29 October 2018
Have you ever heard of The Moth? themoth.org
They are a group, community, organization… that promotes live storytelling. Based in New York, they have events throughout the United States.
I wrote a piece for a Moth story telling event that occurred in Milwaukee on October 25th, but it conflicted with a trans support rally and I thought that my feet on the ground and my voice in the air was going to be more effective at the rally, so I’m presenting my prepared piece for you here.
The storytelling event was held at one of our local coffee houses and the topic was “Disguises.” The event description, taken from their posting, reads as follows:
DISGUISES: Prepare a five-minute story about your undercover self, about obscuring the real you- with a fake mustache, a nurse’s uniform, a cloak, a girdle or a giant hotdog costume. Mental disguises, like the Ph.D. you earned to appease your mother; or the “sensitive guy” persona you put on to get with the ladies. Undercover cops and chameleons. Pranks and mistaken identities. Wolves gussied up like lambs and lambs tarting-it-up to pass as mutton. The Trojan Horse, The Mighty Oz and now you!
I wrote the following:
The Mask He Wore
I used to know someone who was born in the last year of the sixties, the year we landed on the moon.
The second youngest of 7 kids he was raised in the south suburbs of Milwaukee. He was an inquisitive kid. He walked to school, played an instrument, loved Star Wars and wore a mask every single day of his life. He pretty much fooled everyone around him including himself.
You see, when you’re convinced that you are what you appear to be, you think that you only have one pallet to paint from, one store to buy from, one buffet to eat from…
A mask can hide your identity so well that you may not even know what you really look like, especially if you’ve never taken it off.
Sometimes though, there are hints. Sometimes you can feel the elastic holding the mask on your face like on one of those 70s vacu-formed masks.
Sometimes, in the mirror, you can see the thin rubber of the forehead move because there’s an empty cavity between it and your real head as if you are wearing the best Don Post rubber “life-like” mask, that claims to look “realistic” but somehow doesn’t look that real.
Sometimes you can see the shadow around the eyes, revealing that the mask is hovering above the face of the person within.
But the eyes are real.
The eyes are the tell.
The eyes are revealing.
They can’t hide the joy, or the fear, or the uncertainty.
They can’t hide it from you and they couldn’t hide it from me.
I lived with that mask until I was 46. Most rubber or plastic masks would have cracked by then, and I guess mine did.
You know how when you’re building a puzzle, and you’re looking for one particular piece, and you kind of think you know what the piece looks like? And when you finally see it you know that it’s right.
That’s what it’s like to remove a mask you didn’t know you were wearing. You don’t know that you are oblivious as to who you are until you are who you were meant to be.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
I finally removed the mask “he” wore and under that uncertain boy was a beautiful person, a woman,
who finally knew who she was,
knew what she liked,
and loves who she is.
I saw that there are infinitely more pallets to paint from,
more stores to buy from,
and more buffets to eat from.
There’s a part of me that wishes I would’ve been able to remove that mask sooner than I did, but the journey I took is what has allowed me to eventually take it off.
I hope everyone that wears a mask can know what it’s like to remove it; that “A-ha!” moment of finding the right piece of the puzzle,
and letting the sun shine on
and from their face.