“I don’t have to rehearse being myself” (Walter Mercado)
today at 8:00 am
Describing Walter Mercado is like writing a limerick.
He was a wildly flamboyant clairvoyant,
Homosexual, metrosexual, straight or bi.
“I am who I am,” he said with a sigh.
Beloved by the Latino community,
Mucho, mucho amor was his immunity.
The Netflix documentary about astrologist Walter Mercado, titled Mucho Mucho Amor, is worth viewing for several reasons: the eye-popping display of his outrageous and extravagant personality, his influence on the Puerto Rican populace from top to bottom and his unapologetic life style that he inhabited without change in public and private. What appealed to me most, however, he was the genuine article, true to himself, never pretending to be someone other than the personality he presented both in front of and behind the camera.
That’s what stood out for me. He was gaudy and glitzy on the outside – gay, trans, bi, metro, no matter how he was described and occasionally jeered – but inside, at the heart of Walter Marcado, there was the person of integrity, true to himself, unwavering. How many of us can say we held firm to an unswerving presentation of our true self when we interviewed for the big time job, chatted with the film star sharing our first class seat on the flight to LA, or talked to the class at our child’s “My Dad’s Job” day?
It’s human nature to want to be popular with the “in crowd,” to look cool in the eyes of others. But there’s a price when we betray our core values in order to be liked by others; we end up not liking ourselves.
I think I previously wrote about the column I read in the Halifax Globe and Mail while vacationing in Nova Scotia a while back, but it’s worth re-telling.
The article described in down-to-earth words the difference between being genuine and putting on a façade. The columnist pointed out that the rural farmers and fishermen of rugged Newfoundland put up the clapboard on their houses “rough side out.” Mainlanders, on the other hand, applied it “smooth side out,” which meant that it would have to be re-painted every five years.
To the hardy islanders this was an abnormality they couldn’t understand. “In Newfoundland,” a taciturn old-timer explained, “we puts the rough side out and when we paints, it lasts a lifetime.”
The moral of the allegory still resonates with me years later. It is so damn tempting to put on a face that is “smooth side out” when I want to fit in, rather than just be who I am, letting the true persona that is me present itself as unpretentious “clapboard” that doesn’t have to be painted over in order to look good on the outside.
Walter Mercado, for all his ornate capes and overstated refrain, “mucho, mucho amor,” was unpretentious at his core. He knew that when we embrace our true nature, we nurture our connection with the source of who we really are and make it possible to connect with others honestly and enduringly.