The Great Masquerade – Written March 21, 2003

Once, a friend of mine said to me, “You exist because I made you. Before I met you, you did not exist to me, and therefore did not exist.”

I replied, “But, I did exist.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care.”

This is an interesting metaphor for life. It is a really heady idea – does self-made man exist, or do other men create the men they know? A while back, I put on a mask; I still have it sitting next to my desk, shining from the silver paint. The mask itself is just a typical one, but the iridescent color is both captivating and frightening. One night, I put this mask on and walked around my world – or, more importantly, the worlds of others – and I learned a few things.

Everyone wears masks, but everyone claims they hate seeing masks on others. As I walked around my High Point, my University, my O.A. Kirkman, my Montlieu Avenue, I encroached on others’ worlds. Suddenly, instead of people being able to identify me, I was faceless and nameless, unless they actually talked to me (which, for most, was a concept too frightening to imagine). All the looks I received were hostile, and even some of my closest friends would not let me into their houses until I proved that they knew me.

People don’t talk to you when you’ve got no face. They figure, if you have no face, you have no soul. But it is not the apathy that makes “maskwearing” so unfortunate, but the angst of men caused by what they do not know nor understand. Wearing a creepy silver mask around the world and watching peoples’ reactions is an extreme case, but I see people everyday do the same things to people with much different masks.

In between classes, my best friend Sam and I hang out as much as we can, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when people can always find us being late to our 12:30 together. Our favorite thing to do is talk with people, but what we love even more is to covertly watch those that we do not talk to. For us, reading people is not just a fine-tuned skill, it is a habit. Sam and I wear more masks than anyone because of our positions in the school. We both party hard, learn a lot of stuff, and talk to a lot of people. Politics is the art of wearing lots of masks without anyone noticing, and politics is a game that Sam and I dominate, especially with the amount of easily-manipulated people in the world.

If you sit down at the table and within a half an hour can’t tell who the sucker is – guess what? You’re the sucker. I make it a habit to never be the sucker. What most people forget is that in any given situation there can be many different kinds of masks worn by anyone. The trick is to see the masks you are being presented with and adjust appropriately. Sometimes, if in a crowd of followers, a person must step up and be a leader. Five seconds ago he was just another guy, but after he changes his mask he is suddenly the front-man for everyone else like him. He did not change, he simply presented himself in a different way. This is basically the key to dominance. Sometimes, however, submission can be advantageous, and one can adjust the masquerade for that, as well.

I have spent my whole life learning about masks. I have spent my entire existence wearing all kinds of masks. I can walk into a room and know exactly what I can and can not say, who I can and can not talk to, and what I can and can not do. I know within two minutes of talking with a person how to most easily manipulate him/her by manipulating myself. I can play into a person’s hands; I am a master of rhetoric and trickery; I know how to play “the game.”

People walk around and act one way to be cool or be invisible, depending on what they desire. People imagine others they don’t know based on what they can see from the masks others wear, but they never stop and think if everything is really a façade. Few people can observe and control their masks; I know less than five that are under the age of 25. Within the knowledge of The Great Masquerade, one can do anything. I can be the coolest kid in a room of twenty people and then be a total dork in a group of five – it’s all in how I present myself. The biggest benefit for me is that I know how to change myself to adapt to what people desire/expect and I know how to change into what they lest desire/expect.

Some people ask me why I act the way I act, why I wear the masks I wear, why no one has ever seen my true face – even myself. I have lots of secrets, and there has yet to be anyone who can understand me well enough to get me to remove masks I wear. I do not know if I wear my masks to protect myself from the world or protect the world from me, but either way, the masks we wear shield us from everything. Once people take off all their masks, they can truly see themselves (and be seen by others) as they really are. Until then, people will continue to manipulate themselves and others, and I will continue to be one of the best manipulators there are.

A long time ago, my friend said to me, “You are the greatest friend a person could have, but you are absolutely the most vicious enemy I have ever seen.” In more recent times, I try to keep most of my masks hidden. I’ve grown tired of trying to explain myself to people. But it is hard to not wear masks. After I started showing more of my real face to the world, I came to realize something that our collective society hates and fears more than masks:

True faces.

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