Keep it Real


I’ve thought about this on and off for years, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it out loud until recently: facades are weird. There, I said it.

Years ago I remember starting to notice building facades. There’s a road here in town that goes up a hill behind a strip mall and the back of the facades are visible for all to see. It makes them seem all the more silly when you can see them. Like the “international” Airport in Fort Wayne, Indiana pictured here. As you drive up, the terminal appears quite impressive. But when you look closer, you see a very elaborate and well-designed facade that masks the ordinariness of the actual building.

Look around the where you live and work. There’s probably not a building that isn’t trying to give the impression that it’s bigger, or fancier, or older, or something more than it really is.

I guess that’s what a facade is. Much like a mask, it allows something (or someone) to have a more appealing, and therefore more successful, existence. Once I became aware of and starting noticing facades, it was hard to keep from noticing. At least building facades. I’m less adept at the facades we build for ourselves.

Of course, we humans are quite good at fooling ourselves. Very little of our daily life is based in reality. We are masters at creating masks and facades that alter either our perception of reality, or the perception people have of us. Our clothes, cars, houses, buildings, and relationships all have some thickness of a veneer that often obscures what’s real and authentic.

I’m as guilty if this as anyone. I love good design and attractive things: just look at my Pinterest boards. You’ll see lots of facades and masks. I enjoy giving the impression that I’m a successful person by the way I dress. Not that I’m unsuccessful underneath it all, but I’ve been “dressing for success” for decades. Has it helped? Who knows?

One place where I have a bit of experience with masks is the theatre. I’ve been in and worked on dozens of plays and musicals since 1974. I’ve seen countless others over the course of my lifetime. What’s interesting to me is that I really like it when a production is believable. Not necessarily the sets or lighting, but I appreciate believable emotions, dialog, decisions, and interactions. I enjoy suspending my disbelief. All of us get really good at this in our daily lives.

Maybe we’ve lost the ability to accept people and things (and buildings) for what they really are: imperfect. We spend so much time and energy perfecting our masks and facades that we lose touch with what’s real.

What to do? Be yourself. Make your own decisions. Look for real things. Go to your local farmers market, a haven for real things and people. Befriend someone who doesn’t dress for success, but is successful nonetheless. Find things that are comfortable to YOU and don’t depend on the acceptance or approval of someone else.

This can be hard and may require doing things (or not doing things) that open yourself up to criticism from family, friends and collegues. But it’s your life. Make it real and you won’t regret it.