We All Wear Masks – Written November 4, 2002

Ever since I was a young child, I have interacted with people. Before I knew what a case study was, I was performing them on everyone I met. Each person I meet I follow the same procedure. First, I get to know the person and see who I think they are. Then, I watch them in society and see how they react with it, and then I discover how they truly are.

People wear masks. I know this because I first saw that I wore a mask when I learned to talk. Choosing one’s words and actions is all a mask is, and each person does this on a daily basis. Under the façade of what is being said lays the true nature of what is spoken; beneath the masquerade of physicality resides true motivation for action. No one can be wholly honest to anyone, regardless of whether they wish to be or think they are; few people can even be honest with themselves. Everyone keeps skeletons in his/her closet, and it is a rare occasion that these carcasses expose themselves to anyone.

When people ask me, I tell them I do not lie. I always tell the truth, in some form. Ambiguity, rhetoric, and diversion are my tactics to not lie – literary devices that loan themselves to my life. Recently, a piece of my work was published in my school newspaper. I have had a variety of feedback on it, and rarely am I not approached with a question of “what did you mean by” or “what does this mean” or some allusion to my ability to mean many things within one statement. I never answer these questions, I simply ask the person who asks me, “What do you think?” I write not for me, but for others. I write both to educate and inspire. The only thing I wish was that I could do as well in speaking.

My literary mask is different from my mask in society. When I write I can say anything I wish, but I can only say some of what I want in life. Sometimes that is due to the content being inappropriate, other times the reason is simply that the company I keep can not comprehend what I say. For some reason, many people find me much more insightful in my writing than in my speech. However, those that know me well know that this is not true.

I have many kinds of friends. Those that party every night, those that sit in the library for hours each day, those that do heavy drugs, those that play countless video games, those that dedicate themselves to campus activities: all kinds of people. The more I look at these people and what they do, the more I realize that I am not one of them. I partake in these activities but am not fully dedicated to any of them. For each that I do, I wear a mask; the mask of service, the mask of indifference, the mask of empathy, the mast of apathy, the mask of a leader, the mask of a follower, or my personal favorite, the mask of invisibility.

To be invisible is impossible, though I wish it was real. I am constantly presented with situations in which I wish I could simply obfuscate and not let anyone know that I exist. I recently realized how amazing this mask of invisibility is after adorning a real mask that was leftover from Halloween. The mask was plain in its look except for the iridescent silver paint that covered it. After smoking a blunt with a group of friends, I put the mask on and walked out of the house to go across the street. I passed a group of people that I knew had no idea who I was, but did say hello to me. After saying hello back I kept walking towards the other house. Upon entering, I removed the mask; the expressions on the faces of people were varied. Some looked at me as if I was insane, others as if they knew it was me all along, and others as if I still wore the shiny piece of plastic over my face.

I have wondered since that night if I could wear a mask around for an entire day and see what happens. It is curious to think that one would be treated differently, not only because he/she looks different, but that society can not identify with who one who has no “identity” and therefore feels uncomfortable being near that person. Perhaps I will simply put it on and walk around without saying a word and see what people say. I am sure many would try to remove the mask, and that someone would be successful; everyone wears a mask, but no one likes to see themselves staring at his/her own gruesome reflection in another’s face.

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