The Confessions of a Confirmed Chameleon

To some this will not be a surprise, something they suspected long ago, and I am even willing to entertain the probability that it is something that everyone has known all along. So, now it's time – take a deep breath, calm yourself – to be honest, admitting the darkest secret of my soul, that I am a fake. I comfort myself with the thought that it is not so bad to be a fake, fantasizing so concretely, with so much reality, that you manage to convince others of the bogus reality that you choose. (Stated so boldly, it sounds dishonest, but no harm was meant; no harm no foul, right?) And, just maybe, we're all fakes and I'm the one who finally admits, or is stupid enough to admit, to being counterfeit. Looking back the signs were always there. It began with being a fake student, discovering, in grade school, that a carefully crafted facade of intelligence could cover missed homework and other such academic indiscretions. This served me well through high school and, except for a few close calls, through my aborted college career. I dropped out, so I guess ultimately I wasn't a that successful at being fake student. But on the other hand, I don't believe that anyone came close to guessing my secret despite those close calls in college, so I did establish my credentials as a genuine pseudo-intellectual and I have worn that mantel proudly until this confession. Simultaneously, with the end of my college career was my first failure to successfully fake a stable love relationship. You will not hear more of this, as it still haunts me after a quarter of a century. Suffice to say that I found that I was capable of being a fake friend as long as I did not cross the line into something more intimate. This was the first time that I discovered that it was possible to fail at faking something that I wanted so much. (I should have remembered this lesson, but I didn't.) After leaving college I began writing, mostly poetry, but I was unsure and so kept these writings safely hidden in private journals. They would have stayed there if not for an opportunity to impress. She: “Do you write poetry?” Me: “Yes.” She: “Then you'll have to enter our Poetry contest!” I was stuck; I had to reply or risk being found out for the fake that I am. I went through all my “poetry” in the aforementioned notebooks and found nothing that I cared to show to anyone. I contemplated this dilemma almost to the the contest deadline, until I found poetic inspiration in a bottle of peppermint schnapps. Wasted, I wrote the poem and it needed only minor polishing before I turned it on the next day, the day of the deadline. So, How successful was I? It was a mixed bag. The aforementioned She stated that it was one hundred times better than the any entry she had been expecting, but, luckily, no date was forthcoming. I didn't “win, place or show,” but I did get honorable mention and I was pub© Bill Reed (May 27, 2008)

lished. I had successfully become a published fake poet. Latter, I was asked, by an acquittance, if “that poem in the paper” was mine. After admitting that it was she offered her opinion that it was “interesting,” the tone in her tone voice saying that “interesting” had the same pejorative tone as its use in the Chinese Curse “May you live in interesting times.” Still and all, even this contributed to my pseudo-intellectual reputation and so was not entirely bad. All in all, a successful fake. I have faked being a graphic artist, once coming close to having a show, until I was found out by an artist was I was unable to articulate an academically approved theory for my “art.” (A lesson to you other fakers: Take the time to learn the language.) Years have gone by with ups and downs, fakes of varied success, different “careers”: Oilfield Roustabout, Retail Sales, Gas Station Manager, Fast Food, Convenience Store Clerk and a maybe others that I have forgotten. I have been all of these and each one would have seemed a separate life, if not for their common thread of my pseudo-intellectualism. Always, I was sharpened abilities to fake fitting in with someone no matter their social standing and even discovering that it was easier to a be a fake the lower the social standing of my target. (Another lesson I should have remembered, but didn't.) Someone once said that I was always rooting for the underdog, which is true, and the reason is that the underdog responds better to my faking ways – they are my people. All this was a path to my greatest fake, a six year stint as a “mental health worker.” So great was this fake that for a time I convinced myself and others that I was no longer faking. It was as if I had found my place, finally moving past a long childhood of make believe fantasies – or so I had convinced myself. I had even convinced myself that I had finally found real love and the world could not have seemed brighter or more right. The problem – my undoing – is that any a faker does not exist alone but is bound to the targets of the fake. Any brief doubt by anyone can start the destruction of even the most carefully crafted camouflage, unmasking the most cunning of chameleons. Once unmasked will anyone trust the chameleon again? Are there other Chameleons out there and if so will they dare to unmask themselves? I await word.

© Bill Reed (May 27, 2008)

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