Goffman’s Bedroom

Recently I started to redecorate my bedroom. That sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually is. I bought some bookshelves and removed some unused junk from my room. It is slowly looking like a room an adult might inhabit and less like the home of a poor university student. That might be a stretch but I’d like to believe my room reflects who I am.

Bedrooms are funny like that, well lots of things are funny like that. You know those private places where we feel like we get to hide away our personalities, protected by a door, a set of stairs, another door, and a lock and key. We get to be exactly who we think we ought to be.

This might be easiest to think of in relation to Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy which states that selves are performative and dependant on, amongst other things, audiences. In this way our bedrooms are where we get to be ‘back stage,’ safe and secure without needing to adhere to societal pressures and norms (unless of course you maintain some sort of crazy open door policy with your most distant acquaintances). Conversely, the outside self you present on the ‘front stage’ is often encumbered by the need to balance societal norms and expectations. He elaborates that neither of these offer a true or false depiction of who we are but instead that our identity is constantly being remade and shifted with each interaction we engage in. Our identity is more fluid, it is a role we play. I like this, it means that people aren’t to be defined by one thing, one engagement, or interaction, or one interest. This is of course an extremely diluted version of dramaturgy, but what I’m getting at is this idea that our behind-the-scenes self is and the self we present to the world can be very different.

Without a general audience our bedrooms quickly transform into safe havens of our lives. Now you might be saying (derisively) to yourself, ‘Sure, if you’re a giiiirl who likes to decorate and all that floofy stuff,’ but I want you to consider that every decision you make big or small about what you have in the that room might say something about who you are. If you keep it a mess or overly clean, if you have one too many half empty tea cups sitting around, a couple pairs of running shoes strewn about, or a really awesome star wars poster on your wall, these are all small indications of what it is that you love.

Since I redecorated my room a little I’ve been pretty good at keeping it clean, which if you know me, you know is a really big deal (my Mother will attest to this). So now I see my room, not just a mess of things. This has led me to enter my room with the intention of looking on it with fresh eyes. I like to walk into this familiar, personal space and imagine it is not mine. If this space was someone else’s and I was here for the first time, what would it tell me about this person, who they are, what they like. This has been lovely. It has given me pause to think about what this ‘back stage’ says about me and compare it to who I think I am or who I think I want to be. Does my back stage life reflect the person I am or want to be on the front stage? Can I be more authentic in my front stage life and allow more people to see what I keep hidden? I think these are questions worth asking, and if nothing else it is fun to look on your life through a stranger’s eyes.

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