pretending we’re not drowning is the proof we have that we might still be worth saving. Our performing stability is one of the few ways that we hope we might navigate the narrow avenues that might still get us out.