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(an entry for the On Display collab)

25 October 2002

mask1.jpg (9043 bytes)In the month of October, variety stores, drug stores, supermarkets...are all bursting with Halloween costume ideas. What will be this year's big seller? George Bush? Saddam Hussein? Osama bin Laden? Boy George? (Boy George?...where did I pull that one from?)

mask- 2.jpg (12311 bytes)On Halloween day schools all over the country will hold parades for those pint sized goblins, wookies, and Disney characters. At night, doorbells all over the country will be rung by miniature mafiosi, petite princesses, and diminutive demons. Lions, tigers and bears will sweat under latex, rubber, or papier mache all in the name of hiding behind a mask, pretending to be something the wearer is not.

mask- 3.jpg (13524 bytes)Halloween gives us permission to wear our garish masks in public, instead of those subtle masks that we wear the other 364 days of the year.

Is anyone ever all that s/he appears to the general public?

masks-4.jpg (10798 bytes)We're always putting on the mask that we think people want to see. Hiding safely behind the virtual latex. Keeping the real "me" safely in its own little closet.

Years ago when I was leading meetings for La Leche League, a common thread that ran through the wails of a lot of new mothers, trying to cope with the reality of suddenly having crossed over that line into "family" was that they just didn't seem to have it all together like so-and-so. Often so-and-so was me.

mask- 10.jpg (7951 bytes)I had to laugh at that because I certainly never thought of myself at any time--then or now--as "having it all together." But I heard someone say something profound which has stayed with me-- "we are always comparing ourselves at our worst to someone else at their best."

mask- 12.jpg (7555 bytes)When you think of it, that's really it, in any situation. When the world feels like it's falling apart and you just can't get a handle on things is when you are likely to think of so-and-so and how cool, calm and collected s/he is in a crisis, how neat his/her desk is, how organized s/he is, how efficient s/he is. Maybe s/he goes home and kicks the dog. Maybe s/he sits in a quiet corner somewhere and drinks a bit too much at night. Maybe s/he is quietly falling apart.

But in the morning it's time to put on the grown-up suit, put on the mask of efficiency and step out into the world again.

mask- 14.jpg (5884 bytes)So when I look at someone who is calm, cool, collected, efficient, neat and tidy, capable, etc., I can't help comparing that paragon of virtue to me on days like today--when it feels like the rope is coming unraveled in 16 different places and I can't possibly get it all wound back up again. I look at the disaster that is my desk and I wonder how Ms. Paragon does it. I feel the churning inside as I realize that I have a month's worth of bookkeeping to do tomorrow and I wonder how Mr. Paragon can operate so efficiently.

Mask - 13.jpg (7808 bytes)But then I'll be talking to one of those paragons and hear them apologizing all over the place because somehow they just can't do all that I can do, and how much they admire me and on and on and on.

I turn around and look behind me and wonder if maybe there is someone over my shoulder that they are addressing, 'cause that paragon of virtue they are describing certainly isn't the me I know and sometimes love.

Instead, I turn on a benign smile and thank them for their comments and assure them that they, too, are doing an awful lot. I hide behind my mask and then I go home to the chaos that is my life and the closet where I hide the real me and I finally take my mask off, briefly.

Quote of the Day

We are so pleased to find out other people's secrets, to distract public attention from our own.

~ Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Photo of the Day

Bigmask.jpg (27928 bytes)

These beautiful mask photos are reprinted, with permission of the photographer, Michel...visit his web site!


One Year Ago
Up Close and Personal
I wasn't in the office more than 20 minutes today before I was standing by an exam table watching Dr. G do a breast exam and looking at the patient's ovaries on the tiny ultrasound screen, as he poked the ultrasound wand inside her vagina. Talk about getting intimate with your job right away!

Two Years Ago
The Americanization of Emily
Once upon a time there was a little girl (ok, so she was pushing “senior citizen.” Let’s not quibble) who lived in the land of Oz and who decided to take a big trip over the rainbow and halfway around the world.

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Created 10/23/02