There was a long-ago commercial with an actor touting medication but beginning his spiel with the famously fatuous disclaimer, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on television.” The idea that reading scripts and declaiming lines to represent a character in the medical profession qualified him in any way to advise us on what was good medicine for anyone was laughable even to a child. But it’s amazing how often we supposed adults will readily impute to anyone the characteristics they project to us (intentionally or not) without questioning that confidence.
The obvious problem with this is in how we fall for con artists’ tricks. As entertainment in, say, a magic show or theatre performance where the act is benign, there’s no threat. Criminals of all sorts, however, are practiced at getting us to believe things that defy logic and rationality and often would shatter at the merest breath of challenge.
Less obvious is the problem of our easily made assumptions about others based on appearances alone or very little additional information. Not to mention the assumptions that others readily make about us in the same ways. Sometimes these assumptions can serve us well—they’re a little like shorthand, enabling us to navigate situations and interact and communicate with strangers and acquaintances without having to essentially study and get to know them thoroughly beforehand.
So I could say in this context that ‘I’m not an outgoing person, but I play one on television.’ Not a wealthy person, but I live like one. Not famous, but since I hang around with lots of musicians and other performers, I get plenty of access to what life might be like for famous folk, and even get recognized and treated like a better-known person because of the, well, better-known company I keep. And I’ve certainly never been a classy, high quality person, but I am spending as much time as I can in the company of far better people than me in hopes that proximity will lend itself to others seeing their glory reflected in me. Hey, if I’m really lucky, a little of that good stuff will rub off on me, too.