Saturday, May 7, 2011

'I See You Seeing Me But I Am Not Seeing You.'

I read this excerpt from anthropologist Erving Goffman's seminal book 'The Presentation of Everyday Life' and it made me think of fashion week(s).
To put it into context, it's a fictional excerpt about an Englishman, Preedy, holidaying on the beach in Spain:

"But in any case he took care to avoid catching anyone's eye. First of all, he had to make it clear to those potential companions of his holiday that they were of no consequence to him whatsoever. He stared through them, round them, over them- eyes lost in space. The beach might have been empty. If by chance a ball was thrown his way, he looked surprised; then let a smile of amusement lighten his face (Kindly Preedy), looked round dazed to see that there were people on the beach, tossed it back with a smile to himself and not a smile at the people, and then resumed carelessly his nonchalant survey of space.
But it was time to institute a little parade, the parade of the Ideal Preedy. By devious handlings he gave any who wanted to look a chance to see the title of his book- a Spanish translation of Homer, classic thus, but not daring, cosmopolitan too- and then gathered together his beach-wrap and bag into a neat sand-resistant pile (Methodical and Sensible Preedy), rose slowly to stretch (Big-Cat Preedy), and tossed aside his sandals (Carefree Preedy, after all.)" 
(Goffman 1973: 4-5)

I laugh and cringe in equal measure.


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