Deep acting, like embodied witnessing, involves “loving care.” Hochschild quotes a recent graduate of Delta’s training program, which asked flight attendants to imagine each passenger as a “personal guest in your living room”:You think how the new person resembles someone you know. You see your sister’s eyes in someone sitting at that seat. That makes you want to put out for them.
The “putting out” expected of flight attendants is different from that required of exotic dancers, but the acting methods are similar. You try to imagine what it would be like to care about the man seated in front of you, pretend a sense of intimacy, and over time you feel as though you feel care and intimacy. In her study of Madison, Wisconsin, escorts, Kirsten Pullen notes that “Deep acting allows sex workers to reframe the sometimes degrading and often discomforting commercial exchange as pleasant or even ennobling.” While this strategy may have helped me reconcile my ambivalent feelings about performing erotic labor and rewrite some of the more uncomfortable aspects of my experience, it has somewhat destabilizing effects on my ability to reflect upon those feelings and experiences as a “researcher.” What does it mean that I felt loving care toward customers if that care was a tactic for increasing profit? Given who I am now—a stodgy, minivan-driving mother of two young boys—how can I recall experiences perceived when I was someone else entirely? If everyone was acting—my customers, my managers, my coworkers, myself—how can I trust my own voice?