What Love Masks
By Frank Kermit
A mentor of mine taught me that love is not blind; it is just that categories are rigid. When you meet someone, you put that person in a category (lover, friend, temptation, fling, does-not-count, creepy, unattainable, out-of-my-league, good-enough-for-now, spouse, soul-mate) because of how that person addresses (or violates) your emotional needs based on your first impressions; and if it turns out that the person actually belongs in a different category, it is more challenging to drop that first impression category.
For example, you meet someone, then get wrapped up in the honeymoon phase of the dating experience, you may categorizes that person as the perfect soul-mate, only to find out the harsh reality three months later that the person and you simply have incompatible core values. You and that person should never had more than just an intense private fling. But, -love is blind- so it is likely very challenging to give up on that person who is actually best left as at temporary adventure (fling), despite intellectually knowing better, because of the category they have already been put in (soul-mate).
When on a first date with someone, it is generally expected that we are going to be our best self, and not just be yourself. Your best self is a Mask. You are not going to act like your every day self. First dates are a time to put out your best character traits forward. As deceitful as it sounds, it is actually very ethical. You go on that initial outing together to get a feel of what kind of person you are meeting, and for that person to get a feel for you. If you do not put your best self forward on a first date, you are likely killing your chances of getting the beginnings of your relationship off the ground to reach the second date. Using the Mask of your Best Self is no more deceitful than being at your best when going to a job interview.
Wearing a Mask in relationships is only unethical, when you LIE to the other person and attempt to pass a false representation of yourself in order to get sex, a relationship, or basically just to get someone to even like you as a friend. Situation comedy productions (TV, movies, and theatre) love to play out this plotline of someone trying to use a Mask of deceit in order to get someone to date them, and usually all have an ending where the truth is learned and the Masked-User is punished, left abandoned and with nothing. The same principle applies when meeting someone new in real life. If you used a lie to get with a person, and assuming the interaction goes on beyond the point of a traveling one night stand, that same lie has the power to tear down everything you have since built up with your partner.
We all wear masks. It is not a question of should we, or should we not, wear a Mask when dating. The issue is always the context. How we act at a funeral, is very different from the way we act at a wedding. Each face we exhibit is a Mask.
That is not being lying or deceitful...it is about CALIBRATION to the circumstances and environment around you. Whenever you lie, you are hiding behind a Mask, and likely that same Mask will be your undoing. The best way to use your Mask is for the Mask to be a reflection of those parts of your personality that you want to display.
On a lighter note, I fondly remember a scene from a Peanut Cartoon entitled, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown". A number of the characters were together getting dressed to go out trick-or-treating for Halloween.
The aggressive character Lucy Van Pelt known as the mean, crabby old sister exclaimed, "A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality" just as she put on a witches costume. The joke of course is that she did not see herself as a witch, when in all other respects; she was depicted as a mean witch in the show.
However funny or inappropriate the joke may be in today's climate, it does shed light on the idea that most peoples first assumptions with Masks, is that Masks are trying to hide a persons true intentions and that the Mask being presented is not an indication of the person behind it.
The further irony of the above example is that in the majority of cases, real witches (not the kind that appear in popular media, but the kind of women and men who take part in a variety of healing arts and religious practices) happen to actually be some of the most pleasant people sometimes.
Even mean Lucy reveals at the end of the show, how much she actually does care for her younger brother who defied her the entire episode. She wakes up at 4 a.m., concerned that he is not in his bedroom, and fetches him from the cold pumpkin patch where he is shivering and half asleep. She does not scold him. She just brings him home and tucks him into a warm bed.
Sometimes, we wear Masks, not to deceive people, but to feel safe and protected, to hide away our insecurities, our fears, and to prevent us from feeling too vulnerable.
It is OK to want to feel safe. It is normal and human of us. For the purposes of finding love and connecting with others, the key is not about doing away with Masks.
The key is about being just guarded enough that we protect ourselves, while at the same time test the people around us, so that we can share ourselves slowly as the other people earn enough of our trust for us to feel safe in being with them Mask free.
I wish you all bountiful loot bags, and may you never have to say that all you got was a rock.