Why do we need to pretend so much?

Lego set 70818, the Double-Decker Couch

I built a cool Lego set last night, and it was sitting on my desk when Dorena came into the room this morning. She opined how cute “Hello Kitty” was, and asked if she could take the minifig to work to place it on her desk. Knowing that she fell asleep during the one attempt we made to watch The Lego Movie together, I didn’t want to let it stand — because I rarely do, and that’s a character flaw for another post — and ragged on her about not being able to take Unikitty because she still hasn’t even sat through the movie yet.

Her defenses fired up immediately. “I’ve seen different parts of it, so I’ve pretty much seen the whole thing. It’s been on HBO!”

Indeed, it has been on HBO, where I’ve sat through it a few times. For some reason, I was feeling extra feisty this morning, and asked which part she liked the best.

“The beginning where he’s following all the instructions.”

“Oh, the one part you watched with me that one time, and then fell asleep?”

“No, you don’t sit in the living room with me and see what I watch. I’ve caught parts of it at different times.”

I liked the attempt to deflect on a perceived deficiency of attention, but I pushed on with my line of questioning instead of engaging.  “So what else happens in the movie?”

“I guess it just doesn’t stick in my mind.”

One of the reasons I love this chick is because she’s into TV and movies like I am, and she’s great at quoting things we’ve watched together. Something doesn’t need to be super special to “stick in her mind,” and I’m not writing this to pick on her — I mean, I am, but it’s not the main point. It got me thinking about how we humans always pretend to know about everything. I’ve been contemplating it for a while, and wanted to flesh out my thoughts.

We’re social beings, and we want to fit in. It’s natural to want to be accepted by those we respect in our circles, and part of that is sharing common ground. “I know as much about this thing you like, so you should like me.” That passes the surface test, but maybe it’s more primal.

Exposing any weakness, no matter how insignificant, deflates our ego and in turn makes us vulnerable. To escape that, we improvise a story that should fit into the discussion. We’re creatures of habit and patterns, so we’re able to surmise what’s an expected response to a situation, and can piece it together on the fly. Being able to read threats and counter them helped our earlier sapiens survive, and damn it, it can still work! Instead of diffusing a battle for territory, we’re using anecdotes to maintain conversational standing.

I think that’s the difference between me and my Little Froggy. I’m a knowledge-seeker, so I’m naturally curious about the “whys” and “hows,” while Dorena just goes with the flow. If she gets the behind-the-scenes info it’s cool, but she doesn’t care as long as it just works. It’s a really nice balance, and it brings me down to Earth at times.

Other times, it makes me ponder the inner-workings of the psyche and the social implications, and I write a bunch of words on a blog that no one reads1. You can tell which one of those happened today.

1. The writer previously discarded multiple readers of the blog as "no one," and has revised the entry after receiving affirmations that they are indeed not "no one."

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Keith

I am Keith J. Frank, an overweight, acerbic, narcissistic, and sometimes lovable asshole that was born in June of 1983.

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