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In a World of Pretense...
we are all imposters
Last fall, I was blessed enough to join the annual McDermott cousin’s trip to Myrtle Beach. For many, many years, the trip included only first cousins—my mother (Macel: Washington County, OH), my aunt (Sybil: Wood County), and their first cousins (Joyce and Doris) from Jackson County.
For years, I just wanted to be a fly on the wall of that beach condominium. But I got it — their time away from kids and home was kind of the point of the trip. These gals were doing girlfriend getaways way before they became trendy.
But, this is a difficult season of life for the greatest generation, and the pandemic was not kind to them. As the trip began to include challenges, they opened up to include a husband (Jim) to do the driving, and then a daughter (my second cousin Erin) to drive the ladies — husband still included.
And then my Aunt Sybil died, and then Jim died. And though it was sad, and mournful, and would never be the same again, the cousin’s trip still happened. And last year, I was along for the ride — to drive, lift, carry, pack, whatever. Each year, they know the trip could be their last. As do Erin and I. What a wonderful, wonderful blessing to be included in the experience.
At last, their stories crossed the generation gap, and we could just be our quirky selves together. In our muumuus.
The muumuu or muʻumuʻu is a loose dress of Hawaiian origin that hangs from the shoulder and is like a cross between a shirt and a robe. A housedress, for the most part; free-flowing and nonrestrictive. It is the perfect outfit for “hanging out together indoors.” And for me, it was playing dress-up again, as a farm girl has more need for an apron than a dress. But—I came home with two muumuus of my own.
Now that I’m working from home again, “career clothes” are washed and packed away, and I spend most of my time in stained shirts and leggings. And some days are muumuu days. My hair will spend three or four days in the same top knot, I have a heck of a time keeping my fingernails clean, and hairs sprout on my chin, unnoticed until I look again into the magnifying makeup mirror.
I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to see me like this.
Is it no wonder then that the phrase “impostor syndrome” often elicits a fierce sense of identification, especially from women? Every time we make ourselves “presentable,” we’re pretending. Every time we identify ourselves as our job, or our career, or put on a shirt, tie, or draw on an eyebrow, we’re putting on costumes and masks.
An imposter is a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others. And we’re all faking it. We’re all hiding chin hairs or heartaches, flaws, and personal secrets. We try to hide our age, our inadequacies, and our shortcomings. We try to achieve, present, and post our happy, healthy, picture-perfect moments.
But, in a world of pretense, aren’t we all imposters?
When a little girl goes to town in her ballerina tutu, or wearing her princess crown or her butterfly wings, people smile and think, “Oh, how cute,” and go on about their way.
But if a middle-aged woman with chin hairs and a tangled topknot goes to town that way, people are going to talk.
Most high achievers have some form of imposter syndrome. They’re afraid people will find out they aren’t perfect, or Superman, or Wonder Woman. And high achievers are often expected to be perfect. How many times has a high achiever been torn down several notches because they made a mistake? How often are human mistakes and/or flaws seen as weaknesses?
Only our heroes fall. And I’m no hero — unless heroes wear muumuus.
If I’m not at home, among family or friends, I’m pretending. If I’m polished, presentable, and professional — I’m pretending. If I’m wearing make-up on a recently plucked face, you’re not seeing the real me. Do I pretend to be someone I’m not? Of course! It’s the American way.