Last night, for a variety of complicated and terminally dull reasons, I didn’t sleep very well. I think I went to sleep at about 4am and my alarm went off somewhere around 6.30am. I got up. I washed and dressed. I drank a cup of tea and I skipped breakfast… again. And today, I decided to go to work wearing what I loosely refer to as my Actual Face.
I don’t wear a lot of make up. This is largely because I have outrageously sensitive skin and am allergic to just about everything in the known cosmos, up to and including a bunch of allegedly hypo-allergenic stuff. I’m also allergic to penicillin, which makes being poorly a joy, I can tell you. When I go to work, I throw on a bit of foundation (largely to cover up the evidence of the 2 hours sleep), some eyeliner, a bit of mascara and occasionally some lip gloss. If I remember. I don’t know how to apply make up properly. I fail as a girl. This is my Work Face. There are people I work with who get up about six weeks before they come in of a morning just to do their hair and makeup. Their Work Faces are SRSBSNSOK? That concept is alien to me.
And then there are days like today, when I stare at my dishevelled hair, my tired eyes and the fact I’ve lost weight in my face (sorry, Aaron). But I don’t look my age. I have good skin, a few laughter lines and I think ‘ah, sod it. Today, I will wear my Actual Face.’
There’s something very psychological in this, of course. Make up, like many other physical things that people hide behind, is a mask. With it, you feel more confident somehow. (I say this, but I generally don’t. When I wear make up, I just wonder if people are staring at how badly I’ve applied it). But the principle is sound. You’re wearing this artificial self to work. People don’t see you ‘naked’ as it were; they don’t see the real you. They see the veneer of confidence that surrounds you. It’s like wearing power suits, or power dressing in general. People generally and often unconsciously wear smarter, more austere clothing to work on a day when they have an important meeting, or have to have a confrontation with someone. It gives you a boost.
So I rolled in wearing my Actual Face (which is a bit dry at the moment, but that’s through lack of sleep and lack of drinking anything but caffeine in an effort to stay awake). And I had only had two hours sleep. But nobody minded. Nobody said ‘you look tired.’ Everyone smiled and was warm and friendly. And I thought: this is me. This is who I am.
I go into work wearing my Actual Face quite a lot, which I think takes people unawares. Odd – I’ve also found that they are actually nicer to me when I turn up in my Actual Face, too. I mean, they’re nice most of if not all of the time anyway, but when I go in without the Work Face, there’s a barrier that gets broken down. It’s a paper-thin barrier, certainly, but I think there’s something to be said for having the confidence to expose your true self in the face of so much artifice.
I’ve found it very hard since Primary Instinct was published to feel comfortable behind the ‘Sarah Cawkwell – Author’ mask. I’m sure it’s something that will come with time, but I haven’t yet mastered the art of disconnecting my Actual Face from my third new mask, the Writer Face. The Work Face doesn’t get a metaphorical look in. At the moment, my Writer Face and my Actual Face are very much one and the same. What You See Is What You Get. Bare, naked and me. This is something I have to work on.
Going on the way that Dearly Beloved has been bellowing at Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and a variety of internet fora over the past few weeks also lends credence to the fact that the internet allows you to wear a mask, too of course. Behind your screen, behind your little secret screen name, you can be whoever you want to be. All evidence supports John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.
On the subject of writing, Gildar Rift is sitting at 70,011 words right now. December target met; so I can afford to slack (a little) over Christmas.
And my birthday.
Which is on Friday, did I mention?