Living the Goffman Life


Defining social role as the enactment of rights and duties attached to a given status, we can say that a social role will involve one or more parts and that each of these different parts may be presented by the performer on a series of occasions to the same kinds of audience or to an audience of the same persons.

Erving Goffman (1959), Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

When I was…

being kissed

by a stranger
at at train station,

I was a giggly
teenager again.

When I was…

at conferences

I became the confident
public speaker.

When I was…

visiting old friends

I was the same old
“Ro” once more.

When I was…

the tourist,

I became the naive
questioner, asking

why some, and only some
American football players

looked like they were
ready to serve wine

(those white towels
tucked in their pants).

When I was…

with my best friend’s son

I was the doting

When I was…

with new acquaintances

I became the attentive,
listening ear.

But now I’m back…

and I have to be admin:

join the groupthink
of committee meetings.

I roll my eyes…

for a part of me

wants to be
Courtney Love!


33 thoughts on “Living the Goffman Life

  1. There are so many roles we have to play in life…some of which we enjoy, some of which we do not. I love the idea of dreaming of the escaping into being Courtney Love!

  2. Ha, I remember reading and pontificating about Goffman in my student days. Now, like you, I live it out with greater or lesser pleasure. Constraints and corsets at times, at others comforting and concise.

  3. ah the roles we play depending on the circumstances or who we are dealing with… i think we all tend to play too many roles and are not enough just the person we are…i at least…ugh

  4. I think of this, rather than roles, as the complexities of our nature..the adaptability to what ever is needed from us..but true we sometimes put on a different mask to suit the differing roles..enjoyed the poem very much

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