a dedicated space for curiosity

The Secret (he thinks) He Keeps: The Battered Suitcase

In About All Publications, About Word Works on 12/18/2009 at 08:35

The Battered Suitcase is the flagship publication of Vagabondage Press. The magazine’s mission — to “examines life in all its lovely ambiguity, grittiness, glory and despair.  Chief Editor Fawn Neun and the editorial team express a particular interest in “the question of what it means to be human, the exploration of relationships as a means for transformation and the complexity of the human psyche.”

It’s a thrill to have a super-short fiction of mine appear in this issue:

Here’s the link → The Secret (he thinks) He Keeps

Working on the piece I thought of late Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman, his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and his notion of dramaturgy — the idea that we’re all actors, regardless of whether we do the job in a professional capacity or not.

Using theatre as a metaphor, he suggests that when we’re in a social setting with others we perform for them, they act as our audience, and the reverse. Our performances occur in the front stage where we present ourselves in a favorable light. We attempt to create a positive impression; to seem credible; likable; respectable.

But what about habits that might challenge credibility; create a bad impression; reduce our respectability in others’ eyes?

Goffman tells us that we keep them in the back stage–behind a curtain–in attempts to keep favorable impressions of ourselves alive.  For example, a self-proclaimed vegetarian or vegan might secretly crave–and eat–steak once a month.  To retain credibility with members of these communities,  the person tries to conceal the habit from them.  Such secret pleasures, as Goffman calls them, are typically kept out of our front stage performances for those we want to impress.

Of course, when it comes to keeping secrets, we aren’t necessarily successful.

This raises some questions.  If you’re willing, cast your answer, then click VOTE:

What is your secret pleasure?  Who do you (think you) keep it from?

What about others?  What secrets do they (think they) keep?

If you’d like to share, details are welcome …

  1. If I told you about my secret pleasure, it wouldn’t be a secret. I can tell you that it is delicious, mysterious, and very dangerous. Actually, I am addicted to this pleasure. There is one person that knows about my secret, and they aren’t telling because they have the same addiction. Mmmmm, Mmmmm good.

  2. No comment on my secret pleasure side of things. But worth mentioning that when I was a sociology grad student my love of Goffman’s Presentation of Self was reduced to a guilty pleasure. (Too uncool in a world where Habermas and Adorno ruled.) It’s still my favourite piece of sociology!

  3. You “watch”, you “listen”, you invite people to look in your closets and drawers. Are you a secret voyeur ?
    When is a secret pleasure really a guilty pleasure, or an addiction, or a compulsion ?

  4. My secret pleasure is googling for photos of my ex’s and looking at their aging faces and hollow eyes and reminding myself how much better I am now that I have moved on. Then out of a day of boredom I will call one randomly (after a rigorous hunt for their new location and phone number). This would be inspired by one of those moments in my day once a year (and never the same one ex per year) where I would be reminded about how happy that I am still not with so-and-so. For example, buying onions and being reminded how what’s-his-face didn’t like onions and how I could not include them in my sauces… oh like so many other things I could not include. Then after a successful phone number hunt I would call him and tell him how great life is without him, especially now that I can buy onions and include other things in my life. With this comes adrenaline, and then reflection, and then back to my current relationship.

  5. my secret pleasure is related to the stress that arises when confronted by aggression that i would love to thwart.

    being slim (not skinny) in stature means that i always avoid the possibility of physical interaction when being provoked in some way. my fantasy is to be a blackbelt superstar who can break noses in the blink of an eye.

    when stories appear in the news every once in a while where unexpected slim or small guys drop unsuspecting jerks, i get great (secret) pleasure. for example, a few months back a small asian kid in high school was being taunted by a big white jerk for racial reasons. the asian kid was a judo expert and he broke the white guy’s nose in a flash. the parents of the white guy tried to sue, and that’s how the story surfaced — giving those of us who only have the fantasy to do something like that happiness and a small sense of revenge.

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