Ode to Erving Goffman


Saving face, for self and other —

I learned it early (from my mother).

It’s true, alleges Erving Goffman,

Who ought to know, so do not scoff.

I am a creature with a self,

Who ponders every act with care,

And whether merry, mad, or blue,

Sees me reflected everywhere.


Life is filled with plans and scheming,

Well-groomed selves and moral preening,

Performers and performances,

Merchants, buyers, taking chances,

Darting skillfully from mask to mask.

Impression management’s weighty task:

Propriety, fitness, and decorum,

Presented in a public forum.


On our teams and in our regions,

Trust is scarce and threats are legion.

I’ll guard my front, and you my back,

Til we, exhausted, hit the sack.

Lock the windows, bar the doors,

I’ll tend my self, and you tend yours.

But even then, alas, I fear,

You’ll be watching mine, my dear.