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September 27, 2015 | by  | in Opinion |
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Left Shark Is My Spirit Animal

The other day I walked past a giant unidentified mascot in the Hub and it got me thinking. Specifically, it got me thinking about what I would do if I, too, had a giant mascot outfit that would allow me to pass unidentified in the Hub. I’d feel awkward at first. Eventually, once I was satisfied nobody could tell who I was, I might bust some moves.

Am I the kind of person who would dress up in a mascot outfit and do a little dance? I’m not sure. But I am sure that most people I know definitely don’t see me as the kind of person who would dress up in a mascot outfit and do a little dance.

Compared to how we see ourselves, we’re far more likely to view other people as cohesive packages defined by several broad personality traits. We’re also far more likely to make these judgements quickly, based on incomplete snippets of evidence. On the other hand, it takes a significant amount of time, effort and honesty to pick out even one of your own defining traits. And when you do this, it’s likely to be aided by the observations of others—for instance, I’m only aware that I’m grumpy and arrogant because my friends have often pointed it out to me (thanks guys). For the most part, our self-images are hopelessly deluded and idealised.

Other people don’t just provide judgement—they actively shape you. I only became a highly reserved, introverted person after starting high school, being uncool, and beginning to consciously filter everything I said in an effort to avoid exacerbating my situation. The process took several years and by the time it was finished, I had transformed myself from an overt maniac into someone whose every one-on-one interaction took on eye-stabbing levels of awkwardness. Unfortunately this meant I was still uncool, just in a different way, so I started listening to altier music. That helped a bit.

So much of what we do, and which parts of our personalities we choose to put into the world, are influenced by other people’s expectations that it becomes a prison. At the end of the day, though, I’m not here to waste your time with trite remarks about how social conformity is a bummer and tends to turn people into image-obsessed, narcissistic wankers. Instead, I’m here to sing the praises of anonymity.

When Left Shark got on stage behind Katy Perry in his? her? their? mascot outfit and, yes, did a little dance, it was a heartwarming moment. Not because we were all able to experience a bit of collective schadenfreude and superiority, but because we were able to have a laugh at some poorly-executed dance moves by a big blue furry shark without caring too much about who was inside said shark. As far as I’m aware, Left Shark’s identity is still unknown—and that’s great. If I think back to the most humiliating experiences of my life, they all involve goofing during live performances. There was the one time I was in the school musical, but was so bad at singing I had to speak my singing lines. There was the other time when my recorder group got on stage to do a performance, but my carefully-transcribed “A-F-B-D-etc” notation had been replaced by sheet music, which I had no idea how to read, so I just looked over at Laura Barker who was sitting next to me and poorly mimed her finger movements. Then my mum decided to give me crap about it afterwards (I was seven! Fuck’s sake). Oh, what I wouldn’t have given for a handy shark outfit.

Anonymity doesn’t just free you from judgement, it frees you from expectation. Is The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling any good? Don’t know; haven’t read it. To be honest, don’t really read books, lol. Yet I don’t rate my chances of finding an unbiased perspective; it’s impossible to judge the merits of the book without dragging along pounds of baggage from platform nine and three-quarters. But when Rowling adopted the nom de plume Robert Galbraith she was, before she was outed, afforded the great luxury of anonymity—having her work judged on its own merits. And those merits were, according to most reviews, quite substantial. Who’d have thought?

I’ve long been a big believer in pseudonyms (although obviously Mam is my actual name). I always put my real name on my bitchier, more aggressive stuff because I think you need to own that shit; and I usually put my more whimsical, tenuous or flat-out nonsensical writing under a pseudonym—not necessarily because it’s worse, but because it’s a facet of my personality that I choose not to make public. After all, anonymity isn’t just about ideas; it’s also about self-discovery, about finding yourself without having to shut yourself away from the public sphere.

Of course, that argument could also extend to wanking inside a trench coat, but for once I’d prefer to focus on the positives.

Mam is definitely not the editor of Salient. Lol what a shitrag, amirite?

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Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori

: 1). I wish my friends knew that when they ask me what “percentage” of Māori I am—half, quarter, or eighth—they make me feel like a human pie chart. I don’t know how people can ask this so nonchalantly, but they do. So I want to let you know: this is a very threatening