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.