I have been watching a lot of Seinfeld lately. The activity of watching TV sometimes stalls the activity of being the person who deserves to walk the Earth in my body. Sometimes I can convince myself that I’m doing life research, and I even go to great lengths to convince myself by taking notes or letting the show rule conversation for the rest of the night.
The show is about three people who pretend that they are not doing and being things that ultimately define them. They are all holding the realization at arms length. The realization is that they are pretending. On the large scale, they are pretending not to be in the 1%. On a smaller scale they are pretending not to own their reactions to the other on a daily basis.
I’m talking about George, Jerry, and Elaine, of course. Kramer is always looking outside of himself. Kramer is rarely pretending. My roommate mused that after the airing of the show, the Western world probably experienced a boom of self-proclaimed Georges, Jerrys, and Elaines. That they probably had to search for the comparatively few Kramers of the world. At risk of sounding like I think the world is only a macrocosm of Seinfeld, I think we should all strive to be those Kramers.
A lot of that has to do with the idea of pretending. In thinking about the recent social phenomena I have experienced, which have compounded with a brain full of Seinfeldian anecdotes, I realized that I am guilty of pretending in the epistemic sense. I began this mantric list and was unpleasantly surprised at how easy it was to go on. It was so easy, that I thought it might border on universal. So here it is:
- I shouldn’t pretend not to be taken aback.
- I shouldn’t pretend to be doing things I am not doing.
- I shouldn’t pretend that everything is okay.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t know how it feels not to be in the mood to hear “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t know how unsatisfying it is to bear your soul to the wrong person.
- I shouldn’t pretend not to have a right to judge people whom I know or who directly affect my life.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t know what it’s like to be utterly disgusted by something a friend says, and I should always hold the friend accountable. But
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t have unsavory things to say about the way I face interpersonal reality.
- I should ask, not tell.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t know that the reader of an email is the person I sent it to—not some projection of myself.
- I shouldn’t pretend, in writing, that a confession is a dismissal. I have no need to be that blasé.
- I shouldn’t pretend I am automatically worth the time it takes to listen to me.
- I shouldn’t pretend that a feedback loop is productive. I should stop telling the adage after awhile.
- I shouldn’t pretend to be graceful.
- I shouldn’t pretend to be hopelessly awkward.
- I shouldn’t pretend to be immune to the tensions of a power play. I shouldn’t say “The other feels it, and I only notice it.”
- I shouldn’t pretend anyone will be offended if I disappear for the moment it takes me to collect and better myself.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t glaze over certain details for the sake of continuity. It is a perfectly sane practice.
- I shouldn’t pretend to agree. I shouldn’t nod—I should raise my eyebrows.
- I know I am a tiny thing, though I sometimes feel like a large concept. I shouldn’t pretend I am so tiny that I cannot help.
- I shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t matter how I react. Acting is still reacting.
- I shouldn’t accept the textbook way.
- I should not pretend I am not the disease and the cure at the same time.
- I shouldn’t pretend they don’t all speak my language.
- I shouldn’t pretend I don’t speak theirs.