Lately, I've been thinking about what makes us who we are. When people are asked, "Who are you?", as we're being asked with this week's blogstalk assignment, they'll usually answer with things like their age, their marital status, their professions, and their hobbies. I haven't answered the question yet because, in my usual way, I've overthought it.
See, I'm a frequent watcher of 'America's Most Wanted'. I used to say, "Now, hold on. If they're saying that the guy has a blond mohawk and drinks Lone Star beer with a fish sauce chaser while dancing the hornpipe, usually in the bar of an Applebee's, how can you expect to find him? Surely, the fugitive will dye his hair, start hanging out at Chili's and switch to Budweiser." Five shows later, they're hauling the guy out of an Applebee's with fish sauce on his shirt. There are things, core things, that people can't change about themselves. It's Hammett's falling beam.
I've been thinking about this with regard to my own identity. I can say that I'm a programmer, that I'm a wife, that I'm thirty-seven years old, that I like pumpkin spice lattes, that I've lived in California for my whole life, that I love animals, that I knit. But if I went on the run for some reason, tried to change everything about myself, what would give me away? What is so intrinsic to me that I can't shake it off?
Would I become a waitress in a small town in the middle of Kentucky, living in obscurity for a decade, only to be found out because I flew into a howling rage after a long day of listening to Celine Dion and late-era Sting over the restaurant's sound system? It'd end up in the 'Oddly Enough' section of Yahoo! News, and I'd be done for. "We knew it was her," several people in Moraga, California would say. "She once quit a reception job because she couldn't stand listening to KOIT's "light rock, less talk" that we piped into the lobby."
What would be my tell? Would it be my hair, which has, for very brief periods over the last decade, been styled differently, but always ends up becoming the patented Execu-Bob Shoulder Length Blunt? Would it be my tidy, unpainted fingernails? I try to change, to be more girly, to remember to paint my nails, buy new handbags, pay attention to whether or not I'm wearing lipstick. These campaigns usually last about a week, and then I'm back to, well, being me. "We knew it was her. She always wore pants, and her lips always looked dry."
Would it be something about my personality, like my inability to keep my mouth shut in a checkout line? Unless I'm absolutely exhausted, I'm likely to catch the eye of someone in the queue around me and strike up a conversation. I'm chatty with strangers. Could I stop doing that? "I knew it was her. She complimented me on my choice of Hostess fruit pies. I didn't know her from Eve, and here she was talking about cherry versus apple! So I called AMW immediately..."
No, it wouldn't be any of those things. There's no point in changing them. You know what would get me caught? "We knew immediately that it was her," said Trooper Jones. "When we saw the gym socks shoved into the window frame in place of weatherstripping, we said to each other, 'That's Suzanne. Any normal person would've stopped and bought a roll of duct tape.'" There's something that I can't change about myself. No matter how much money I have, I'm always going to be the kind of woman who thinks, "Why buy tape, when I have a suitcase full of weatherstripping right here?"
(By the by, if you haven't read 'The Maltese Falcon', I must insist that you go out and buy a copy of it right now and read it. It's an excellent novel. No, the movie is not a substitute for it. The movie is, dare I say, vastly inferior to the novel. I can't believe it's never been remade.)