post written by: Marc Chernoff
Just The Way You Are
What is uttered from the heart alone,
Will win the hearts of others to your own.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This morning I was writing a blog entry at a local beach-side coffee shop here in San Diego when a young woman approached me. “You’re Marc, right?” she asked.
I looked up at her. She had piercing eyes, a pierced nose, an elegant smile… but nothing that rang a bell. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?” I inquired politely.
“No,” she replied. “But I know you.” She swiftly walked back to the table where she’d been sitting, picked up her laptop, and carried it over to me. On the screen was Marc and Angel Hack Life. “You look just like your photo,” she said in a chipper tone.
I smiled. “So you’re one of the seven people who read it.”
She blushed. “What I like about your writing is that it’s so real.”
I cleared my throat. “Real?” I asked.
“I mean… you don’t hide anything. You say it just like it is. And that gives me hope!”
“How do you know that I don’t hide anything?” I asked.
She paused, tilted her head slightly and squinted her eyes as if, maybe, to look for something inside me that she had missed before. “Well, your words seem so, so… honest.”
Her compliment was appreciated, but it didn’t feel fair. Perhaps because I’m not very good at accepting compliments, or perhaps because I’ve been thinking about honesty lately… and I’ve decided that I don’t like the word and its connotations.
“There are some things you should probably know,” I said. “If I know a picture is being taken of me, I usually make a crooked half smile because I think it’s sexy. If an attractive girl touches my arm, I flex a little bit because I think she prefers harder muscles. And if I know people are coming over to my condo, I run around like a mad man and make it spotless before they arrive, because I’d like them to think that I’m clean and organized all of the time.”
“And that’s just the beginning,” I continued. “When I write a blog entry, I’m typically only writing about the people and experiences that inspire a single sentence that moves me. For instance, in today’s post that sentence is: “Honesty is a matter of perception and intention.” The rest is just my attempt to bring that sentence to life – to show why it’s meaningful to me.”
“But can’t you see…”
“And when I want to impress someone I’ve just met for the first time, I pretend that I’m overly outgoing and fearless. And I try to say funny or profound things like, “Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.” But it usually doesn’t come out right because I don’t really want to be funny or fearless or profound. Not right then. I just want to break the ice and introduce myself. And I want to do it without stumbling over my words…”
“Marc, this is exactly the kind of honesty that inspires me!”
“You’re missing the point. These are revelations… and they’re revealing the ruse. The sexy crooked smiles aren’t the smiles you see most often. And the blog posts rarely include the sentences that inspire them. And the folks I introduce myself to don’t see the real me, and they don’t realize that I’m nervous because I’m trying to impress them… because I want them to like me… and because…”
You’re The Guy
“Who are you trying to impress?” she asked.
“That’s not the point,” I said.
“But I want to know,” she insisted.
“This is what I mean…” I continued. “An honest person would just tell it to you straight. But I write stories about a guy who wishes he was his cat, and nights of dancing naked, and Jamaican women in ice cream parlors… and who the heck knows what will come next.”
“But you’re the guy who wishes he was his cat, right?” she asked.
I grinned. “Shhh… don’t tell anyone.”
“But won’t the new people you want to impress and all of the important people in your life know how you feel… now?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think they read this blog.”
We shared a long silence during which her gaze locked directly into the depths of my eyes. Finally, she said, “I think I understand better why you give me hope.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because at some point the world forgot – or perhaps never knew – that honesty isn’t about whether we make sexy smiles for the camera, mask autobiographical blog posts about our desires to be a cat, or try not to show our apprehension before meeting someone new. Rather, honesty – revelation – is a matter of perception and intention. And somebody recognizes that. And it gives me hope and makes me think.”
I smiled. “And one other thing,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure that whoever you want to impress will appreciate you just the way you are. I know I do.”
Photo by: Toni Blay