Going outside your house these days without a mask can almost get you charged with indecent exposure. Everything is such a mood that we can no longer tell the difference between regular folk, erring on the side of caution, versus those who wish to exploit this dilemma for personal gain. As if it's not bad enough that we have been ordered to stay indoors ("Yay," screams all the introverts), we are now required to stand 6-feet apart to minimize physical contact. We not singing Diana Ross', 'Reach out and touch' round here.
In my weird imagination, lives thoughts in 3-D, outfitted with cinematography, background music and sound effects. This whole ordeal to me is playing out like Clive Owens's clever heist in the movie Inside Man. Where the robbers held up a bank dressed in jumpsuits as painters. Then in a stroke of pure genius, they forced all the hostages to wear the same getup. And before the authorities were the wiser, the criminals walked right out the front door alongside the innocent. There was no separating the sheep from the goat here. Well, at least until it was time for questioning (Translation: don't get hoodwinked, ask questions).
Oscar Wilde, I hear you when you said: "Be yourself 'cause everyone else is taken." But how do I do that, Sir, when I have NO idea who I AM?
I spent the majority of my twenties wearing a mask, long before it was a thing. Pretentiousness was my disguise of choice. I was the perpetrator of wholesomeness (doubt it ever translated well). The lines for me eventually became so blurred that I began to lose touch of which face I should wear in which setting. There was a church me and a home me. Which were never to be confused with professional me and especially not flirtatious me. Then there was the 'me' that wanted to be a 'lil hood but still enunciated all my words and had manners. So much so that in various settings, I was the poster child of 'one of these things just doesn't belong here.' Thing is masks have now become fashionable. We've given them matching headwraps in an array of snappin' patterns. I reckon we go whole and throw in a Hijab too. Dare I say if you're hiding your colourful truth behind the mask of virtue and morality, you are indeed guilty of a crime. Impersonation of a decent human I call it. It's one thing to be a lone gunman, but when you decide to make someone the get-away driver (without their knowledge) in your careless escapades, this is now a personal offence.
Stay away from me, please
As I sit in my cozy corner and observe life, I conclude that many people are walking around concealing their 'true' identity. I'm reminded of the movie Set It Off and how Jada Smith's character was an aggressive bank robber by day. And by night, she was a timid grieving sister, spending time with a man who hoped he'd found his future. Although we may not be thieves in the sense that warrants disdain and capital punishment, many of us have deprived others of our most authentic selves. I mean, can any of us say that we are wholly transparent (offering honest answers without being asked a question) with the people we encounter? When wearing a mask, for the most part, only the eyes are visible. Our eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, yet they hide so much. I would argue that many of our 'windows' are tainted or foggy. We can't see looking out, and no one can see looking in. These eyes of ours are more focused on conducting trial by fire, followed by judgement with applause (Translation: if looks could kill) than trying to see what's good in others.
Growing up, I remember hearing adults repeat the line, "a liar is a thief, and a thief is a murder." As a kid hearing this, you can imagine all I pictured was eternal damnation. These words where what they referred to as 'putting the fear of God in us.' But as an adult, I can find the perfect application of this phrase into real-life situations. When you lie (even if by omission), you have just swindled someone out of the opportunity to decide if they want to let you pass 'hello.' This not only renders you guilty of stealing (someone's time) by not being forthcoming, but it also makes you a murderer as you have prevented them from 'living' with a right to make an informed decision. No, you may not have held a gun to someone's head, but had you said upfront 'I'm allergic to monogamy," they may have opted out. Hence, in the closing arguments of a breakup, someone is citing the infamous line, "I don't even know who you are!" I can't speak for you, but to me, this screams, "Hands up, it's a stick-up!" What that person (or you for that matter) just did is hijacked someone's vehicle (the power to control the outcome of their situation).
Who am I?
I suppose at some point many of us hid behind a smokescreen. By my late twenties, I, for one, stayed draped in a facade. So much so, that even I became confused by which 'me' was the truth from the lie. I didn't want to be distinct. I figured I could be invisible if I was just like all the others. Had I known as Dr. Susses says, "Why you trying to fit in when you were meant to stand out?" I would have saved myself years of wasted energy. When I wrote my first book, I asked a Pastor friend of mine to write the foreword. He agreed, but he had no clue he was about to be 'shook.' As he read the pages, I later learned, that he kept going back to the cover to ensure it was my name printed there because what was before him described someone it seemed he'd never met. In his defence, he was right. I only showed him and everyone else for that matter, snippets of what I thought they wanted to see. Back then, I was ailing with that 'people-pleasing syndrome.' Most times, I told people the things I thought they wanted to hear. Better yet, the things that would portray me as just a girl next door. No such luck. I still stood out like an Eskimo on a beach during summer.
I was by all accounts an imposter, walking around with a phony identity. Robbing my family and friends behind the mask of fabrication.
Many folks read my book and felt I had given too much information. Others questioned, "Why would you air your dirty laundry like that?" I mean, if you read the book and it didn't speak to you on any level, then the message in it wasn't meant for you. For starters, my journey is no one else's but mine. Secondly, when you narrate your own story, you keep your power. Lastly, no one can hold my past over me like its kryptonite. I don't hide or run from my actions. No, I own them, and that doesn't make me weak. I finally understand why people who go to any kind of addiction meeting introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, I am so-and-so" and then admitting, "I am a ....." If you confess it, then no one can ever use it to imprison you.
Will the real me please stand up?
For most of the working class, there is a great deal of time spent away from family. Realistically, by the time you get home, you would have only seen your significant other and/or children for a few short hours. In most cases, it's those moments right before its time to hit the sack. Now that we're in mandatory home detention, we are forced to spend extended periods in limited quarters with a person, we only know by face value. Many feel stuck in a house with what can only be termed an undocumented alien. Maybe Tamia was on to something when she sang: "There's a stranger in my house. It took a while to figure out. There's no way you could be who you say you are, you gotta be someone else..." Yea, you look familiar, but who are you? This is the unfortunate reality many families are now faced with. Really what do you do when you lay next to someone, and you have don't have anything in common? I'll tell ya, a few of these relationships gat folks stuck in the real-life movie Perfect Stranger.
Listen, if your 'essential' mask isn't making you turn Clarke Kent into Superman, Peter Parker into Spider-man or Bruce Wayne into Batman - then you're just a villain, named Two-face, punishing others for things they didn't do. Look, I'm right there with you, got my t-shirt, a mug and matching paraphernalia. Not walking in my truth, though, made me screw-up and potentially miss out on some opportunities. Being fake made me burn some bridges and mess up some meaningful relationships. Believe me, when I tell you, it's not worth it. Live. Your. Truth. People may not like you because of it, but they will at least have to respect you for it. Yes, they'll talk for a while, but then it will be like everything else, (Bruce Jenner did what?) forgotten.
I am by no means advocating that you write some tell-all book or stand erect on a soapbox and shout all your business in the streets. Being truthful doesn't mean telling any and everyone, everything about you. No, ma'am (know your safe space). Still, my journey calls for something different than yours-unless you know this is what yours calls for too. What I am saying is this, don't hide behind pretense, armed with 'offence', as you hold people, hostage, to a 'you' that does not exist. If you find that you are rejected because of your honesty, then know that that 'situationship' ain't the one for you. Don't bind yourself to anything if you can't be accepted with all your frills and folly. Believe me, when I say freedom is a must and nothing but 'truth' will make you free (John 8:32)!