Thursday, October 31, 2019

my red nose (3)

Ever since picking up the red nose again, I opened my mind up to new places where I could take it to.

With each new place visited, I felt more comfortable with the nose in public. Naturally, I started dreaming up other uncomfortable situations. As a guide, I chose those situations where I did not completely give in to that thing that made me really uncomfortable. For example, consider the following question: When is a good time to leave the office for lunch wearing the red nose? Around 1pm, when most colleagues have already left for their break? Or just before noon, when the office space is pretty much still full? I will let you guess which situation is more uncomfortable. If you are having difficulty, here is a hint: my desk in the open space is the farthest from elevator area.

My adventures in discomfort included (in chronological order) :
  • a lunchtime walk from one end of a mall to another, in the business district where I work
  • a trip to the bookstore to buy some language learning material
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafe inside my work building (I queued up for a salad to go)
  • a trip to the open-air market where I usually buy fruits
  • a wait at the bus stop with other people
  • a stop at the supermarket to buy some groceries
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafeteria inside my work building (I sat down to eat in the middle of the dining room full of people)
  • a trip to the pharmacy to buy some prescribed medication
The idea behind the above adventures was to expose the red nose to as many people as possible while doing everyday things, such as waiting for the bus and shopping for groceries. I wanted to put myself out there, people often say. Myself in the red nose, of course.

The adventure at the bus stop was a breakthrough of sorts. I could not remember the last time I had felt as free in public. I played around with the red nose, putting it on and then off and then on again, receiving some strange looks in the process. But I couldn't care less about that, because in that moment, I was free. And with that same feeling of freedom, I boarded the bus when it arrived. Once I got off in my neighborhood, I greeted people whose paths I crossed with smiles and thumbs up. Such bliss I was in.

As I got the red nose more exposed, I got some unexpected reactions from familiar people, including the following.
  • A fruit seller at the farmer's market thought that I had caught a cold
  • A colleague thought that I had drunk a little too much and gone cuckoo
  • Several colleagues thought that I had lost a bet
  • A random lady told me : "C'est très beau"
And then one morning, after arriving at the office in costume, I decided to put the red nose to rest.

What happened?

What happened was that I discovered that I had become very self-conscious. That is to say, my mind was too occupied with the idea that I saw myself different from others when I wore the red nose. I felt like the red nose pushed me to channel too much of my attention inward, and that bothered me. Moreover, I got the impression that I was creating a distance with people, since wearing a red nose in public was something that people could not relate to and I was not really open to interactions that could make that more understandable. In other words, it was as if I was telling myself: "Yes, you stand out, but you are all alone." I felt even more alone than I was when behaving "normally" in public without talking to anyone.

Since the morning that I made this discovery, I have not worn the red nose, with no regrets.