The most interesting men and women I know have multiple personas that they draw from in their interactions with the world at large. It’s like wearing a costume, except that these are exaggerated personality traits turned into a simplified version of the person. I have witnessed my dear friend Victoria in a few different personas: Sweet Southern Gal, Proper English Wife, Bitch-on-Wheels American (quite handy for business meetings). I’m sure that she has several more in her arsenal. She has joked about which persona would be the best for a particular occasion, and I love the fact that she can put them on and take them off quite easily.
Over the years I have developed Scotch-drinking Demure Wench (from my dancing days at the Renaissance Faire, which I did for several seasons), Colonial Raver Marine (during my party and Burning Man days), Educated/Well-traveled Career Girl, Outdoorsy Adventurer (I dabbled with quite a few pursuits, including hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, scuba diving, mountain biking, snowboarding). Since getting married and having a family I added Domestic Goddess (culinary and craft projects), Perky Mother of Four (school stuff), and Trophy Wife (for cultural events such as symphony and opera performances). None of these personas represent the “real” me, but all of them together make up a big part of me. Humans are complicated creatures, and we usually interact with a wide array of other individuals. Most people out there aren’t interested in knowing me *that* well, except for a handful of close friends and a few family members. These personas provide a shortcut to me and my acquaintances to interact easily without a lot of fuss.
Apparently not everyone is happy that society uses archetypes. Last week I read an article written by a twenty-something woman, bemoaning the fact that men view women in a superficial way, relying on archetypical characters as a viewing lens. The author’s first main point was that men grow up to star in their own story, and women grow up to be a supporting role. She used the descriptor “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” as an example of a current archetypical character in books and movies that portray women in an unrealistic way. While I can see her perspective, the article (which was a bit of a feminist diatribe) got me thinking more about how my views about interaction between men and women have changed as I have gotten older, rather than the injustice that women are subjected to by society at large. I have a vague recollection of being annoyed in my twenties whenever people treated me impersonally, but now I appreciate that there is no way everyone that I meet can know and appreciate me as an individual.
Archetypes have existed for millennia, and for good reason. We carry stories with us throughout our lives, and they tend to be populated with characters we learn to love or hate, but we know them well. Since they are out there anyway, why not use them as tools?