Changing Personas: Being Someone Else For a While
Living off the Grid is tricky. The main reason people do so is that they don’t want to be found or identified by the Vast Machine. Now, I’ve mentioned in previous articles that faking your death and changing your identity are bad ideas. This is because that doing either of those things has too high a chance of backfiring. However, it is wise to have a couple of personas handy.
So, what’s the difference between an identity and a persona? An identity is who you are on paper. A persona is how you are perceived; it’s who you show people. In other words, you can be John Mullings (no, that’s not my real name) cashier, but maybe you’re in an area with a lot of cameras. You then become Alex Wilson (again, not me), mechanic or real estate agent. How to you make that switch? Let’s look at some aspects of these two personas, shall we?
John Mullings, age 25, blonde hair, blue eyes, 5’9”. Confident, walks with head held high, shoulders straight, purposeful gait. Usually wears polo shirts and loose-fitting khakis, or a work uniform, and tennis shoes. No tattoos or piercings.
Alex Wilson, age 23, black hair, brown eyes, 6’1”. Self-conscious, but not overly shy. Slouches a bit, and walks with a bit more pressure on his left foot. Follows the “punk-rocker” style, wearing vintage/band tee-shirts with a dark-colored leather/vinyl jacket and black jeans (sometimes “skinny jeans”). Wears brown or black boots. Both ears are pierced with rings, the left with an extra ring at the top of the lobe, and the nose is pierced with a stud. Tattoo of the Japanese Kanji for “Fire.”
So, these two guys are actually the same person. So, how does John become Alex? With a little prep and acting skills. First, the name. It’s simple, nothing overdone, nothing crazy. Do not name your persona Gaia Pheonixlord. Changing the hair and eye color is a no-brainer, use dye and colored contacts. Glasses, especially thick-rimmed ones, slightly alter the outline of your face, and no one looking too closely will know the difference. How to adjust your height? There are some websites or specialty shops that sell wedges to put in your shoes to add a couple of inches. Or, you can make one by cutting a soft block of wood into a wedge and slipping it into your shoe. Just make sure you can walk comfortably. I don’t recommend adding more than 4 inches to your height. Do not alter your height while wearing flat-soled shoes such as Converse All-Stars. Another idea is to wear shoes that are a size too big for you.
Fake earrings are sold at novelty shops. The fake studs are usually magnetic. Fake rings are simple rings of metal that have a gap and can be fastened to your ear.
As far as fake tattoos go, I just take a Sharpie or other permanent marker and draw a simple design on my arm or leg. This takes a bit of practice. If you’re an artsy person, feel free to use different colors and more complex designs. I don’t recommend buying “temporary tattoos” because you can only get a limited number of the same ones, and if you reuse a persona, you need it to be exact, even if the tattooed area is covered by clothing (just in case a sleeve is drawn up).
When using a persona, a different walk is a must. You don’t have to walk with a limp, per se, but apply more pressure to a step in one of your feet as you walk. Try shuffling your feet a bit. Slouching in varying degrees helps as well.
If you can fake an accent, more power to you. But try to keep your accents country-based. In other words, in the United States, don’t use an English/British accent. You need to be ordinary. If you’re from New York, talk with a slight Southern drawl. If you’re from LA, talk tough like they do in Brooklyn. Try to adopt their terminology and syntax. For example, in most northern states of the U.S, “soda” is referred to as “pop.” Also, unless you’re in the southeast U.S, “ain’t” isn’t a word.
While ID cards and such aren’t needed for a persona, you do need a simple backstory for yourself. It shouldn’t be complex, nor should be a horror story (do not let off a thrilling tale of abuse and escape as a kid). Keep it simple. For example, you’re from Canton, Ohio, your mother is a teacher, and your father works in the local export industry. Do your research. Make sure that these places and companies exist. Also, if you are pretending to be a different age, memorize the year your persona was born in, when they started and finished school, etc.
Keep in mind that the acting aspect of hiding is just as important as the physical aspect. If someone asks awkward questions, as if they don’t believe you, don’t try to convince them of something. When you are in another persona, you ARE that person. You KNOW where you came from. At the same time, don’t get too attached to a persona. It’s easy to do it, but dangerous, as you may have to drop it in an instant, and it will feel like killing a part of yourself.
If you get made (get discovered), just shed the persona. It may be a part of you, but it’s disposable. As I mentioned before, it can be hard, but it must be done. Once you’ve destroyed a persona, never use it again.
Common mistakes to watch out for:
Not changing your voice.
Forgetting your name (this happens often).
Forgetting your backstory, or giving conflicting info (being 26 but being born too soon for it).
Forgetting a tattoo (if you have one).
I hope this brief guide has helped you better understand the disguise/acting aspect of living off the Grid. It is a lot trickier than it sounds. I suggest never having more than 3 personas at one time (one of them is your real self).