A while ago I had a strange conversation with a friend. She used to live on a farm and had a pig as a child who thought it was a dog. It even tried rustling sheep with the other dogs. I asked her if a pig grew up amongst sheep, would it then think it was a sheep? Perhaps, she conceded… Since this moment, the image of a pig that thinks it’s a dog rounding up a pig that thinks it’s a sheep has stuck in my head.
A few nights later while walking through town, wondering if a pig raised with cats would obsessively groom, I saw that busker who strums the imaginary guitar. It struck me that he could just be pretending – maybe he gets more money being a freakazoid? Then I thought what if all the potty buskers and freaky street celebrities you see around town were NOT mad? What if they were faking? What if Kenny and his amp were just researching a magazine article? What if the Widow of Newtown was just getting inside the head of her character? What if every slightly interesting person you see in town is really average underneath? Then what?
This just now reminds me of something Kierkegaard wrote (holy shit this is getting pretentious, excuse me, it’s going somewhere), about a writer who begins writing a novel about a madman and ends the book in first person.
I guess what I’m getting at is how we can all write our lives, manufacture certain persons, engineer desired outcomes. Fashion is all about self-characterisation when you think about it. Even those who claim not to go in for appearance, they’re saying something with their trackpants. But it’s not just clothes. I know girls who’ve trained themselves to laugh differently so they’ll be more attractive to boys. You can just about become anyone you want, if you try. And once you play the game long enough, you don’t even need to try – your default laugh is the cute one. So who are we? The pig we were born as or the dog we think we are?
The pseudonyms that have lately graced the letters pages of this very magazine with their ‘opinions’ – aside from bringing the invective of bathroom stall graffiti to a wider audience – show us how important names are in defining identity. Their anonymity seems to grant them superhero-type confidence (sadly they possess neither super-spelling nor -grammar). In some cultures, children get to choose their name when the reach maturity – maybe this isn’t such a bad idea (though I guess the pseudonyms would be waiting a while to be mature).
Since a lot of what we do is done for the benefit of others, trying to make good impressions, the few unguarded glimpses behind someone’s persona are truly precious. Perhaps this is why people who walk around with headphones on annoy me – because I want to know what they’re listening to. Unlike what you’re wearing, what you blast into your ears is a pretty private thing. And I guess that’s why it twangs my curiosity bone (there is so a curiosity bone, it’s by your clavicle). Getting in someone’s headphones is the closest thing I can think of to seeing inside their head. If only it were like that Telecom ad where people walk around with speech bubbles above their heads. But if what you’re listening to as you walk the streets becomes another signaling device, a means of characterising yourself, then it’d lose its magic. You’d only be seeing someone’s veneer donned for strangers.
If you’re waiting for this hotch-potch of thoughts to nicely dovetail together – forget it. The moral of the story, if you need to find one, is that I’m an overly earnest bastard. In an attempt to remain mildly interesting, I’ll make this sucker a bit more interactive… If you can come up with a joke beginning with “Two pigs walk into a bar” email it to me at . The best joke will be printed in my next column. See you then.