We hear the phrase “be yourself” all the time, and yet people walk around with more than one face–a public face and a real face. I know which one is the real face because it’s the one I always like better. In high school I would see a kid in the halls at school, see their social media profiles, see the way they acted at dances and in the lunchroom with their friends, and would brand them with my official punk sticker. Judgmental? Definitely, and I later learned that I should not have branded their mask before meeting the real person.
I would get to class, have a new seating arrangement, and be beside one of these decided punks. But they were smart. They led meaningful group discussions. They laughed and smiled and were easy to talk to. They were real. Then I saw them in the hall and they avoided my eyes, or made mean jokes to their friends, pushing forward the image they thought people wanted. It’s a masquerade.
I see the perfection painted with a delicate hand
Maybe if they didn’t like you, they’ll like your mask.
You hide because you don’t want to be found, but soon
You’ll forget where you put yourself.
It’s a masquerade.
First you wear the mask and then the mask wears you.
You smile, but it’s painted–
You speak, but it’s rehearsed, read from a script instead of a heart.
You walk on a map, sinking into footprints made by the ideal you
Back when you had a vision of the person you wanted to become.
You are a masquerade.
When you designed the mask
You doted the task
And no one asked
Who you really were.
The perfect personality is like a punishment
But it’s what you think the spectators want.
The real person is rattling bars of a cage
But no one can read between the lines so they just turn the page.
They don’t go deeper because your skin is made of steel.
Nothing remains that’s real.
People have forgotten that you even know how to feel.
You are trapped in the masquerade.
But when you’re all alone, and the spotlight is gone
The stage is clear, and empty auditorium seats sway
You tear off the mask, clipping off stitches of insecurity
But you still don’t throw it away.
For a moment authenticity is back
And the lights fade to black
And you breathe for the first time all day.
I see the reality painted with an unsteady hand
And I like the kid I see.
But you’re too afraid to let him stay
Tomorrow you’ll wear the mask again.
You can’t stop the masquerade.
I wrote that slam poem for an assignment once. I had to read it for my class (which was really scary) but chose that topic because I wanted it to sink in to the other people in the room. I needed it sometimes too.
We play roles, we have a ‘phone voice,’ we want to show the perfect side of our lives instead of the unimpressive, ordinary side.
I want to be the person I am with my family, with my closest friends, all the time. I’m tired of freezing up or turning into a shy person that I know I’m really not when I’m in social or public situations. I love to talk. A lot. I love to laugh. I get the incurable giggles at least once a day. But when I meet new people, or find myself among people that intimidate me, my mask comes on and I hide. My mask is shy, reserved, keeping my words to myself unless I can type them. My mask worries about what other people will think if I say what I really want to say, or if my heart will stop pounding enough that I can raise my hand and make my comment.
My mask isn’t the same as the masks of these kids I saw in high school, but what I didn’t realize then is that I still had my own. But my mask isn’t the face I wish I could be, it’s the face I wish I could overcome. Every mask is different.
Throw the mask away. Take a deep breath. I want to see the real face, and I want to learn to always show mine.