Sunday, May 20, 2007

Masks - that can't be me!

My first mask hung on the door to my bedroom. It was a childish model, a little cockeyed, red mouth turned up on one corner, with a confused and dislocated affect. I wore that mask to get by, to keep my exuberant talkative self quiet. It helped me perfect an image of class clown, using self-deprecating humor to turn attention from the many faults I was told I had. This mask only had about a twenty-five percent usefulness rating due to its annoyance factor.

Since being funny and cute didn’t work, I fashioned a totally new one presenting a “nice girl” to the world. When I wore this I could still stuff donuts in my mouth while heaping praises, smiles, kudos or whatever advice was needed on anyone I wanted to impress. I would say whatever they wanted to hear. I could nod and commiserate, and do kind deeds necessary to earn my badge of love, never losing that big smile. This mask had enormous staying power because it was made of space-age plastic making it easy to clean. I’d been wearing it for years with just a change in hairdo to keep up with the times.

One side effect of wearing a mask for years is that the view from inside becomes keen. I began to notice that a lot of other people were wearing masks too. Some were sweet little versions of 1950’s housewives; others resembled indigenous tribal masks, elaborate French gala numbers, Smokey the Bear and Kewpie dolls faces. As the years made my mask feel itchy and numbing when I wore it too long, I decided I’d take it off for a while. For those of us who have made this decision, this is an intrepid act. Not only is the air nicer but also the view is breathtaking. As the itchy spots left from the long term mask wearing began to heal I learned more and more about me, who I really was before the pain of abuse caused me to flee from myself. Each day brought back some bit of my former self. Like how your feet swell after a long hot day, making your shoes impossible to wear for the duration, going without one’s mask for a time renders it unwearable. There is always the urge to refashion one, spare the cost, but usually that passes. I keep my old mask hanging on the coat rack behind the front door so I can bless it whenever I pass. I can’t forget that even that mask is part of who I am.

This are my Sunday Scribblings for this week; you can see more here.


Marianne said...

There are so many paths/masks one can take from 'that place', your 'nice girl' at least was probably more productive than the 'not so nice girl' path I took hell bent on destruction through drugs, sex and didn't last terribly long though, really wasn't fun at all, of course it was very painful and I'd had enough of that.
I love it that you bless 'it' whenever you pass by the door.
This is a beautiful post.

Clockworkchris said...

I have to agree with Marianne-this is a beautiful post. I was laughed at as a child, tried to wear a mask to make everyone happy but my dry wit did not make that possible. Once I found a group that accepted me, I didn't realize the whole group was hated (the academically gifted class) by the other students for getting more free time after studies. In college it was drugs. Now it's holding back my anger. Lots of medication is a mask of who I am. I will never escape it because part of me is my illness. I can either be manic Chris, or not so manic Chris and I choose the later. I really connected with what you said about the views changing, how a mask can gain staying power, and how if you remove them for long enough they no longer fit.

Crafty Green Poet said...

This is a really insightful piece, beautifully written too.

sundaycynce said...

Fine and honest and deep and revealing. There is so much truth in what you have written. It is brave to remove a mask worn so very long. But indeed the clean air and beautiful view, as well as the ability to breathe deeply and to be free to be yourself, make it indeed worth overcoming the fear.

Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.
I haven't found your "Dream Team" one yet.

InlandEmpireGirl said...

I think the Mask prompt created wonderful posts. Yours is an honest, beautiful example. I was amazed how many masks I could have written about in my life.