31 October 2009

Wearing The Mask

My first Halloween as a woman and what did I do? I went in drag.

All right. I know that joke's getting old, and I promise never to use it again on this blog--unless my age, blondness and absent-minded-professor-ness (What kind of word is that?) get the better of me and I forget this post.

Seriously, I didn't go out in boy-drag. Nor did I go trick-or-treating in a Michael Jackson mask or a Kate Gosselin wig. Those were two of the most popular getups this Halloween. And I didn't go as a witch, as appropriate as some of my students may think it would be!

Actually, I spent the day in a very out-of-season pair of bay blue shorts and a top striped in aqueous shades. They were handy and the day was a bit warmer than normal for this time of year. Besides, I had no engagement that called for appropriate attire.

In other words, I was feeling lazy today, at least about my appearance. So, I didn't wear makeup, either. I simply brushed my hair and put on some lipstick before I went out for a walk.

Now here's something for which I can blame my mother: Even when I'm as poorly dressed as I was today and when I'm not wearing makeup, I don't leave the house without putting on lipstick. About two years into living as a woman, I realized I'd developed that habit. When I told Mom about it, she gasped: "That's what I do, too!"

A pause. Then I quipped, "Like mother, like daughter, eh?"

Another pause. "It looks that way, doesn't it?," she mused.

"At least I have a great mother to be like."

"And you're a fine daughter. I still don't understand what you're doing--I'm trying to--but you're my child, you're good, and you deserve to be happy. And I've never seen you happier."

That, from exactly the person I could never fool with a mask or a wig.

Perhaps some day I will wear one again, for fun. But for now, it is a victory--in exactly the same sense that survival is victory--that I don't have to wear a wig or mask, at least not most of the time.

My previous life reminds me of what Paul Dunbar's narrator said:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

"This debt to human guile." If that's not a definition of the masks and costumes I wore every day for more than 40 years, tell me what is.

I really hope that all the kids I saw tonight won't have to wear that sort of mask. Let them have fun with the ones they're wearing!