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My therapist says I do not have to be perky all the time.

This came as news. Actually this came with the force of revelation. It hadn’t occurred to me, until we discussed the issue, that a certain continuous level of bubbly effervescence was expected of me. Something I expect of myself. Something passed down through the female line in my family.

You don’t even realize that you’ve been perky your whole goddamn life until someone gives you permission not to be. I want to join the ranks of the non-perky. Like Philip Roth, whose old interviews with Terry Gross aired the other day in honor of his 75th birthday. Definitely not perky. Not trying to please. Not at all.

Is that what perkiness is? That old shuffle-shuffle-ball-step? That constant effort to keep em laughing, keep em smiling? The imperative to entertain?

And if so, why?

All I can tell you is that it can get exhausting, smiling all the time. It’s one thing to be funny. I like being funny. It’s another thing to be selling it all the time. That’s, I think, what perkiness is.

Stephen Colbert is perky as hell on his TV show, but when you see him around town he’s not selling.

Katie Couric, who I went to school with, couldn’t unperk herself enough to be an authentic news anchor. Perk was perfect for morning TV, where the main job is waking people up.

And me? I want to be more like Philip Roth. Or Jhumpa Lahiri, who I read an interview with the other day. She doesn’t even read her reviews. Didn’t even know what the Times Book Review had to say about her new book. Let alone, like me, posting them on her website the minute they come out. I couldn’t even imagine it. But no, Jhumpa Lahiri apparently is not mugging for the camera, googling herself, updating her website, doing the shuffle-shuffle-ball-step, smiling, smiling, smiling. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Jhumpa is always whipping up vegetable samosas for her friends. Popping up from her writing desk to entertain a vast extended family and a zillion friends. Maybe she’s perky as all get-out.

I don’t think so, though. I think she’s just writing.

What a concept.

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