I’m aware that keeping up appearances conjures up inflated visions of grandeur, but I think if no one were looking and I didn’t feel compelled to do so, I would slack on the most mundane, everyday activities. I’d rarely clean my house. I might just give up wholly on scrubbing my bathtub—who’s going to see that? I’d sit around surfing the internet while dishes pile in the sink and my vacuum cleaner would collect nothing but dust. Surely, I’d tell myself, the smell would eventually be motivation enough to get me off my butt to clean (right?), but if the only one who knows about my disgusting house is me, then who cares? Make-up and hair spray would be things of the past. I’d teach classes in exercise attire. I’d eat cheese curls in public.
There’s certainly a part of me that functions best when I try to keep up appearances. It’s a version of the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality that can get someone through their day perhaps more successfully than had they behaved authentically. So when is it important to keep up appearances? How about at work? Let’s say your alarm didn’t go off, and you accidentally slept in 20 minutes late. Oops. You rush to shower and dress. You prepare bagged lunch for yourself and your kid. The kid’s off on the bus, and you get in the car and the gas light flickers on. Shucks. The closest gas station is the one that’s always thirty cents more a gallon than everywhere else. You get on the highway and realize you left your lunch on the kitchen counter. Dang. And as soon as you realize you’ll need to buy lunch from the cafeteria today, traffic comes to a standstill thanks to a stalled vehicle in the middle lane. You get to campus five minutes after the beginning of class and as soon as you walk into your classroom, you notice your sweater is inside out. Sigh. Not a good way to start the day.
How to salvage it? Pretend your shitty morning didn’t exist. Push down the series of mini-rages you just had in the span of two hours and slap on a smile. Sure, you can apologize to your students for being late, but it’s now time to move on, and what better way to move on than to negate a crap morning? Wear that smile like a Stepford wife, even if all you want is to tell the world to go to hell, burn the sweater, and crawl back into bed and start again tomorrow. This day is about to get better, dammit. I am turning this ship around. And before you know it, your class is humming along, students are learning how to spot fragments and run-ons, and you are slowly forgetting that you need to switch around your sweater once you have a second to yourself in your office. By the time you’re in line for today’s cafeteria special, you feel, well, pretty normal. You’ve gone from telling yourself, “everything’s fine,” to everything really is fine.
But then again. Some days just suck…and you start over the next day.