Acting — 78

This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!

Acting

I have always enjoyed a good movie, especially when there’s really quality acting, which is very, very rare. Great acting requires complete immersion into the role, into the context and time period in which the movie is set, and the quality of relationships between the protagonist has to be skillfully crafted on and off the set.

That’s why I respect the professional actors that employ “method acting” which is sometimes characterized by playing their silver screen characters even off-camera for the duration of the project. Although this isn’t a necessary requirement to be a student of Method Acting it is still employed by some. I couldn’t imagine any other way of doing it though – if you’re trying to completely imitate a portrayal of a particular person or characterize a time period for a persona how could you not completely give yourself up to the role so as to truly appear lifelike?

I know acting – I have done it all my life. I still do it. The only difference now is that I’m no longer wary or ashamed about it. It’s how I not only cope and survive this world but also how I thrive because without it I would have very little to show for all the interests and passions that I have, not to speak of the value that I think I have to give to the world.

This isn’t even a tendency that needs to be monitored; it’s just something that I naturally learned over time. I have multiple versions of my own self and characterizations that have emerged over time. They all have a role to play in certain circumstances and I can command them at will, right off the shelf. It wasn’t always this way, but overtime I’ve learned to recall them and request their use without much thought. Historically I had to rehearse. I spent long hours practicing how I would respond in certain circumstances and if something went awry or if I encountered a new relational phenomena I would make a mental note of it so as to not screw it up a second time.

For example, I realized over time that a firm handshake can cover a multitude of sins. The inability to carry a quality conversation or hold eye contact very well could at least be glossed over if I shook the person’s hand well and warmly. This was my “Introduce Myself” character that I honed and crafted over time. In fact, at one point I remember asking my brother to teach me how to handshake because I saw him successfully do it well after he was able to mimic and perform immediately what our father had taught us. I couldn’t seem to do it well but I practiced all that summer.

At first my handshake was much too stiff and much too hard. I compensated for my lack of relational tact by crushing the other person’s hand and I can remember more than once someone yelping as they received my hand for the first time. What made this even more difficult is that I realized that men somewhat appreciated a really strong and firm handshake, even if it was somewhat crushing. Women, on the other hand, did not prefer to be handled as such but wanted a confident one nonetheless. So my character had to pivot and shift a bit according to who I was engaging with.

I was, in a sense, optimizing my own behavior, my act, so that I could fit in properly. Overtime these became less scripted and noticeably practiced and more fluid and natural. It would be very difficult for anyone to imagine or even identify that my Introduce Myself character wasn’t 100% genuine, authentic, and real. In many ways it is all those things and yet I approach the entire thing stoically and without much enthusiasm. If it were up to me they’d keep their grubby un-washed and potentially sickly hands away from me (who knows where those hands have been?!).

Developing a cordial and profesional way to engage with new people is one such example of a much larger process that I have dedicated myself to for my entire life. I have logged thousands (if not tens of thousands) of signals for a variety of different social scenarios that I have crafted into workable and repeatable models. A few that I have to leverage most days are:

  1. Leader of Fun Business
  2. Oh No, There’s Someone At the Door, Be Nice
  3. Super-Social Online Persona Guy
  4. Caring Husband That Really Tries Hard
  5. Responsible Dad That Doesn’t Intentionally Kill Children

It’s the last one that’s required a lot of note taking as being a responsible father is very much a learn-as-you-go type of thing. Just the other day I gave my 2 and 6 year old a 19.2v power drill so that they could “stay busy” while I worked through some lines of important code and so that my wife could take a quick nap.

To me this wasn’t such a bad idea and making holes in cardboard seemed like a neat idea too. Oh, the possibilities! I apparently didn’t think about the bare hardwood floor that they putting the cardboard on and I didn’t think that the tool itself weighed almost as much as my 2 year old who could be literally stab herself in her foot and with a 650RPM rotating drill bit. SNAP! was all that I heard and the next thing I saw was my oldest rubbing her head and a huge patch of hair missing from her head. Apparently the drill had caught her hair and in a few milliseconds sucked her hair into it and hit her face. She had reacted instantly and tugged hard with ripped the hair out of her skull. Shock and then tears were coming next and come they did.

My wife, of course, had words telling me that any “normal” adult would have never given their 6 and 2 year old a power drill, that it should be “obvious” to any sane parent. I had a hard time agreeing but I noted that this was unacceptable behavior and locked it away under the character of “Responsible Dad That Doesn’t Intentionally Kill Children” character. Trust me, it won’t happen again.

What’s fascinating about my note taking and rehearsing is that it not only includes explicit behavior but also mental notes about how to respond in certain situations, facial expressions that should accompany certain phrases or expressions, body language from head to foot, as well as even dress that should be chosen with priority being on circumstance and length of time in said circumstance. All of this preparation has helped me appear as one without any apparent disability. In addition, any quirk or misfire is sometimes viewed as “cool” or “neat” depending on audience. I have no idea why or how but I’ll take it.

I have always been a little coy about my characters and my acting and even a little ashamed that I had to create them at all when most people seemed to gather these things intuitively and without much practice. Now, though, I’m quite proud of my collection of personalities and I wear them with pride because they have helped me accomplish so much.

And now I often wonder why others don’t become students of their own variety of circumstance, why others do not prepare as well as I have for certain engagements and social interactions. Perhaps many people would be more successful if they trained in the mirror like I have, almost every single day. I scan my calendar and memorize who I need to engage with that day. I open my iPhone and recall a picture of them so I can create a mental image of who they are so when I see them physically my character is ready to be used.

No one really knows and on one really cares – but it’s a system that works really well and something I’m quite proud of. Of course, when interruption comes (like a random stranger interrupts a normally-scheduled hour) I can get thrown off a bit, perhaps even throw a tantrum, but that’s something I’ve been able to key down a bit over time.

Acting – it’s an essential part of being an aspie and I kind of dig it at this point.