Once upon a time, I did some acting.
I wasn’t exactly Laurence Olivier, if you know what I mean, but generally speaking, I had fun donning costumes and pretending to be someone else, no matter how far removed from my own mindset and predilections that character’s may have been.
Now, every once in a while, real-life situations arise that call for a measure of pretending on my part, as they most likely do in yours as well.
For instance, at a common job interview, rather than admitting flat-out that all I want is the money, common sense dictates that feigning at least a scintilla of passion for the work itself would up my chances of landing the gig. At least in theory.
In practice, it rarely does.
Because rather than having fun playing a character that is more interested in the work than in its concomitant remuneration—or that is really too busy to attend that wedding or that birthday party as opposed to simply disliking these types of congregations to the point that he’d rather spend the afternoon sticking red-hot needle tips into his eyeballs; or whatever the circumstances may be where lying one’s ass off would be in order—I struggle to conceal my extreme discomfort at pretending to be what I’m not, or pretending to want what I don’t, or to not want what I do. And it shows.
Bottom line, I love acting. I hate being a phony.
But what’s the difference?
Many a times I’ve been reminded by well-meaning souls, in response to my professing profound awkwardness mixed with revulsion when it comes to engaging in premeditated deception, that I was, after all, a somewhat experienced actor, and that doing a number on others was “just like acting.”
No, it isn’t.
See, when I’m acting, my aim is not to deceive.
Sure, the best performances are those that temporarily suspend the audience’s disbelief and make them forget they’re merely watching a performance. Indeed, the whole point of acting is to create the illusion of reality and, in a sense, convey truth.
Still, by the time the curtain drops or the closing credits start rolling, even the most mesmerized of viewers will wake up to the fact that the folks up there on stage or screen were merely thespians reciting memorized dialogue. With the exception of children and the mentally impaired, no one leaves the theater (or the living room sofa) thinking that Anthony Hopkins is really a homicidal psychiatrist named Lecter, and Anthony Hopkins never signed on to the project with the intention of duping the world into believing he really ate some guy’s liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Not so when you’re attempting to mislead people in your life, in which case you really want them to buy, in an open-ended sort of way, whatever bill of goods you’re trying to sell them. No curtain ever drops, and no credits start rolling. No “just kidding” that follows closely afoot to signal that what came before is to be viewed as the snow job that it was.
Just like acting? Methinks not.
Deception is to acting what a swampmobile is to a candy bar.
Forget about apples and oranges.