Our group gathered in the summer twilight at 6:15 sharp, everyone dressed up a bit, some clutching carry-all’s of food. Comparisons were made of the weather, the people, the changes from previous years. And with a crunch of gravel and the clicking of canes, we were off.
‘Another summer supper in the village.
I’d contributed a Key Lime Pie this year (very little was returned, thank goodness) and progressed around four homes for courses and conversation. Barrington is a small community, filled with long-time residents, tightly knit. These large social occasions are always filled with stories, gossip, and catching up: if I enter with the right spirit , then the evening likely turns out well.
A core topic among the men seemed to be Retirement. Several folks were approaching 60 and making plans for how their lives would change. Those with means talked about plans for travel, boats, grandchildren, and consulting; those without focused on pensions, health, grandchildren, and crafts. Both groups were looking forward to the changes. It’s a funny conversation to have, both distant and close to my own circumstances. I certainly allowed that there were things I’d rather be doing, though we laughed about when.
In a way, it’s identity again, and the ways that people define themselves by the things and activities that they build around them. Comfortably, that amplifies things that give them the most satisfaction, along with play for aspirational longings.
The Guardian published a piece in a similar vein on the rise of ‘selfies’, self-portrait snapped with a camera-phone. “It's about continuously rewriting yourself. an extension of our natural construction of self. It's about presenting yourself in the best way… an aspect of performance that's about knowing yourself and being vulnerable."
In fact, ‘very similar to the public presentation and positioning during the village supper. Taken in that light, the generational difference comes down to a distinction between social suppers and social snapshots. Is either less real to the community of friends? Either less effective in creating a persona? No, as long as it’s accepted by the individual and the group.
But the article concludes with a cautionary note, relevant to both suppers and selfies: the illusion of ownership.
“You can manipulate your own image as much as you like. But the truth is that once they are public, you can never control how other people see you.”