"I speak as if I might be an individual
but I act as if merely struggling to mimic
some indistinct caricature of someone who never was."

Americans seem to hold a fetish for The Workingman. We believe that he suffers rather gladly for his sustenance. He's exploited, but doesn't take his lot in life terribly seriously. He's up early and off to the job site where he works hard enough to sweat through his coveralls, packing his lunch which he eats with his work buddies without first washing his grimy hands. He's back on the job before the whistle blows. He engages in noble hobbies like hunting, fishing, perhaps woodworking. He's an able handyman with a well-stocked toolbox and tidy workbench. He drives a well-maintained pickup truck a few years past its prime. He'd rather drink beer than the finest champaign.

He would be uncommonly wise except he reportedly carries the wisdom of the common man, which Americans firmly believe is the very best kind of wisdom to carry.
He holds no radical views, no natural animosity toward any other man, and pays his bills on time. He attends church as a complement to his wife but would rather be puttering in his workshop or backyard on Sunday mornings. He's not much of a joiner and maintains few friendships beyond his immediate family. He does not aspire to become a manager. He possesses a deep sense of justice. He's the guy who stops to help when your car dies on the busy freeway. Yes, he has a pair of jumper cables. He's a fair mechanic.

He's a familiar face at the hardware store, and on a first name basis with all of the employees there. He's not very interested in culturing his online presence. He can calculate a roof's slope in his head and cut perfect angles from a quick pencil mark and an unerring eye. He seems tireless and hardly knows how to relax, though his labors consistently fail to really wear him out. He's shy on any dance floor until he gets a couple of beers in him. He never shows off. He doesn't really give a shit what anyone else thinks of him. Everyone who speaks of him insists that he's above all "decent."

I have a workingman living inside of me. When I lace up my Red Wings, button up my paint-spattered Handyman Dave work shirt, and slip on my leather gloves, I imagine myself living a workingman's life. I know I'm an eternal lightweight in my own company, a pretend shadow of the genuine article, and I know that everyone around me sees right through my inept attempts at self-deception. I feel more powerful anyway, more capable just wearing my version of the uniform. I feel like a real man then.

Curious how I hold myself up to comparison with this ideal, unavoidably falling short even in my own eyes, but playing along anyway. Who would I have to be without these exemplar identities I could never hope to really possess? I must have dozens of separately compartmented selves, each reserved for some special circumstance. I might have no freaking clue who I really am. I do not qualify as one of Shakespeare's Actors On A Stage, for I remain humbly aware of my own ineptness, unable to maintain the requisite suspension of disbelief to properly fool myself. I hold some deep sense of my continuing phoniness without understand what, if any, alternative might exist. I pursue Valhallas I hardly believe in.

When the pollsters speak of The Workingman, I intimately understand of whom they speak, for I am The Workingman as much as I am anyone, anything. As a writer, songwriter, poet, teacher, consultant, husband, father, neighbor, brother, I am no different than I am when I fancy myself a workingman. I understand that I am not The Workingman, but a rather poor, sometimes instantiation of The Workingman, failing to possess the full range of characteristics that might render me the real, live thing. I speak as if I might be an individual but I act as if merely struggling to mimic some indistinct caricature of someone who never was.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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