The mask has become the go-to thing to do, whether it’s celebrating Halloween, keeping warm during the winter chill, escaping racist comments, or hiding embarrassing photos.
But the increasing obsession with masks raises some interesting questions. For instance, when can we stop hiding behind them?
My Friday posts involve pumpkin carving, yoga poses and the Trump phenomenon. So I thought today would be a good day to talk about some of the less extreme masks we wear on a regular basis. Just because they’re considered hideously embarrassing doesn’t mean we should stop wearing them.
I’ve already begun to meet fellow mask-wearers and as I stare into their eyes, ask them what they really do for a living, what keeps them motivated, how they stay relevant. It’s not about spending time in the office staring at your phone and wishing you were at home with your mom. That’s just not what Mask Day is about.
In fact, I’ve found myself questioning the effect masks are having on the world today. Is it the funny thing to wear or the wonderful thing to celebrate? Is it both, or some combination of both? Is it motivating? Is it wasting time and money that could be spent doing some meaningful work? Do masks create creative, sympathetic environments? Does it create admiration?
All of these questions are worth asking.
The answer could well be masking for sanity, for purpose and at times for guilt. “Masking” is something a lot of us do. In fact, it may be more than just a Social Construct. It may even be the exact opposite of the Social Construction.
In every society on Earth, men and women disguised as other persons to protect themselves from crime, from war, from bullies. It has even evolved to be a necessary part of the job of being both a pilot and an expert-shooter. (You know those billboards with a gun with a mask on it? That’s masking.
It is also the nature of human beings to seek comfort in masks. Growing up, I didn’t have any rules about masks. My parents thought it was a great idea to wear heavy metal masks during school plays and concerts, as long as the kids didn’t seem to mind. But I do think many of us grew up with the idea that masks were a part of life, that they protected us and gave us a sense of security.
While I don’t quite know what masks are supposed to be for, I do know that we can — and do — want to have fun and express ourselves through these many forms of masks.
I also think masks help with social acceptance. When we get caught off guard and feel uncomfortable by a facial expression, we use masks to cover it up. That’s when masks come in useful. Everyone has their own face, and as long as we don’t go too far with our masks, it is OK to express ourselves in artfully designed poses.
My own personally favorite masks include Ben and Jelena from the Game of Thrones books and whatever John (my husband) puts on in front of me to hold my legs up. I know Ben sees the Game of Thrones memes, and the way he turns my stomach when he glances up at me from behind his glasses, but I’m sure he enjoys a playful prank and I look like I’m in a terrible mood.
This Halloween season, I hope more people will play dress up with masks. I hope more of us will laugh with them, cry with them and hide with them. (I probably should stop with the smelly clowns, but who wants to associate Halloween with caked-on makeup and foundation?)
No matter what masks you choose, I hope you will look inside and look out. Use them to become someone else, to sort of get a peek into another’s eyes, but also to make your own sense of identity. If you see another mask in someone’s eyes, maybe you will also notice some part of yourself in that person.
You will find that masks allow us to easily distance ourselves from problems, but as important as this is, we need to be able to look ourselves in the eye, right in the middle of our masks.
Maybe the best masks have nothing to do with masks. The best masks really are masks.