We All Have a Face That We Hide Away …

“We all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take it out and show ourselves when everyone has gone/some are satin, some are steel, some are silk and some are leather/They’re the faces of a stranger and we love to try them on.”

Billy Joel, The Stranger

I’ve always loved that song — I think the eponymous album was the first one I ever bought for myself.

But I think he’s got it backwards. We spend MOST of our time wearing masks we put on ourselves.

As we grow, at some point we realize that “How are you?” is something people say, but really don’t mean, most of the time. When they do, we call those people “friends”. Most of us are lucky to have one or two amazingly good friends. So we learn to hide our pain away, unless (and sometimes even if) we’re at the doctor. Mask 1.

A lot of times, we find that we like things that no one else understands, or even tolerates. So, in order not to be ridiculed or laughed at, we hide those interests away to enjoy in quiet, secret times, when no one else knows or can observe. Even if we have people who share those interests, even that sharing is a secret. Don’t think so? When was the last time you went to work on Monday and talked about the Comic/Sci-Fi/TV Show convention you went to last weekend? Mask 2.

And because we are expected to be “professional” at work, we hide our sense of humor, our individuality, our self away for eight or more hours every day. For instance, I have a very quirky sense of humor that only my husband has ever seen more than flashes of (and which he does not get at all). So there’s Mask 3, the mask of the workplace.

Depending on our circumstances, for good or ill, most of us have other things we hide. So when we are finally alone, (if we’re lucky), that’s when the masks come off and we are who we really are underneath. If we’re not like those characters in that Twilight Zone episode and our hearts and souls haven’t changed to match the masks we wear all the time. That’s saddest of all.

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One thought on “We All Have a Face That We Hide Away …

  1. So true, and profound and sad, all at once. I was thinking about something similar just a couple days ago, about my “work face,” and who that person is and how she differs from what I consider the real me.

    This reminds me of this Nebula award winning novelette by Eugie Foster called “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” — it’s about a world where everyone puts on a different mask in the morning, and the mask dictates who they will be for the day.

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