Proteus was known for his ability to escape by changing his shape or appearance. It’s a handy skill to have when you need it. On the other hand being Protean to conceal your lack of conviction can brand you as shallow.
During undergrad at Boston University, I had a friend, well, more like a drinking buddy, who was complacent about being everything to everyone. The complete chameleon. He was so good at this that I didn’t catch on till he got cornered in discussion with our political science professor. The professor mentioned that Chuck had some excellent skills at playing the devil’s advocate. Each position, in turn being taken as the class discussion, developed. But, asked the professor, growing frustrated: “Do you have any opinions or positions of your own?” Chuck grew flustered at this. He hardly noticed his habit.
Chuck had more than casual feelings for a girl who had relatively strong political opinions. Beth shared the political science class with us and paid a lot of attention to Chuck and the professor’s interchange. That evening over beers, the discussion of the forthcoming student strike grew heated. Beth was among the cadre planning the entire operation. Many of the rest of us felt less enthusiastic about a strike during reading week ( the week before final exams). During the discussion, Chuck had commented on both sides of the argument. In frustration, Beth sharply asked Chuck what he honestly felt. Caught off guard, and knowing he had trapped himself, he dithered. “Well,” asked Beth, ” do you have an opinion that you own?”
“Ahh,” replied Chuck, ” don’t know, and I’ll have to think about it.”
So you may think that Chuck had blown any chance he had with Beth after that. Not so. She was satisfied that he had finally come up with an honest answer, and she respected that. Theirs was an interesting relationship. With Beth cornering Chuck every time he dithered, he eventually became cautious in his answers.
But occasionally, if Beth weren’t around, The devil’s advocate would slip loose for a night out.