“Hon’ne” and “Tatemae”

Via “Hon’ne” and “Tatemae”: A Basic Explanation For Westerners, By a Westerner.

I got turned onto this blog by Irina and I’m really glad I visited. It is well written and interesting. (WAIT – You Guys Haven’t discovered The Unpopular Poplar!!??!!)

I think we all have our private and public persona. There are things we never reveal to anyone, not friends, not even to lovers and spouses and sure as heck not employers. Aspies have an especially difficult time of it. I’ve had my share of experiences where I thought what I was revealing was perfectly innocuous only to find someone else thought it was creepy or delusional or too politically incorrect to be accepted. And that is why even people who might want to be completely honest and accepted for who they are will put up a front – a “tatemae.”

A lot of people will assert that tatemae is duplicity and then turn around and tell a white lie so as not to hurt feelings. Aspies have a hard time with that. We can’t tell the difference. We don’t have the social skill to present a tatemae or even recognize the appropriate times to do it.

The honest unfiltered you is your ‘hon’ne.Unless you are a very bland person, letting this out to the world just means trouble. We pretend to be unobjectionable for social acceptance. Maybe you can’t even let it out to your spouse. It is the stranger within. Someone presenting pure hon’ne might be thought brutally honest – or perverted or juvenile. Or politically incorrect, which may worse than the other two.

Even something as trivial as waxing rhapsodic over the latest advances in particle physics is enough to have people glancing askance at you. “Normal” people don’t do that. You learn to shut up and say nothing. Instead, we might say, “Oh yes I just love music by so and so!” when it has no appeal at all.

Elon Musk’s appreciation of anime cat-girls is an example. There is a very large section of the American public – both on the religious right and feminist left – who would find it offensive for a middle-aged male to openly express feelings that are culturally restricted to young teenage boys. He can get away with it because of his high status and his previous accomplishments.

That is a major problem for anyone on the autism spectrum and I am kinda suspect he’s an extremely high functioning specimen. Musk has an extremely loyal fanbase, some of whom are also on the autism spectrum and understand. People with less raw talent have to adjust. A person who is not in such a secure position has to try to “pass” or they run into endless social obstacles.

I suppose the American word for ‘tatemae would be “front.” (Taken a bit further, one may build a “closet” to hide ones ‘hon’ne in.) To some extent, everybody has to put up fronts to get by in life, multiple fronts for different groups we interface with. American tradition has it that it is duplicitous and immoral to do so yet the penalty for being your true self may be great. Complete honesty is not often the best policy

In Japan, there may be more things that have to be hidden than in America. Or perhaps it is just different things and we don’t like to admit to it.

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