It’s funny how your identity changes when you wear a mask every day for two years. You feel like the only one who ever gets to see the real you, so you’re forever questioning who your friends, family and acquaintances are interacting with. If it’s not the real you, then it must be a fake you. I spent far too long trying to uncover the answers to these questions, so I’ve settled on the following response: You’re interacting with me. Just me in a mask. I mean, I don’t get all funny because you’re wearing a hat to hide your hair or clothes to cover your legs, so why should you question me about why I choose to wear a mask?
The fact remains that there is more than one reason why I wear the mask, anyway. Is it for attention? Well, it didn’t start out that way, but I can’t say that I’ve not enjoyed the added attention I’ve received. Is it because I’m shy? On the one hand, the mask draws attention to itself when meeting people for the first time or in situations where wearing a mask might be considered taboo, which is pretty much everywhere. On the other hand, however, the mask makes it easier to blend into the background in situations where people tend to leave you alone and you can almost feel a stranger’s relief when they realise they’re standing or sitting next to someone with whom there is no pressure to interact. So, although many individuals claim to be baffled and bemused by the fact I wear a mask, I believe that, for that most part, I’m also performing somewhat of social service by giving others an excuse to sit in a comfortable silence next to a stranger, both of us thinking about how all we have to do is think and not talk. Is it for highly intellectual purposes or because I think I’m better than everybody else? Yes, that’s it. You’ve got me all figured out. I think I’m smarter than everybody else, so I wear a mask. Way to go, Sherlock!
The mask itself is relatively innocuous, with its off-white surface and minimal decoration, so, at first, I was terribly confused as to why people found it so offensive. My common sense eventually prevailed, though, and I understood that people have a desire to see the face of the person they’re speaking to nearly as much as they have a desire to eat or breathe. In this regard, it’s also not something you think about until you are faced with a situation where the person you’re interacting with deliberately hides their face from you. Even then, you’re not going to have an enjoyable time trying to put into words why it is that you find the fact that I hide my face so offensive.
In any case, I’m not actually hiding from you, I’m saving myself. Wearing this mask is a highly selfish act and you should be offended. You should be offended that I am choosing to keep my own fear at bay rather than to interact with you on a level that allows us to explore some of the more deeper meanings to our existence. Instead, we’ll both struggle to move past the point where you ask me for the umpteenth time, Why are you wearing that mask? How shallow of me to put my feelings first and to disregard your emotions with such frivolity! And, yet, how noble of me to presume that, were it not for my selfish endeavour to cover up my face, our interaction has the potential to move past the mundane and into the ‘realm of the fascinating’.
Let’s be frank. You and I both know by now that everything I’ve said boils down to one word: Fear. And, you’re right. I am scared. Not about your typical, “woe is me, I’m scared of what other people think of me” type of fear but a genuine, blood-curdling fear about something you will never understand. Not unless you lived here in Greenvale. Then you’d feel it and maybe, just maybe, you might be able to sympathise with me. Who am I kidding? You’ll never get it. So yeah, I may be scared, but at least I have the courage to admit it and to do something about it.
So, I ask you, instead: What’s your excuse for a wearing a mask?
That’s what I thought.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.