By Heather Adams
I draw back the curtain only to find,
A cacophony of the moving blind-
Painted faces all on display
Portraying only that, which they want me to see.
As they twirl, spin and mix, I no longer can tell,
Which faces are those only for show…
We all wear what some tend to refer to as different party hats when we are around certain people. When we encounter these people, like our boss, we put on a different persona, one to garner said persons’ respect. I tend to refer to this phenomenon, instead, as our masks. Many of us wear several masks and some of us only have a few. They can be literal or metaphorical. Either way you spin it, most of the time we are only a fraction of who we truly are around others. That’s why for most of our life we try to find those who we can take off the mask for, and allow them see every nitty gritty secret of the individuals we are.
I always knew about this so called mask persona. Of course I could tell that I acted differently around certain people, such as my teachers. I would throw on the right attitude and prove that I was just a sweet teacher’s pet. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that I could slip in and out of one mask and into another like the turn of a dime. There were so many masks that I wore.
When I was younger, I didn’t care about these masks. I would act how I felt and didn’t restrain my personality. Then when I started being singled out because of the way I acted, I began creating my first mask. I wanted to fit in, I wanted the other kids to think I was like them. This mask of friendship accentuated particular pieces of my personality and made them shine through the surface, so that I could feel like I belonged. As I got older I began to notice that I wore a different mask for the different groups of friends I hung out with. Coming from a small town, this was necessary. I would slip from my skater girl pothead mask into my brainiac wiz kid, so that I could keep the relationships that I had formed. When I got into college, I began to realize what this had done to who I was.
One day, my classmates and I were given an acting assignment. We had to ask random acquaintances what their first impressions of us were. Most of the other students came back with a similar answer from the different people they asked. However, for me, I got largely varying answers: “You were like the cool surfer chick,” or “I thought you were kind of a shy Goth Girl.” Most of the answers were on opposite ends of the spectrum and this surprised me. Do I really act that differently around certain people? As an actress, this trait comes in handy; it means I can shift into any type of character when necessary. However, as a person, I was greatly disturbed.
When I finally became aware of the great number of masks I wore, I decided that I no longer truly knew who I was as a person. Here I was putting on these masks to please the people that I encountered, however, were these people truly my friends? I came to realize that, thanks to the masks, none of these people really knew who I was. This posed an important question: if they are truly your friends, wont they like you no matter who you are? So I began to search for myself and to keep the masks off as much as possible.
However, that task was harder then I thought. I had grown so accustomed to the masks that putting them on came as second nature to me. From only moments of observing how someone interacted, I would shift into a different pattern of speech and mannerism to jive with how they were acting. On dates I wouldn’t act like me, I would pick up traits from the other person and try to act in a way that seemed satisfactory to them. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone when they think they like you for who you are, when you’re just acting to please them. That is why so many of my relationships have failed over the years. I wear all of these masks and forget about them and so I will drop one and pick up another just for the people I’m around. This has become confusing for my partners, because they will think they know me and then see me acting completely different with other people.
Years of manipulating my personality in order to fit in with those around me, has left me emotionally scarred and physically empty. I have turned into a hollow shell of a person rather than the person I’m meant to be. I no longer know who I am because my entire life, up to this point, has been a ruse. As I attempt to grow closer to people and show them who I am, they either draw away or I become afraid that they will. Thus, I either revert to acting through my mask or risk losing them. This action has kept me in several relationships that were not working out, just because I could not face showing those people who I truly was due to the fear of losing them. I would share little pieces of my life, grow more familiar with them and then lose myself behind the security of my mask, once more, just to reassure them that I am the person they thought they knew.
I once thought that the mask protected me. That, with it, I could keep everyone around me happy. Be the good daughter, perfect student, caring friend and devoted lover. Now I have come to realize that these masks have not helped me, but have hurt me. I have developed relationships that are fake because the people around me only know a fraction of who I really am. All because I still hide most of myself behind that mask.
All the painted faces in the crowd
Laughing- spinning and oh so loud.
They smile at me, glad that I have joined the dance
But as I look closer I begin to see the cracks-
Bellow the plaster painted on so thick
Lies the shell of the person, confused and sick-
I point and blabber, hoping to help
But they only stare aghast at my shout.
Then they smile and scream as they pull away their faces
“Bellow is just another mask to be replaced”
Then I start awake all in a sweat to see
The stars down from above me.
Was it all just a dream or could it be
That the masks are apart of me?
Edited by Basma Amer