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The mask…

There are certain things that we may do and say in front of our close friends that we would never do or say in front of our parents and family members. There are things that we can do and say in front of our family members that we probably wouldn’t feel comfortable about doing around our co-workers or classmates. Most of us compartmentalize our behavior around other people, simply because it’s recognized as an important part of our civilized, social, etiquette. And the ones that don’t, or seem to be lacking a certain ‘filter’ with their speech and their actions, are seen as being rude, vulgar, or embarrassing. And that’s where the mask becomes necessary.

But is it healthy to wear a mask around others? Is it ok to judge others on who they are? Masks only serve one purpose…and that is to hide behind something that isn’t real. We hide our feelings, we suppress our anger, we lie about our sexuality, we cover up our mistakes, and we pretend that everything is going swell when we’re really hurting and feel like shit inside.

And yet, there can’t just be total anarchy when it comes to dealing with one another in public, right? There are certain rules and structures to social behavior that have to be obeyed if we’re going to get along. You don’t shout ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theater, you don’t talk loudly in a library, you don’t curse around a bunch of kindergarten kids, and you don’t pull your meat out and start masturbating in the middle of aisle 7 at your local Wal-Mart! Shouldn’t there be certain norms that are accepted by all?

I don’t want someone that I care about to suffer and stress themselves out over hiding their sexual preferences from me for fear that they’ll be judged and persecuted for it. But…on the other hand, I don’t want them talking about bumps on their penises that they got from raw banging a gay prostitute two weeks ago in front of youth group from the local church either. There has to be a line.

Where is yours?

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being completely ‘hush hush’, and 10 being ‘I say whatever I want, whenever I want, the rest of the world be damned’) how honest would you say you were in your daily life? What parts of your life, your feelings, your attractions, your dreams, do you share with the people around you? And what parts of your life do you keep secret, find inappropriate, or may even be ashamed of? Give it some thought, and share your ideas with us. I’d really love to know what you think about this! 🙂

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“I remember reading something about human personalities. That we’re different people, with different people. That we’re either only ever ourselves when we’re on our own. Or we don’t have a personality when we’re on our own.

I think our ‘masks’ are necessary and useful. I wouldn’t want to be the same person I am, when I am loose and ‘bantery’, like I am with good friends, as I would be if I was with my grandma, or something.

The only real trouble I see is when those two personalities come into conflict. Like, if a close friend who I am down to earth with, and have a laugh, and don’t hold back, ever meets my grandma, who was an headmistress and she’s very posh and ‘proper’. She gives Queen Liz a run for her money, and it would be like a mine field trying to manage both personalities if they were both in my company (and it has happened before).

You mentioned about keeping secrets and such. For me it’s more about behaviour than secrets. If I was to come out, I’d come out to everyone and they’d have to accept it, or we have no chance of having a relationship in the future. I won’t change myself, or put up with relatives who would make an issue out of my sexuality, or whatever. I haven’t had a reason to come out yet, but if I did, I’d be out to everyone.

But my behaviour with various people, depends on who they are to me. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it can be problematic.

“I don’t want someone that I care about to suffer and stress themselves out over hiding their sexual preferences from me for fear that they’ll be judged and persecuted for it. But…on the other hand, I don’t want them talking about bumps on their penises that they got from raw banging a gay prostitute two weeks ago in front of youth group from the local church either. There has to be a line.

Where is yours?”

It depends who they are. For instance, I wouldn’t want to be told about, say, a female relative’s menstruation details.

And the reason I say that is because it’s come up in conversation before, and it kind of grosses me out. Same applies when my brother brings up in conversation about the size of a shit he flushed down the toilet or something. I really don’t want or need to know about that. Some parts of the body gross me out. It would be different, if they were concerned about their health and wanted advice. If it’s serious, I’m cool talking about anything.

It also bugs me when anyone burps or coughs close to me. It’s like, at least try to respect my space. And put your hand over your mouth when you’re coughing. I don’t want what you have.

“On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being completely ‘hush hush’, and 10 being ‘I say whatever I want, whenever I want, the rest of the world be damned’) how honest would you say you were in your daily life? What parts of your life, your feelings, your attractions, your dreams, do you share with the people around you? And what parts of your life do you keep secret, find inappropriate, or may even be ashamed of? Give it some thought, and share your ideas with us. I’d really love to know what you think about this! :)”

It’s hard to put a number on it, but I’d say I am a 6 or a 7. Somewhere in that neighborhood. There’s two things I won’t talk about with virtually anyone. They’re even hard to talk to myself about. And then there’s my sexuality. Most of my family don’t know, despite them being liberal and accepting, and I have three relatives who’re LGBT, and out. I think some suspect. After all, I’m 35 and I am single. Although that is more common these days. But still. Most people my age are in long term relationships and many have kids. But I have no interest in either.

I’ve had relationships, and I am happier being single. And most of the time, I’m glad I don’t have kids too.” – Mike

“That’s a very good question you have there. I’m not sure where I would put myself on that scale, to be honest. For me, I treat many things as being on a ‘need to know’ basis. I don’t talk to my co-workers about things like my sexuality or family issues, because it’s none of their business. My family would know I’m gay, and that I have a boyfriend, but they don’t need to know what we get up to when we’re together either, so I don’t tell them. Hell, my extended family doesn’t even know I’m gay, and I’m fine with that. I usually wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I can also be a very secretive person when I feel my self-preservation demands it, or that it could be used against me.

So for me, it’s important to have a line, but the line also has to be fluid.” – Anonymous

“I’d like to think that I’m pretty honest about who I am…

I would rather keep quiet and say, “No comment”, than lie. Lies just lead to a chain reaction of falling dominoes that only end up exposing you in the end. So why do it? Hehehe! I could lie and tell you guys that I was a millionaire…but I KNOW that’s not true. So whether you were deceived or not, that doesn’t do anything to make me feel good about myself. You know? I don’t have a 12 inch penis, but I’m proud of the one I’ve got. Hehehe, so why lie about it?

That being said, I’m still a really private person. Not because of my secrets, but because I only tell people what the need to know about me, in terms of my relationship with that particular person. There are people that I have fun with and all, but I don’t ask them personal questions that I think could be seen as invasive. I don’t pry into their business, I don’t try to get second hand gossip about them from other people, I don’t sneak around and try to look them up online…I feel like that’s wrong. So I would hope that they would give me the same respect.

But, I do feel the need to wear a mask sometimes. I think it’s just a part of being a part of the world at large. Obviously, I have to keep my attraction to high school boys a secret. It’s just not something that a lot of people understand, or are willing to tolerate. So being open about that is, unfortunately, simply not an option for me. With the exception of stories like “My Only Escape” or “Gone From Daylight”, I definitely don’t talk about my childhood with most people. Again, that paints a picture of who I am that I don’t think is accurate. Certain lifestyles and experiences create stereotypes in the minds of the people around you, and I really don’t want to be judged by the history of people who don’t have anything to do with me. So I keep that stuff secret as well.

And then, of course, there’s a ton of private information that I keep to myself because…’the internet’. Hehehe! I don’t need people showing up at my front door or at my job one day without warning. John Lennon was murdered by his BIGGEST fan because of “The Catcher In The Rye” and the hotel where they filmed “Rosemary’s Baby”! Don’t need that in my life. No thank you.

So…where is the balance?

I think it really depends on self confidence and self love. I think it’s about being proud to be who you are, to believe what you believe, to love who you want to love…but understanding the rules of engagement when it comes to the rest of the world. I think people need a three-dimensional awareness of the world as a whole. Who you are, what you share, and what is deemed appropriate by the rest of society, are three totally different things. And even if you don’t agree, both sides should at least make an attempt to understand why this is so. Does that make any sense?

I don’t know. I have always had mixed feelings about this topic. Because you can’t tolerate someone punching their kid or their wife in public. Ever! But is it hypocritical to say that someone who doesn’t tolerate gay marriage can FORCE it into law and make it illegal to do so? It sounds ridiculous to me, personally…but again, where do we draw the line. Because to the zealots who feel that gay marriage is SO wrong…it feels like a punch in the face to them. So how can I expect them to understand my point of view when I have zero understanding of theirs?

I don’t know. The world makes so much less sense to me now than it used to. ::Shakes head::

Anyway, we show the world what we can, and we hide what we have to. I guess we just have to hope for the best. I’m pretty close with my mom, and I have two best friends that I know I can talk to on a deeper level about certain things…but other than that, I stay pretty ‘surface’ with most of the people I know. Not because I don’t trust them, I just don’t think that most people have earned access to certain parts of my life. I like keeping parts of myself private. I take pride in knowing that I’ve got a few bits of info that are reserved only for the people that know me best. I cherish that.” – Comicality

“I think you probably know what I’m going to say here!

As we have talked about this before. I would have to say I am a 1.
An example? Took me till I was in my late 30’s to tell my family I liked guys!
But to be honest I think the reason is twofold, firstly I come from the type of old British family values of “we don’t discuss those sort of things” to quote Helen Mirran in The Queen “That’s the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That’s what the rest of the world has always admired us for”

Secondly I have always had this need to keep control of any situation I’m in (personally speaking), as such I don’t say anything unless I want someone to know or if they need to. This is a protection mechanism. However this does vary depending on whom I’m with these days.

So to answer the question I probably could discuss more things openly even with family I’m just not comfortable doing so usually.” – Dom

“I have always used the saying “I’ve worn the mask for so long that I don’t know who I am without it anymore.” which sucks sometimes. I did learn to open up and vent the side I hid from the ‘real’ world in online communities that I had started to find and eventually created as time went on but even that isn’t entirely who I am. Put the two together and I think you just might find out who I am as a person overall.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 4 in real life. I don’t express to anyone who I think is cute or hot, even to the hand full that know I am gay. I have known from a seriously young age back, when I developed an attraction to teenage boys that it was best to keep those thoughts and feelings to myself. An attraction that just never seemed to age with me and got less understood or tolerated the older I got. But on the flip side of that coin, I am able to express myself online to friends who are a part of the community that get it. But the funny thing, even then it is with ‘very’ few people that I will actually say “wow, he’s cute” and even then I feel guilty for saying it out loud. I think it has a lot to do with how I was raised. “Never objectify people…” was drilled into my head from very early on. Couple that with an attraction that I can’t act on and it is like my brain mentally slaps me anytime I even think of some teenager as being desirable. Being around others that have the ability to say that someone I find attractive actually is does make it easier but, I’ve trained myself to keep it where it belongs: to myself.

Now, if someone were to ask me, I won’t lie about it. “Are you gay?” To me doesn’t have a simple way of being answered. I’ve had crushes on both males and females throughout my life. I don’t consider myself ‘Bi’ but then again gender doesn’t hold a drastic importance when it comes to being beautiful as a person. I am strongly attracted to teenage males and have been ever since being introduced to ‘sex play’ by older males in my pre-teen years but, that attraction has always just opened the door to an attraction aimed at who that person is inside, not out. I’ve learned that my feelings towards someone I was physically attracted to doesn’t seem to fade as that person becomes a man. Which is odd because I normally have no attraction to adult males, quite the opposite unless, I like what I see deeper than the skin. In turn, I choose to not share how many pages are in this book with the people around me unless I think it can help. I made it okay to talk about it online because, I turned to the internet to find people who ‘get it’ and since I actually found that; I decided to continue to be that for others who need to find the same.

So, I wear the mask in real life to just blend into the crowd. Draw no extra attention and don’t answer the questions that would get people curious enough to ask more. If asked, I’ll give the simple answer and let the trailing silence close the book on the conversation naturally. Online, I can put on the extreme opposite mask and be happy, and proud, and more vocal but, the real me is somewhere in the middle wishing there was never a need for a mask or a reason to have to stay in the shadows. It took many years, and many mistakes to teach me where and how I need to draw clear boundaries between me and absolutely everyone else and now it’s as practiced as a religion for me. One that I reluctantly use to appear normal to the unenlightened. I guess the candle is lit, but I keep it in a shaded box and probably always will.” – JeffsFort

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If you guys want to add your two cents to any one of the ‘Q & A’ sessions for future issues of Imagine Magazine, we’d LOVE to hear your input and your personal stories on the forum! Feel free to attach your screen name, or do so anonymously! Drop by “The Shack Out Back” forum on the 1st and 15th of every month for a brand new topic of conversation! We look forward to hearing more from you! 🙂

 

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