A) Why I Could Never Be a Cartoon Character, and B) Who I Would Be If I Was an Action Figure

Granted, most cartoon characters only have four fingers on each hand and wear the same outfit everyday.  So in that case, none of us (assuming…) could be a cartoon character, accordingly.  But with action figures, it’s a whole different story.

Since the 7th grade, I haven’t been able to commit to a haircut.  I am constantly growing my hair out to a new hairstyle until it eventually gets too long and I start back over again with a buzz cut.  There is a progressive series of hairstyles I go by that has been subconsciously modeled after Jewish actors (I have an Asperger-like obsession with all things Jewish; most people have learned to overlook it by now).  I start with the David Schwimmer, then Zack Effron, next Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then David Arquette/Bronson Pinchot, and lastly, the Zack Braff.  But it’s not just the lack of a consistent hairstyle that prevents me from being a cartoon character who looks the same day after day, throughout the years.  I’ve got three different pairs of glasses, though often I don’t wear them at all.  Plus an enviable collection of hats, from ball caps to fedoras to “old man caps”.  Sometimes I grow a beard for a week or two.  I’m just not a physically consistent kind of guy.

Last week, I went back to the Nashville Chocolate Kitchen after having visited there for the first time a week ago, and when I walked in, the staff remembered me by name (which in addition to their unimaginably awesome gourmet sweet treats, is one of the things they are known for).  I was impressed that they recognized me since the first time was I there, they met the “glasses off, hair pushed-to-the-side” version of me and this time it was the “glasses on, hair pushed back” version.  I felt compelled to explain my change in appearance to them, but I refrained since they obviously could handle it.

I just think that I particularly don’t have what it takes to be comfortable in being physically consistent regarding my appearance.  Like The Boss says in his 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark”, “Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself… I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face.”

But my realization is ultimately that I am not an easily recognizable person, in general. My hair, clothes, and accessories just simply help distract fro my indistinguishableness.  I am a default-looking man of classic proportions; like the host of a show on The Food Network or HGTV.  Since being featured in American Baby magazine this month, I’ve had more than one person tell me they didn’t realize that was me until they saw my name- the picture didn’t clue them in at all.

I try to imagine if I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who I would be.  Throughout the past decade, countless people have told me I look like Clark Kent.  And I see that, but the problem is that Clark Kent was already a large muscular man in a business suit, before turning into Superman.  At 5’ 9” and weighing in the low 150’s, I have a frame similar to Bruce Springsteen or Greg Kinnear.

So maybe Peter Parker (Spiderman) is the best option.  Though I could be Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall).  Or Bruce Banner on The Incredible Hulk TV series (played by Bill Bixby).  Or Maxwell Smart of Get Smart and/or Inspector Gadget (both played/voiced by Jewish actor Don Adams- surprisingly, I have also been told many times I look like both).  I would totally make a better action figure than I would a cartoon character because action figures typically have several different versions of themselves: There’s He-Man in his robe (Adam), He-Man with the revolving chest as it gets damaged (Battle Armor), “Flying Fists” He-Man…  But cartoons typically never change.  (Maggie Simpson is like 21 years old in human years, “but in Simpson years”, she’s still a baby.)

I am easily disguisable.  Coincidently, it’s in my nature to be a chameleon; not only in appearance but also in personality.  I would make a great spy.  If nothing else, I can very easily get away with going back every five minutes to get more free samples at grocery stores.

Unsurprisingly, I enlisted the help of facebook friends by asking them this question: “If I was an action figure based on a fictional character, who would I be? In other words, which action figure would you choose to best represent me?”  Interestingly, they mostly named powerful intellectual mutants.  I’ll take that as a compliment.  But it’s funny to see how their perception differs from mine.  My choices were pretty much normal men without superpowers or super strength.

Who others said should represent me as an action figure:

Clark Kent

The Beast from X-Men

Leonardo, the leader of the Ninja Turtles

Captain Planet (nice underwear!)

My Buddy

Stretch Armstrong

 

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of The Fantastic Four)

Maxwell Smart, the only fully human action figure any other person said I reminded them of

Who I said should represent me:

Peter Parker (before he turns into Spiderman)

Sam Witwicky (played by Jewish actor Shia LaBeouf in the Transformers movies)

Dexter Morgan

Bruce Banner (before he gets P.O.'d about Nancy Pelosi and turns into The Incredible Hulk)

But really… I’m just glad no one said Pee Wee Herman!

 

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Becoming a Different Person at Work: Does It Truly Always Pay to Be Yourself?

I wish the “real world” would just stop hassling me.

In theory, I am an actor for a living.  Given the generation I am a part of, I am overaware that I should never be ashamed of who I really am.  That it’s basically a sin to pretend to be someone I’m not.  And while I’ve done a pretty good job of living my life that way, there is one facet of life where I’ve learned it’s not really smart to be yourself- instead, you’re rewarded by being a different person- I’m referring to the work place.

I’ve explained my theory before that we all have a handful of different personalities that we share with different people in our lives.  But recently I realized that the personality I use at work is drastically different than any other of my personalities.  Here are just a few observances about me at work and how that’s not the real me:

-More aggressive and confrontational with people I don’t personally know

-Cautious to speak my mind or let my emotions show

-Don’t stand up for myself, even against co-workers

-Do my best to hide my true personality

-Constantly act as if I know all the answers

-Pretend I don’t have a life outside work

-Wear glasses, since I’m in front of a computer all day

-Tuck shirt into pants

"Work Chandler" is a prime example.

 

It’s sad for me to play this part of someone I’m not- but here’s the thing: By playing my “work role”, I am able to make a living.  Literally, it pays to be someone I’m not.  What is the real world?  To me, it’s my life outside of work.  But to many, it represents work, along with a lifestyle of chasing things that don’t actually matter- and that’s when I throw the phrase into sarcastic quotation marks like this: the “real world”.

When I go to work everyday, I enter an imaginary Avatar world where I care about policies, technicalities, the constant appearance of busyness, and being a guy who is not willing to rock the boat.  For me, that’s not the real world at all (though typically work and responsibility equals the “real world”) – but it pays the bills for the actual real world (my personal life), so I don’t complain.  Even now, I am simply making an observation that I’m sure many of us subconsciously know, but keep tucked away in the back of our minds, as to not seem ungrateful for our jobs.  I am extremely grateful for my employment, but the bottom line is, the version of me that people from work know is not me at all- and I’ve worked with them for years now.


Every place of employment has their own culture; their own unspoken rules.  Your first couple of weeks, you keep your head down and observe the code.  What matters there?  What doesn’t matter there?  Then once you get a good feel for it, you become the necessary person for that version of reality.  This is normal procedure.  The norm is not to be yourself- because if you did, you wouldn’t fit into the culture and would endanger yourself of… being voted off the island.

I work from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, with two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch.  That’s 42.5 hours a week, which translates to ¼ of my life, and that’s including sleep.  By the time I factor in travel time (an hour a day), and time to cook dinner and then clean up, I only see my wife for a couple of hours before it’s time to time for bed.  And the weekends are obviously full of errands and chores we didn’t have time for during the weekdays.  Put into perspective, the time allotted for the actual real world (life outside of work) translates to crumbs from a huge meal.  I spend more waking hours with coworkers (who know a false version of me) than I do my own wife (who knows the real me).

The term “the real world” typically represents the hustle-and-bustle part of life.  But the irony is that for most of us (I hope), we recognize the real world and as the reality where we can truly be ourselves.  Because unless I worked at home as a full time writer, I will continue spending one quarter of my life acting as an aggressive, nerdy, robotic, no complaints yes-man.

Granted, the work place isn’t the only situation where it doesn’t pay to be yourself.  Anytime you have to “be on your best behavior”, you’re not really being yourself.  Like a first date.  You may be taking certain hidden traits of and qualities of yours and amplifying them for the right occasion, but still, in general, it’s a major stretch from your normal self.  It pays to be yourself most of the time, but to ignore the inevitable exceptions is a set up for failure.

“I find sometimes it’s easy to be myself. Sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else.” -Dave Matthews Band (“So Much to Say”)