Masks or No Masks

In a recent post, more accurately in the comments of said post, a little discussion has birthed that has me contemplating the legitimacy, honesty and truth of masks. The masks in this discussion are those we apply to suite the perceptions of/by us and those we encounter. Clint contends, with expected wisdom, that “[he] would rather be known for who [he is]”. He also asks the question “If our relationship is one of trust and honesty, why the need for a mask?”

I must fully agree with Clint that masks of a dishonest, manipulative and even subversive nature are destructive to relationships. However, I think this idea of masks is nuanced and I would like to explore some of these nuances. By the way, I don’t think Clint’s comments were addressing these subtleties, but rather the damaging masks mentioned earlier. I’ll let him speak to that. For me, I will toss out two scenarios; one fictional, the other very real.

First imagine that I am travelling though Clint’s neck of the world and arrange (upon sworn secrecy) to sit down in person with him and chat in between flights. My flight is arriving late and I am exhausted, but very excited about meeting the mystery man. Clint, on the other hand, has been working hard all day long. In fact he just left a meeting with a troubled friend and drove through some nasty traffic to meet with with me. His mind is very much still on the details of his friend’s situation. I find him by the food court and we pick a table. Clint buys me a large coffee… and a cinnamon roll — hey, it’s my post so Clint buys! We sit down and Clint asks how my flight was. I know there is precious little time for Clint and I to get to know each other so I dismiss his comments with a quick, “not too bad.”, and smile! I ask Clint how things are going for him and, knowing that my connecting flight is not delayed and time is limited, he sets aside his concerns from his recent meeting and looks me in the eye and says,“been a demanding day, but we’re not here to talk about that. Tell me about yourself.” Is this not a dance of masks, albeit a legitimate and even potentially constructive dance?

My second scenario happened a little over four years ago. My parents were in Florida for the wedding of the son of some dear friends of theirs. Saturday morning — day of the wedding — my father has a massive heartattack and dies. I take the phone call that Saturday morning and beginning packing to drive to PA the next morning. My mom spends Saturday arranging to have the body returned to PA. Sunday I drive the 7+ hours spending most of it considering how I will face my mom; what will I say? I reach my parent’s home and walk to the door. When I enter my mom quickly approaches me and we embrace. I hold her tight and whisper,“It’s going to be alright.” Another mask. Every ounce of me wanted to cry,“It’s just not fair!” Instead I squeezed tighter. I donned the mask of the strong, steadfast, reliable, eldest child. What this mask said was true but what it presented was less than honest. Was it not legitimate? Was it not what my mom needed?